A scene from ‘Batwoman: Season 2’ courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
This week’s releases include a new season with a new hero; classic genre images from a lesser-known contributor; and a heartwarming baseball movie.
Batwoman: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray and digital copy)
By the end of the first season, Crows Commander Kane (Dougray Scott) had declared war on Batwoman, forcing everyone around them to choose sides. Season two kicks off with a major change that changes Gotham City and The Bat Team forever. A new hero emerges from the shadows. Storytelling, messy, loyal, and a bit awkward, Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) couldn’t be more different from the woman who wore the Batsuit before her, billionaire Kate Kane (Ruby Rose). Living in his van, Ryan has felt trapped and helpless by the system his entire life and believes the Batsuit is the key to getting out of it. But what she’ll find out is that it’s not the costume that makes Ryan Wilder powerful, it’s the woman inside who finds her destiny by changing Gotham City for good.
When it was announced that Rose would not be returning to the Batsuit after the first season, there was great curiosity about how the series would replace the actress and move on from character since the key conflict was a sibling rivalry between Kate and Alice ( Rachel Skarsten). Somewhat surprisingly, but understandably, the series borrows some classic change techniques used in soap operas to make the transition work. Ryan is a more accessible Batwoman, although she has experienced exceptional struggles, which informs the staunch justice seeker she is today. With two key black characters on the show now, the writers are using multiple episodes to introduce issues of incarceration, police harassment and violence, and the distribution of social resources. Some seem a bit forced, but also inevitable if they want to respect and develop the characters. Alice’s arc takes a drastic turn this season, but she becomes an even better central figure.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The bad guys analyzed”; “Never alone: heroes and allies”; and gag reel. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Creatures of the Cold War: Four Sam Katzman Films [Limited Edition] (Blu Ray)
Mafia boss hires former Nazi scientist to revive dead thugs in Creature with atomic brain. Car crash survivor used as experimental subject to create nuclear fallout vaccine with mind-blowing side effects in The werewolf. Treasure Hunters get more than they expected in the search for a shipment of diamonds that sank along with a sunken ship when they discover the zombified crew members are keeping the loot in Zombies of Mora Tau. Meanwhile, a huge bird from space descends to swoop down on the inhabitants of planet Earth in The Giant Claw.
When most people think of genre images from the 50s, they usually think of Hammer Horror or Universal Monsters, but Sam Katzman was acting in the realm of unusual and spooky stories as well. Many of these images capitalized on people’s fear of medical experiments and radiation. The two Creature with atomic brain and Zombies of Mora Tau dealing with people who no longer control their bodies, the first using its automatons for revenge and the second destined to keep a hidden treasure forever. Zombies also demonstrates an interesting approach to filming underwater footage. The werewolf features awesome makeup effects as the man transformation is shown in stages to become more or less hairy. With a limited budget and special effects restrictions, The Giant Claw is the silliest of the pictures as the giant turkey-like creature doesn’t quite fit its description and isn’t very convincing once fully revealed.
Special features include: critical commentary; features; image galleries; movie trailers; 60-page fully illustrated collector’s book featuring many new writings by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper; and an 80-page collectible art book featuring reproductions of images and illustrations from each film and new writings by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette. (Arrow video)
Hardball (Blu Ray)
Conor O’Neill (Keanu Reeves) is an unlucky gambler in debt to dangerous loan sharks. Desperate for money, Conor reluctantly takes a job coaching a youth baseball team. The “team” turns out to be a motley group of hard-voiced kids from downtown Chicago. Secretly, Conor plans to desert the team after winning a big bet. But the stakes are higher than Conor imagined: kids need someone to believe in. As Conor grapples with his past, the children begin to teach him lessons that will forever change his future – that responsibility and trust must be earned, and that hope can appear in the most unlikely places.
This film follows the traditional formula of child-centered sports film where the coach and the children learn from each other and find a new purpose. Conor is a gambling addict who doesn’t have to take care of anyone’s kids for awhile. Still, he goes above and beyond the minimum effort, chasing down players and convincing people to let them play. However, this recreational activity means so much more to children than to some of them, it is the only thing that stands between them and join a gang. The lives of these kids are much more difficult than Conor’s and they deserved a caring coach, which he ends up being after an inevitable stumble. As is also the case for children in disadvantaged neighborhoods, the tragedy strikes to underscore the dangers they face and the importance of the program. Reeves is the desperate gamer who is a really nice guy deep down, while the kids are all wonderful and draw viewers into their story. Special features include: commentary from director Brian Robbins and writer John Gatins; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; “Hardball” music video; interstitial; and movie trailer. (Paramount Home Entertainment)