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. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. The kinds of things we recommend here are things I would be delighted to find under the tree.
Warner Brothers continues to lead the industry with television on Blu-ray. Other studios have experimented with some of their shows but no one puts more TV out in HD than Warner Brothers. Here are some of my favorite titles from 2017. Any of them would look great under the tree this season. Warner also has a nice collection of DC films out on Blu-ray.
The Flash Season 3:
“I made a big mistake…. I wanted a new life. I wanted to start over, and that’s what I did. But somehow I made things worse. So I reset everything. I put everything back to the way that it was before, except some things weren’t the same any more. Not even a little bit.”
That something is called Flashpoint. It’s one of the biggest events not only in the Flash comic universe, but it had ramifications across the DC landscape and led to more than a few changes in that world. This season of The Flash uses that story arc to guide Season 3, but like everything else in these comic shows, it is quite different than the printed event. That’s going to either excite fans or make some of them a little angry. If you can treat the series as its own thing, you’re in for a high-speed adventure with the release of The Flash The Complete Third Season from Warner Brothers.
Many superheroes are defined by some pivotal moment from their past. I’m not talking about whatever gave them their powers. It’s the thing that drives how they use those powers. For Barry Allan as The Flash, it was witnessing his mother get killed by a speedster and having his father falsely accused and convicted for the crime. When Barry gets his powers, it was pretty much a no-brainer that the first season would deal with him confronting the man who caused all of this pain in his life. By the end of the second season Barry knows how to use his speed to travel in time, and the one event he would like to change is that tragic moment. That’s exactly what he does, which creates a new timeline, and that’s where we find Barry as the third season begins. He calls the new timeline Flashpoint. He’s happily living with both parents, and all seems right with the world…or is it?
His relationships with other people has changed, and not for the better. There is another Flash fighting crime, and he has his own speedster villain who calls himself The Rival. Things appear to be going off the rails, and he discovers that the “right” thing to do would be to return the original timeline. It’s a sacrifice that Barry is eventually willing to make. They say you can’t go home, and that’s exactly what Barry discovers. Even while trying to set things right, there are now unexplained differences. The most dramatic is that a new villain has emerged who calls himself Alchemy, and he’s rooting out people who had powers in Flashpoint and giving the powers to them and turning them loose on Central City. You can pretty much guess that we get several episodes out of these new bad guys.
The season spends a lot of time dealing with the Speed Force and its own version of morality. I think so much mythology tends to slow the season down and stick it a bit in the mud. I still love the show, and I still consider it the best superhero television show currently on the air. But this has been my least favorite season. The season ends with some hope that the team will return to normal with the better Wells involved, and I have high hopes it will return a little more to the fun of the first two seasons. This was a bit of a dark season with few exceptions. The season could have done without something, to be sure. “That something is called Flashpoint.”
Supergirl Season 2:
“When I was a child, my planet Krypton was dying. I was sent to Earth to protect my cousin. But my pod got knocked off course, and by the time I got here, my cousin had already grown up and become… Superman. I hid who I really was until one day when an accident forced me to reveal myself to the world. To most people, I’m a reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media. But in secret, I work with my adoptive sister for the D.E.O. to protect my city from alien life and anyone else that means to cause it harm. I am Supergirl.”
A lot of things have changed with the second season of Supergirl. The series spent its first season on CBS but was always considered somewhat a part of the DC Television Universe. That was more than confirmed when the show had an unusual cross-episode/network story that involved The Flash. There must have been complications, and the decision to bring the series over to the WB appears to be a rather natural one. Gotham continues to thrive over at Fox, but it’s quite obvious that Gotham lives in a very different place than the four DC shows now living at the WB.
Much of the show remains intact. Supergirl/Kara Danvers is still played by Melissa Benoist. I’m still not sold on her for the part, but I will admit that there has been some improvement. Effort has been made to lessen the facial mark that made the secret identity thing a bit too laughable. The suit is still one of the DC Television Universe’s worst, but Benoist has learned to bring more strength and presence to the role. Part of the misfit problem isn’t with the actress at all. This character just isn’t as well written as even others on the series.
There are a lot of character moments and pretty much two major stories going on this season. It starts with the CADMUS throwing some super creatures at our heroes and ends up with the Daxam threat to take over the world. It’s a nice balance of action and emotional stories with more than a few light moments thrown in for good measure. If there is a theme this season, it is most certainly the aliens who populate this Earth. Remember that while this show does share the same DC universe, it is not on the same Earth as the other shows. That’s clearly shown in the number of aliens who populate this show. There’s a bit of a Men In Black thing going on here.
Supernatural Season 12:
“Don’t you get it? This is all meaningless. Heaven, hell, this world if it ever meant anything, that moment is past. Nothing down here but a bunch of hopeless, distraction addicts, so filled with emptiness, so desperate to fill up the void. They don’t mind being served another stale rerun of a rerun of a rerun.”
No stale reruns here. Season 12 of Supernatural picks up exactly where the previous year left off. The brothers are not together at the moment. Dean has just helped out God’s sister and gets a pretty sweet gift in return, while Sam’s at the bunker and is surprised by a British lass with a gun. She shoots him, and it’s off to join these stories into another wild year with an addition to the Winchester family.
Samantha Smith has been playing Mary Winchester, Dean and Sam’s late mother, since the pilot 12 years ago. These appearances have usually been short little moments and usually involved her plastered to the ceiling and on fire. So she’s never really had the opportunity to be a constant presence on the series even though that oft-repeated ceiling incident is the driving force that really set the show in motion, making the brothers the men they are now. So God’s sister Amara (Swallow) decides to reward Dean for his help by returning Mary back to life. You might ask yourself how a show like this can stay fresh over so many years. This is exactly how you do it. Mary, while a familiar face, is a new dynamic for the new season. She’s a fish out of water. She’s been dead for over 30 years, so she doesn’t recognize cell phones and laptop computers. She doesn’t really even know her sons. Dean was just a child and Sam an infant when she died. All of this adds wonderful new elements of relationship to the new season.
Getting back to Sam’s problem, he’s been shot by Lady Tony Bevell, played by Elizabeth Blackmore, just one of a group of new faces who also freshen things up again for the season. Bevell is from the British Men of Letters who haven’t been too happy with the state of American hunters. So they’ve come across the pond to force their way of doing things on the American scene. Any hunters who won’t sign up are eliminated just like they were supernatural monsters. Sam, Dean, and Mary are going to find themselves in the middle of this mess, and while the relationship shifts from bad to good to bad, it’s going to end badly. The new group brings new faces. Arthur Ketch is the Mr. Fixit member of the group. He’s played by David Haydn-Jones and is as ruthless as any of the demons we’ve encountered. They do not believe in leaving loose ends. Mick Davies is the calmer-headed member of the new British Invasion. He’s played by Adam Fergus. He’s someone the boys might be able to work with.
Supernatural just keeps rolling along to the tune of classic rock and on the wheels of a jet black 1967 Chevy Impala. It’s all become somewhat iconic over the years. This is certainly one of the more stylish and atmospheric shows on television. We’re all looking forward to a 13th season. I suspect the executives will want to make it something special. The show will also deliver its 300th episode in that season. And what will we do? We’ll keep on watching. “It’s what we do, man.”
The Big Bang Theory Season 10:
Mixing science with comedy appears to not only be funny, it also has some serious staying power. It’s been 10 years since Big Bang Theory first exploded on our television screens. The show continues to be one of the highest-rated comedy shows on television and seems to be going strong. The show takes the time and money to employ actual science consultants, so you might even learn something along the way. The secret to the show’s success is that it’s a situation comedy that really manages to be about the characters. All of that geek and science talk is background music to the main theme, which continues to be the characters and their relationships. Watching the 10th season I found myself a little amazed at how little story movement often occurs over a single 20 minutes. I was also amazed how little most of that mattered. But there is a formula here that delivers predictable laughs and has found quite a comfort zone with fans.
If there is a theme at all to the 10th season, it’s certainly that of family. You can’t miss the point from the very first episode of the season where Leonard (Galecki) and Penny (Cuoco) perform a second wedding ceremony so that their out-of-town family members can be a part of it. We already met Leonard’s mom as the somewhat snarky psychologist Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, played by Christine Baranski from The Good Wife (and its new spinoff The Good Fight. We had just met Leonard’s father, Dr. Alfred Hofstadter, played by Judd Hirsch, at the end of last season. Hirsch might be best known from the 1970’s classic Taxi, but he’s been a constant force on television and films ever since. Of course, these two don’t get along, and to the horror of both Leonard and Sheldon (Parsons) it seems as though he might be hitting it off a little too well with Sheldon’s mother, reprised by Laurie Metcalf.
We also meet more of Penny’s family. Keith Carradine returns as father Wyatt. In a rather nice move, they cast Katey Sagal as Penny’s mother, a part she played for actress Kaley Cuoco for years in 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Daughter. Her brother is played by Jack McBrayer. He’s just released from prison for making and selling crystal meth.
The Big Bang universe is about to expand into a prequel show on CBS called Young Sheldon. Jim Parsons will not star as the title character, but he will provide adult Sheldon narration much like The Wonder Years did. Zoe Perry will take on the role of Sheldon’s Bible-Belt mother. The Big Bang Theory has also just been renewed for not one but two additional seasons. So this universe will be around for a while. And to think…”It all started with a big bang.”
Gotham Season 3:
“Enjoy the trip. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
It has been six months since the second season ended. A herd of creatures and experiments rained down on Gotham City. They were the product of experimentation by Dr. Strange, played by B.D. Wong. This, of course, is Dr. Hugo Strange, mad scientist, and not Marvel’s Stephen Sorcerer Supreme. Jim Gordon (McKenzie) is no longer a member of the police force, but has found a niche as a bounty hunter rounding up the creatures and bringing them in for cash. Gotham City is in chaos and has fallen into the kind of frontier justice. But this is Gotham City. Where is Batman?
The new big villain this season is The Mad Hatter. He’s Jervis Tetch, and he’s played by Benedict Samuel. This is not the version of the character you know from the 1960’s series or even most of the comic book run. That Mad Hatter was a villain obsessed with hats/lids who created all types of contraptions and weapons with them. This version did appear early on in the comics but was pretty much a one-off until resurrected many years later. He likes to wear top hats like the Mad Hatter from the Alice universe, even if they are made of newspaper. He is also one of Dr. Strange’s creations. Tetch has the ability to hypnotize people into doing his bidding, but that’s not what makes him quite so dangerous. It’s his sister Alice (Norvind) who is the real big problem here. Her blood has the ability to kill or turn a subject into a raving creature. It brings out the strongest emotions and makes them uber-strong. It is Alice’s blood that Strange has used to make many of his monsters. When she is killed, Tetch becomes enraged and determined to infect the entire city with the virus. Fortunately for him, te Court of Owls is looking for a way to “punish” Gotham City. A weaponized version of the blood virus is the big bad ticking clock in Season Three. And the real horror of it all is that Bruce Wayne might be the one to actually pull the trigger.
Of course, where would the show be without its most colorful and “beloved” villains? Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot has discovered a way to take advantage of the mayhem in the city. He’s decided to run for Mayor of Gotham City. He also gets Edward “Riddler” Nygma out of Indian Hill to serve as his Chief Of Staff. When he wins he finds out that it’s hard to keep running both a city and a criminal empire at the same time. There’s a lot of betrayal among the city’s criminals, particularly with Butch (Powell), Tabitha (Lucas) and Barbara Kean (Richards) trying to run their own little thing. Fish Mooney (Smith) is back and using some of Strange’s creations to form a new gang. It’s a pretty natural collaboration, since she’s back among the living because of Strange. Selina Kyle has joined up, and unfortunately her friend Ivy sees too much and is almost killed by one of the creatures. What did happen to her is that now actress Clare Foley takes over for actress Maggie Geha, because Ivy has leaped ahead a few years physically. She’s discovering that her new body helps her get her way, particularly with men. It will also change her relationship with Selina.
Gotham is firing on all cylinders right now, and I think the best might be yet to come. The final two-part episode has Gotham City mired in the virus with anarchy and more than a few debts getting paid off in the final moments. Right now it looks like the villains might be in charge for a while. “Gotham is ripe with crime. Who better than a criminal to clean it up?”