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. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. CW Shows on Blu-ray From Warner Brothers:
Kung Fu (2021) Season 1
“My name is Nicky Shen, and this has been my home for three years. A Shaolin monastery in Yunnan Province, China. My mom sent me on a cultural tour of China. Turned out, it was really a matchmaking tour to land me a Chinese husband. Just one of the many ways my mom tried to control my destiny. I panicked. I ran. That was the first time anyone told me I had a choice in anything. I was only planning to spend the night. But then I saw something that I knew I wanted to be a part of. These women were warriors. And so I stayed. Pei-Ling became my Shifu, my mentor.”
The new Kung Fu series at the CW is not really anything like the 1970’s show that starred David Carradine. And while the credits claim to be based on that show, they really do not have anything in common. This show is not a period piece but exists in current day San Francisco. The titular character is no longer a middle-aged quiet hero or a guy. Instead we have law school dropout Nicky Shen, a twenty-something woman who doesn’t quite have a handle on who she is. She’s not a wanderer, and she doesn’t play a handmade flute. She lives with her family and is totally connected to the modern from cellphones to Uber. That isn’t to say the show is bad. The production values are high, as are the writing and acting. The weak link for me is it’s given me flashbacks to Pretty Little Liars, as this show likely shares those adolescent girl demographics. So clearly I’m not the target audience. So otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Warner Brothers Home Entertainment drops this reincarnated Kung Fu on Blu-ray with all 13 episodes on three discs.
Nicky Shen, played by Olivia Liang, has spent the last three years learning in a Shaolin monastery in China. She’s a natural to the teachings and develops a strong connection to the teacher Pei-Ling (Kai). One night the temple is invaded by another female warrior and her posse. The woman is Zhilan, played by Yvonne Chapman. She kills Pei-Ling and gets away with a mythical sword that the order was charged to protect. She severely wounds Nicky and practically burns down the sacred grounds. So where is Nicky to go now? And what is she going to do to avenge her mentor?
She goes back home to a family that hasn’t heard from her in three years. Her mother (Tan) is cold and unforgiving, while her father, played by the legendary Tzi Ma, is overjoyed to see her. It becomes obvious from the start that she had a close and special relationship with her father, while her mother has been hiding things about her family history that eventually fills in some blanks when the pieces start to come out. She’s just in time to help plan her sister Althea’s (Dang). Her parents own a Chinese restaurant that is coming under a cloud of trouble. Mom turned to a loan shark in the past, and now that note is past due. Lucky her daughter has crazy martial arts powers. Althea is a computer whiz and the show’s obligatory computer hacker, and she’s somewhat of what they call an influencer with tickets to the biggest parties. There is also a brother, Ryan (Prasida), who is a doctor and volunteers at the Chinese Community Center for people who can’t afford health care. She had an ex-boyfriend named Evan (Stenhouse) who is now an assistant District Attorney, so she uses his connections to get inside info to help in her crusade to help people. At the Community Center Library, she hooks up with Henry (Liu).
Many episodes play out like an Equalizer episode. She sees someone in trouble, and she uses her skills to help them out of an impossible jam. That includes her family in more than one instance. But the majority of the episodes are steeped in a season-long mythology story arc. Zhilan is attempting to collect seven special weapons that contain great power. The sword was just the first. Complete, this collection can transfer all of their awesome power into a person who could pretty much rule the world. So she ends up trying to beat her to the next weapon, usually falling short at each turn. But there is still hope. The weapons need to be taken to a place called The Forge before they can have that energy transferred. Nicky has burned markings on her hands from trying to wield the sword during the night of the invasion. These are all clues to the quest, so there’s a little Indiana Jones thing going on here. Along the way her mother finally reveals her secret, and Nicky’s quest becomes all-consuming. All the while there is a third party after the weapons and their power. He’s Russell Tan (Chan), and he heads a wealthy and powerful family. While the season story pretty much resolves with no huge cliffhanger at the end, we do get lead to believe that Tan is going to be the Big Bad of the second season.
Superman And Lois Season 1
“My most vivid memories are of the days when my life changed. I remember coming to this Earth, feeling the sun on my face for the first time. Hearing the voices of my parents. My mother called me their greatest surprise. And boy, there sure were lots of them. I remember loving Smallville; the people, the community, how the small things were the big things. And I thought I’d live there forever. But my father’s death set me on a different path. Eventually, I moved to Metropolis to become who I was meant to be. But my most vivid memory of all was the day I met her.”
The her, of course is Lois Lane. Together they are Superman & Lois, and they’ve joined the ever-expanding Arrowverse for their first season now out on Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment. While this is their first season, the characters and these actors portraying them are not new to the Arrowverse. Tyler Hoechlin as Superman and Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane have been here for a few years. Both have shown up on Supergirl, and both appeared in a couple of the crossover events that have pulled together the various Arrowverse shows in the past. Now the focus is on them. They have their own show, and it’s quite a different approach to the characters and their story.
Martha Kent (Scarabelli) has died, and the Kent family have returned to Smallville, where they make a decision to stay. It’s not just Clark and Lois here. They now have two sons who are not aware that their father is Superman. Jonathan, played by Jordan Elsass, is the athletic type and most believed to potentially have his father’s powers. Jordan Kent, played by Alex Garfin, is the introvert who doesn’t appear to fit in socially and feels he lives in his brother’s shadow even in the eyes of his parents. Of course, something goes wrong, and Jordan is revealed to be the one with powers. No spoiler here; it’s a quick reveal that tends to drive much of the season’s story arc. Much of the season is taken up with Jordan learning to control those powers and trying to bond with a father he just discovered is Superman. The dynamic between the brothers changes, as does their relationship with their parents, when they learn the truth. It’s all a part of why they decide to remain in Smallville. It’s a chance to focus on the family and leave some of the big-city Metropolis grind behind. But when you are Superman and Lois Lane, trouble will always find a way to follow you.
Lois quits The Daily Planet and works for the floundering local paper. She thinks she’s had her last dealings with Morgan Edge (Rayner), who had taken over The Daily Planet and took away its journalistic integrity. But Edge now has his sights on Smallville. He’s buying up property from poor farmers who couldn’t afford to stay afloat. He’s gotten the city leaders to push his attempt to acquire the land with the idea he’s going to resurrect the town. Two of his supporters are Clark’s old high school flame Lana Lang, now Cushing (Chriqui) and her new husband Kyle (Valdez). We know that Edge has something more sinister in mind, and Lois decides to look into him, earning her a lot of hostility from the town, who think he’s saving them. We know the truth is going to come out, and it’s bad news for Superman and the world.
Beneath Smallville there are large deposits of a new kind of yellow Kryptonite. It allows the spirits of dead Kryptonians to take over human bodies. Edge is being controlled by one such alien, and the plan is to replace Earth’s population and build Krypton again on Earth.
Part of the family business is Lois’s father General Sam Lane, played by Dylan Walsh. He knows Clark’s secret and acts as a kind of liaison between Superman and the American military. He’s not happy with Clark’s new focus and direction. He believes he needs to be focused on being Superman and particularly working with him. When the crisis explodes, they both are forced to make some important choices. It doesn’t help that these newly inhabited bodies have the same strength and powers of Superman.
The Flash season 7
“Scared yet? You should be.”
There have been a ton of changes in the Arrowverse that started in 2012 with the CW premier of Arrow. It told the story of Oliver Queen, The Green Arrow. Other shows and heroes were added along the way that included time-traveling heroes of The Legends Of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning, Stargirl, and most recently Batwoman and Superman and Lois. But the best of these Arrowverse shows has always been and continues to be The Flash. But a lot has changed since then. The mothership, Arrow, has been gone for two years. Supergirl ended last season along with Black Lightning, and Legends Of Tomorrow appears to be fading fast in just plain silliness. Too bad DC doesn’t own the rights to Howard The Duck. He’d fit right in. Of the new shows, Stargirl shows a lot of promise with a pretty solid ensemble. Batwoman, for so many reasons, is a complete mess, and Superman & Lois looks to be the most promising future of the Arrowverse. The jury is still out after only one season. But The Flash remains the touchstone of quality in this collection and is now the longest running of the entire franchise. There’s a reason for this, and Season 7 will give you even more reasons to run toward The Flash. However, if you’re thinking of joining The Flash for the first time in Season 7, that’s not going to work out so well for you. Hopefully you’re a speed watcher, because you have 6 to go. You’re going to love what this series has cooking, but you need to start with getting yourself caught up in order to fully appreciate what is in store for you here. In addition to the many seasons, crossovers, and other shows, COVID has reared its ugly head and kind of mixed up the order of some things. That means you’re not really getting Season 7 from the beginning when you buy this set. You’re getting the last three episodes of Season 6, and Season 7 starts on the fourth episode and gets a bit truncated by the shorter production schedules. That’s a lot to get caught up with, so check out our reviews of the previous releases here.
“And now for my greatest trick yet: absolute suffering.”
And that’s what happened to the world. Before the sixth season could be finished, the production was closed down because of COVID. It’s a story you’re reading on pretty much every series and film production that happened to be ongoing when everything went to hell. That means the first three episodes on this release finish the Season 6 story arc of Eva (Dor) and her attempt to replace humans with her mirror copies and take over the world. She’s defeated in a disappointing way. It’s straight out of Captain Kirk talking evil machines into destroying themselves. I suspect it would have been more evolved if not for the shutdown. So if it all seems rushed, it probably was. Another holdover from the previous season was Barry trying to get back his powers. They finally find a solution, but it requires Nash Wells (Cavanagh) to give up his life and all the other versions of Wells in his head. It also caused another problem that would become the “big bad” of the seventh season. When they did the experiment, they sent four offshoots of energy that created four force powers, each from a different realm.
The first they encounter is The Speed Force (Harrison), represented by orange lightning. She comes in the form of Nora and causes some issues of trust with Barry. Next it’s the Psych as the Sage Force (Esmer), who is represented by purple lightning and has the ability to put a person into their own nightmares. Then there is The Strength Force, which first appears as a real horrible CGI Hulk-like creature that’s some of the worst CG I’ve ever seen. It took over an episode for me to learn it was a she. That one is represented by blue lightning. Finally the fourth force is The Still Force, which has control over time itself. Through several episodes we encounter a kind of Force Civil War, where we never know which are bad guys and which are good guys.
This series still has a lot of gas left in the tank. The wonderful actors and characters keep it all so interesting. This season wasn’t its best, and things kind of got a little out of control, but I think this core of characters will be around for at least a couple more years. They managed to navigate the pandemic better than most productions, and in today’s reality, “That’s the strongest superpower there is.”