Along with several new movies being released on DVD and Blu-ray as of Sept. 21, there are numerous full season sets of current TV shows hitting stores.
“Batwoman: Season Two” Grade 3 stars: It looked like Batwoman was not going to have a long life fighting crime in Gotham City when the series launched. The entire first year was under the dark shadow of anger with Ruby Rose playing the title character.
Once Javicia Leslie slipped on the cape and cowl, the series got a huge lift. Her energy and passion for the character have given the series a strong heartbeat. The show went from a chore to watch to great fun.
The only saving grace in that first year and a big plus in the second was the work of the extremely underappreciated Rachel Skarsten as the wildly evil Alice. She is just as good as Margot Robbie playing Harley Quinn but because Skarsten’s work is relegated to the TV world, she doesn’t get the same attention.
The combination of Leslie’s energy and Skarsten’s captivating wicked ways has made “Batwoman” a strong force in the expanding comic book world in TV and films.
“Cruella” Grade 2 ½ stars: Academy Award winner Emma Stone takes on the role of the puppy-hunting villain Cruella De Vil from the 1961 animated tale “One Hundred and One Dalmatians.” This live-action feature film charts the rise of Cruella from mischievous grade schooler to rebellious fashion designer.
Director Craig Gillespie tells Cruella’s story against the renegade fashion world of 1970s London. A young grafter named Estella – who will become Cruella – lands a job at a prestigious fashion design firm. Estella starts out just wanting to make gorgeous fashions but her plans turn evil when she learns a heartbreaking truth about her heartless boss – played by Emma Thompson.
The majority of the screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara comes across like a dated version of “The Devil Wears Prada” with all of the fashion elements.
The two biggest problems with the movie is that Gillespie never heard a classic rock song he didn’t want to use in the movie. The endless hit parade of tunes ends up a huge distraction. And, despite being based on an animated movie, “Cruella” is far too dark and too long for youngsters. It could have used a 45-minute edit.
“F9: The Fast Saga” Grade 2 1/2 stars: The latest offering in the long-running, fast-driving series gets bonus points but not for the action sequences. At this point, it is hard to find a new way to speed after and away from the bad guys.
Where “F9” excels is the humor. This is by far one of the funniest movies of the year. But, that probably wasn’t the initial intent.
There is no way a film can have a scene where a car is turned into a rocket ship and not expect the absurdity levels to go off the charts. The bonus is all of the action footage that has become the franchise trademark.
Also new on DVD and Blu-ray
“Resident Alien: Season One”: Alan Tudyk finds just the right balance between serious and funny to play this alien who takes on the life of a doctor who lives in a remote community.
“The Blacklist: Season Eight”: This continues to be one of the smartest series on television. James Spader has created a memorable super villain/possible hero with Raymond Reddington. This set features some very revealing information about Reddington.
“The Equalizer: Season One”: Queen Latifah’s version of the CBS drama is a weekly trip into a world of action and adventure as her character sets out to help those who can’t get help.
“Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away”: A look at the man who became one of the most influential guitarists of all time.
“Coronavirus Conspiracy”: An economist (Joseph D. Reitman) thinks he’s found the answer to a virus in a link between animals, a renowned zookeeper (John Lehr) and a secret cabal.
“Sibyl”: Young actress (Adèle Exarchopoulos) gets wrapped up in a dramatic affair.
“Dolly: The Ultimate Collection”: Set includes episodes of Dolly Parton’s shows plus concert appearances.
“Between Waves”: Jamie is haunted by her presumed dead lover though his inter-dimensional visits.
“God of War II”: Hero realizes his closest allies may be his biggest foes.
“I Carry You With Me”: Romance between an aspiring chef (Armando Espitia) and a teacher (Christian Vázquez) creates a treacherous journey from Mexico to New York.
Available through digital platforms
“Escape Room: Tournament of Champions”: Six people find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms where they slowly uncover what they have in common to survive. Will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on Oct. 5.
“This Is the Night”: Italian American family must confront their greatest challenges just like their onscreen hero – Rocky Balboa – does.
“Little Vampire”: A 10-yearpold vampire sneaks out of the house to find adventure. It will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 5.