Star Trek: Picard — Season 3

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Sci-Fi;
$39.99 DVD, $43.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Patrick Stewart, Jeri Ryan, Michelle Hurd, Ed Speleers, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Todd Stashwick, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, Michael Dorn, Amanda Plummer, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Mica Burton.

This is the season “Star Trek” fans have been waiting decades to see — a return to form for a franchise that hasn’t been operating at its optimum potential for far too long.

The 1990s was a bit of a golden age for “Star Trek.” The decade began with the final adventures of the crew of the original series, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” becoming one of the most popular shows on television. With Rick Berman taking over primary production duties from franchise creator Gene Roddenberry, who died in 1991, spinoffs such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager” continued the franchise on television while the “TNG” cast moved onto the big screen.

With the turn of the century, however, the Berman era of the franchise had trouble maintaining its momentum, and prequel series “Enterprise” was canceled just as it was establishing its identity.

J.J. Abrams’ reboot movies briefly sparked some renewed interest in the franchise, but it and later series such as “Star Trek: Discovery” didn’t seem to resonate with longtime fans.

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The third season of “Picard” plays like a mix between an eighth season and a fifth movie for the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” crew, the majority of which were mostly absent from the “Picard” series for its first two seasons as star Patrick Stewart wanted to veer away from the series being a “TNG” retread.

The main change from a creative standpoint is that the season was overseen by executive producer Terry Matalas, a veteran of the later years of the Berman era, providing a link to that classic run that had heretofore been lacking.

The season reunites the cast of “TNG” for a 10-episode arc that connects story threads dating back 30 years from several of the shows and movies. It also brings in a variety of guest stars to wrap up a few more dangling plot threads in a satisfying way that both plays to the strengths of the performers and propels the primary story. Matalas also introduces a few new characters that are memorable and effective in all the ways that most of the characters introduced for the first two seasons were not.

For viewers not keen on sitting through the lackluster first two seasons to get to this one, the third season mostly stands on its own (aside from being primarily a sequel to the Berman era), while still picking up on the most relevant developments from the series’ first 20 episodes (mostly, that the aging Picard transferred his consciousness into a synthetic body, and that an alternate reality offshoot of longtime nemesis The Borg arrived to make peace with the Federation).

The season features a healthy dose of the good kind of nostalgia, building toward a climax that rekindles the feeling of being immersed in peak 1990s “Star Trek” while giving the “TNG” crew the sendoff they never really got before.

This is a story about the dichotomy between experience and youth that works much in the same way that made Top Gun: Maverick so effective, and even parallels that film’s appeal to sentimentality in a way that should leave older fans both excited and misty eyed.

The music also is terrific, a melodic love letter to the thematic history of “Star Trek,” with numerous homages to the works of franchise stalwarts Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner and other composers.

The Blu-ray offers some great extras, but also some baffling choices. The episodes are presented with the “previously on” recaps of previous episodes. And a brief shot of the Enterprise-D at the beginning of the finale episode is an alternate visual effect; a more-elaborate visual effects shot appears on the streaming version. The shot that appears on the disc was used briefly in the streaming version in Europe before being changed to match the U.S. version, which leads one to wonder how it made it to disc if it wasn’t an outright quality control mistake.

Extras on the Blu-ray include some fun audio commentaries on select episodes; a Q&A panel with the cast and production team from an Imax screening of the finale; the insightful “The Making of the Last Generation,” “The Gang’s All Here,” “Rebuilding the Enterprise-D” and “Villainous Vadic” featurettes; some good deleted scenes on a handful of episodes; and a gag reel.

Originally published as a streaming review May 1, 2023.

Catwoman: Hunted

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Warner;
Animated;
$24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, bloody images and suggestive material.
Voices of Elizabeth Gilles, Stephanie Beatriz, Lauren Cohan, Kelly Hu, Jonathan Banks, Keith David, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Jonathan Frakes.

The anime-inspired Catwoman: Hunted puts its title character in the middle of a jazzy crime caper, manipulating her way through a cadre of DC Comics characters, none of which is Batman. It’s a fun, sexy ride despite its convoluted plot. And it remembers that there is more than one cat-themed character hanging around the DC universe.

The story involves Catwoman (Elizabeth Gilles) crashing a costume party of gangsters connected to the Leviathan crime syndicate in order to steal a valuable jewel. Though her attempt is eventually thwarted by Batwoman (Stephanie Beatriz), Catwoman is ensnared in a globe-trotting Interpol operation to take down Leviathan’s leadership.

The Blu-ray includes two featurettes. The 19-minute “When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted” is an interesting piece that briefly explores the popularity of Catwoman before diving into how the filmmakers crafted the movie around her. The 40-minute “Catwoman: The Femme Fatale” is a good mini-documentary, originally released online last year, about the history of the character in comics, video games, TV shows and movies, infused with archival interviews with many of the actresses who played her.

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FilmRise Acquires Streaming Rights to Classic Anthology Series ‘Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction’

FilmRise, the New York-based TV and film distribution company, has acquired streaming rights to the classic cult anthology series, “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction” for North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and New Zealand from MRC’s Dick Clark productions.

Each episode of this cult anthology series presents several stories that appear to defy logic — the supernatural, ghosts, psychic phenomena, destiny and the divine — and offers the viewer a chance to decide what is fact and what is fiction.

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FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher said the deal for “Beyond Belief” expands the company’s partnership with Dick Clark productions, and ups viewer interest in series such as “Unsolved Mysteries,” among others, which FilmRise also has rights to.

“[It] contains bone-chilling stories that stick with audiences, lending itself to repeat viewing,” Fisher said. “Its nostalgic feel adds to the viewer’s engagement.”

“Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction” originally aired for four seasons on television (1997-2002), with a total of 45 episodes. Originally hosted by James Brolin and then by “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star Jonathan Frakes, the series portrayed multiple, unbelievable stories often dealing with the supernatural or paranormal phenomena where the viewers are challenged to guess which installments depicted are true or fictional. The program was narrated by Don LaFontaine for seasons one through three, and Campbell Lane for the fourth and final season.

Dick Clark productions claims to be the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and dcp.

dcp, which is owned by MRC (formerly Media Rights Capital), also owns one of the world’s most extensive entertainment archive libraries, with more than 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and related programming.