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 2019. Any of them would look great under the tree this season. We start off with a very special release for DC and Batman fans.
Batman Beyond: The Complete Series
This has been one of the most demanded animated comic book series for years. It acts as somewhat of a continuation The New Batman Adventures and pretty much produced by the same team. When The New Batman Adventures ended, the network was looking for something that would be more teen-centered, and of course there was talk of a kind of “Batboy” vibe going on. But the group behind The New Batman Adventures came up with something far more original and clever. Kevin Conroy would continue to be the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman as he has for several projects. But this was 20 years later, and Bruce is discovering he just doesn’t have the kind of moves and strength he once had. He hangs up the cowl for good and decides to retire. But there’s always going to be a need for Batman, and when young teen Terry McGinnis’s father is killed, he wants to go after the guy who killed him. He stumbles upon the Bat-cave and the high-tech bat-suit and ends up taking it for a spin. Eventually he ends up working for Bruce, who would monitor his adventures and offer help from a communications center back in the Bat-cave.
This was a futuristic Gotham City with flying cars and other new tech. The Bat-suit was more like Ironman, because it had armor, weapons and a computer system. He could also fly now. The show ended up part Batman, part Ironman, and part Spider-Man. Barbara Gordon is now the police commissioner, and we get not so subtle hints that she and Bruce had a relationship that went badly at one point. The bad guys are new, for the most part. We still feel the presence of the original rouges gallery. There are gangs that have taken on the look of The Joker and call themselves Jokerz. It’s a fresh look at a very old hero and one of the best and most original animated shows to come along.
You get a lot in this set. All 52 episodes and the Return Of The Joker animated feature arrive on six Blu-ray discs. There are a ton of extras, and you get a very cool “big-head” Batman Beyond action figure. This is the gift set to eclipse all animated gift sets this holiday season.
Supernatural: Season 14
“I know what it’s like to see monsters. And I know that when they’re gone, they never go away. Me and my brother, we’re the guys that stop the monsters. We’re the guys that scare them.”
Truer words were never spoken. The big news to come out of the world of Supernatural is that it is indeed going away. The brothers made an emotional announcement during the airing of the previous season that the upcoming 15th year would be the final season of the show. It’s hard to believe that we’ll soon know a television landscape without the Winchester brothers. It’s the last show that goes back to the original WB Network that eventually led to the current CW Network that has become more and more the home of the Warner Brothers-owned DC Comics television universe. But in the middle of speedsters, archers, aliens, and time travelers, there was always room for the Winchesters. It’ll be a bit of a culture shock to have them gone. Hard to imagine, but if you were a young 15-year-old kid when you started to watch the show, you’re now 30, likely with kids of your own. You live in an entirely different world than you did when you first came aboard. How will you feel without it?
This season we saw Supernatural reach its 300th episode, and it’s a wonderful episode. After so many years and a rather powerful turn on The Walking Dead, Jeffrey Dean Morgan returns as John Winchester. Dean finds a pearl that will grant a person their deepest desire, and they use it expecting that getting rid of Michael would be that desire. What Dean really wants more than anything else is a wish he shares with fans of the show. He wants his family reunited, and that brings John from the past. But playing with time causes the expected consequences, so it’s a short visit, but we do get to see Dean, Sam, Mary, and John spend a beautiful day together.
It’s become somewhat of a Supernatural tradition that seasons end with one or more of the brothers making a sacrifice in order to save the world. Season 13 was one of those years. Dean (Ackles) allows the archangel Michael from the Apocalypse World to enter his body in order to save the multi-verse. These endings often mean that the following season begins with the brothers apart and one trying to find/rescue/save the other. That’s exactly what we have here. Sam (Padalecki) has brought refugees from Apocalypse World to the bunker where he has set up an organization of hunters. Now he has teams all over the country hunting the creatures of the night. The bunker is looking a lot like it likely did in the heyday of the Men of Letters. Sam’s the leader, but he’s also using these resources to try to find Dean. Mary (Sith) is trying to train the new recruits. Castiel (Collins) is out in the field trying to track information on Dean and also trying to mentor Jack (Calvert), who lost his grace to Lucifer (Pellegrino) during the previous season’s epic battle. Lucifer is now dead, but his vessel still lives on with the now-troubled Nick trying to figure out who he is now and what path his life will change. Unfortunately, he’s going to let the darkness continue to take him and will spend the season in a destructive path of discovery that won’t end well for anyone. Meanwhile, Michael is trying to build an army of supercharged monsters so that he can take over this Earth just as he did in Apocalypse World.
There are a couple of big-bad kind of stories, and the heaven struggle for power is still going on, and that arc ends up coming together with the main story of the season. Still, I happen to like this show best when we get those individual hunts that don’t necessarily play to the big themes. It’s taking the show back to its roots, and I am happy that even as we near the end, we get plenty of those moments this season. Dean gets to hunt his favorite slasher film monster. Can you say “Time to slice and dice”? We get an action figure haunted by a comic book store owner. When Dean tries to teach Jack to hunt without his powers, they get to tackle a zombie, which is like a dream come true for Jack. There’s a half-man, half-fly creature that has become one of my favorite show monsters. These episodes continue to be the bread-and-butter moments for me no matter what apocalypse the boys are trying to stop.
The Flash: Season 5
“My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive. To the outside world, I’m an ordinary forensic scientist. But secretly, with the help of my friends at S.T.A.R. Labs, I fight crime and find other meta-humans like me. But when my daughter came back from the future to help, she changed the present. And now our world is more dangerous than ever, and I’m the only one fast enough to save it. I am the Flash.”
One of the things that I love about this show is that time and time again there is a running theme throughout the series. Actions have consequences, and most superhero shows or films really don’t make that statement. It’s been true here from the rescue of Barry from the speed force to his trying to stop his mother’s murder. Each of these “heroic” acts had severe consequences and costs. The same is true this season. Nora’s arrival was just in time to stop a deadly satellite from turning all of Star City into metas. We saw that mysterious assist as the season ended, and now we know who did it. But that action had a huge cost. It sent black matter shards into the population that not only produced more dangerous meta-humans but this time created meta-tech. Non-organic items like cell phones, a weather vane, and most notably a large dagger-like shard of the wreckage. That shard produced the big bad for this season, a meta-human named Cicada (Klein).
Cicada lost his family and blames meta-humans for the loss. His niece is in a coma, and he has been given a new power in conjunction with the dagger. It reveals the presence of meta-humans, much like Frodo’s blade Sting in The Lord Of The Rings reveals that orcs are nearby. He then uses the combined power to take away their power while they are in the proximity of the blade. He goes on a meta-human killing spree. You could say he’s the Dexter of the meta-human crowd. Nora’s future knowledge reveals that Cicada is the only villain that Barry never defeated and that he’s alive and well and killing into the future. Nora also claims to have lost her ability to return to the future, but she isn’t being completely honest with the team about a lot of things, including that she’s working in the future with Barry’s arch-nemesis The Reverse Flash (Cavanagh). These secrets continue to make the situation more and more dire until it comes back to bite the group with the return of the evil speedster.
There is a three-part crossover that involves Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl. Once again I applaud the folks at Warner Home Entertainment for including all three episodes in each of the show’s home video releases. That was not always the case, and shows were released out of order of these episodes, making it difficult to see the entire story in order, if at all. They are all included here. This year’s is used to actually set up two future big events for the DC television universe, also known as the Arrowverse. There was a directive from the beginning that all things Batman and Gotham can’t even be mentioned. That restriction had to do with Fox showing the series Gotham. Now that the series has ended, these shows are free to integrate those elements into their shows, and so this season you’ll hear Bruce Wayne and Gotham mentioned often. It’s like the writers are kids finally let loose in the candy store. The crossover introduces us to Ruby Rose and her Batwoman character. She’ll be getting her own series next season. The crossover also sets up an epic one for next year that will take up five hours of television. It’s what Arrow’s seventh season is really all about, and you’ll see it teased here. I won’t tell you anything about that story, because you’ll want to see that for yourself. But we finally see this reality’s version of Gotham City. The event also introduces us to The Monitor, and he’ll be having a big part in the finale of Arrow and next year’s super crossover (pun intended). If you watch nothing else to prepare for the coming season, you must watch the crossover event.
Gotham: The 5th And Final Season:
“After the bridges blew and the government declared Gotham off limits, the city was up for grabs. Given over to criminals and murderers. Now territory is controlled by whoever has enough power to hold it. I mean, we have Penguin in City Hall, for God’s sake …”
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’s finally going to happen in the final moments of this the fifth and final season of Gotham. It’s out now from Warner Brothers, and it’s the last 12 episodes of the Batman origin story. But Gotham was more than that.
In many ways Gordon’s story is straight out of Serpico. He soon learns that pretty much everyone is on the take, or at least willing to look the other way. He also quickly discovers that his fellow officers won’t back him up if he gets into a jam. While Harvey is a corrupt cop, he’s been waiting desperately for an honest example to follow, and Gordon is that man. Person Of Interest Fans will understand that I found him very much like Fusco from that show. He’s a bad cop who wants to be good but is not strong enough to take on the system alone. His road to redemption is a nice sidebar to all of this villainy. This season he has to be the strongest he’s ever been to back Gordon up against astronomical odds. And there’s a nice episode that takes a little break from the main story where Harvey’s past comes back to haunt him and maybe kill him.
The show was developed by Bruno Heller, who last provided us with The Mentalist. Here he has managed to tap into the comic book world just enough that he teases us with things we know. You almost feel proud of yourself when you recognize elements that will play into the future of the Batman universe. It’s a smart approach that helps make the audience active participants in the show. There are so many little Easter eggs here that you have to stay on your toes. It also makes all of this very easy to watch again. There are bound to be things you missed the first time around.
It’s always tough to say goodbye to any show that you fall in love with. But in Gotham‘s case the story itself goes on, and it will with the upcoming Batwoman series and the continued Arrow-verse on the WB. We can’t take 30 years getting to Batman. It would stagnate a rich environment of heroes and villains. “Is that what you want?”