Cobra Kai: Season 4

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Drama;
Not rated.
Stars Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Peyton List, Martin Kove, Vanessa Rubio, Thomas Ian Griffith.

The creators of “Cobra Kai” have the show firing on all cylinders in its fourth season, bringing to a head storylines dating back to the original “Karate Kid” trilogy from the 1980s.

In fact, season four of “Cobra Kai” is so good it retroactively makes The Karate Kid Part III almost watchable.

The third season ended with the stakes set for an epic showdown, as the rival dojos agreed to let the next All-Valley Tournament decide their fates, with the losing factions shutting down. Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) broke free from Cobra Kai and his former sensei, Kreese (Martin Kove), to form his own dogo, Eagle Fang. He reluctantly forms an alliance with his old rival, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) to take down Kreese, who turns to help from his old pal Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), the main villain from The Karate Kid Part III.

Silver, a wealthy industrialist who has mellowed out with age, needs some convincing to return to the fold, in one of many scenes in which the show knowingly, necessarily and hilariously picks apart the absurdity and stupidity of the awful Part III.

Meanwhile, Johnny and Daniel’s clashing styles threaten to upend their partnership as the rivalries between their students and those of Cobra Kai only grow more intense, particularly the feuds between Daniel’s daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) and “Queen Cobra” Tory (Peyton List), and Johnny’s own son (Tanner Buchanan), who joined Cobra Kai to take on Johnny’s prized student, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña).

However, the show doesn’t paint the characters as simple heroes and villains, but offers shading to their personalities to make them sympathetic regardless of which factions to which they belong. When the tournament finally plays out over the season’s epic finale, there are so many angles culminating that it’s nearly impossible to figure out how they are going to play out, which only adds to the palpable excitement of the episodes.

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As with the previous seasons of the series, the abundant references to “Karate Kid” lore and its tangents, and 1980s culture in general, make this an easy sell to franchise fans, but the show is also developing into a decent character piece with a lot to say about bullying, parenting and the power of self-reflection.

While the season provides some satisfying payoffs to story arcs and conflicts that have been years in the making, it also sets the stage for some intriguing new directions, steering the story in a way that’s just begging for a certain Oscar winner who starred in The Next Karate Kid to show up in season five.

Cobra Kai: Season 3

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Drama;
Not rated.
Stars Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo, Peyton List, Martin Kove.

With its third season, “Cobra Kai” continues to deliver everything a “Karate Kid” fan could hope for, and more.

With the confidence of two hugely popular seasons behind them, and a fresh move to Netflix, the show’s creators have taken the deepest dive yet into the franchise’s history, revisiting beloved characters while continuing to build upon the storylines for its new generation of characters.

The show even finds time to poke fun at itself and the admittedly goofy premise that enough high school kids nowadays would be into karate that worrying about the casual violence of roving karate gangs becomes a necessary issue of local civic leaders and school board members.

The season picks up in the aftermath of last season’s all-out brawl between the students of the Cobra Kai dojo trained by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and those of Miyagi-Do trained by Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), the two rivals from the 1984 original The Karate Kid.

With his ace student, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), seriously injured and in the hospital, Johnny questions the “No Mercy” underpinnings of the Cobra Kai way just as his former sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), outmaneuvers him for control of the dojo.

Meanwhile, Daniel travels to Japan, setting of the second “Karate Kid” movie, in hopes of saving his car dealership, and learns valuable life lessons from some old friends.

The season also delves into Kreese’s backstory, derived mostly from the third movie, showing flashbacks to his time in Vietnam when he first embraced the ruthlessness he has been preaching ever since.

The result is a delicious 10-episode meal of nostalgia. I suppose one doesn’t have to have seen the “Karate Kid” movies to enjoy the show, but familiarity with them will certainly make one appreciate it more, particularly in the final two episodes and the return of the one character who could possibly put Johnny and Daniel’s feud into the proper perspective, and put both of them in their place.

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Looking at the structure of the storylines, the creators seem to be taking almost as much influence from professional wrestling as they are “Karate Kid” movies, with characters forming factions, teaming up and switching allegiances to set up the next big pay-per-view-style confrontation.

The battlelines drawn in season three provide the set-up for what should be an explosive fourth season with the All-Valley championship on the line.

To coincide with the Jan. 1 premiere of all episodes of the third season, Netflix has bowed a new half-hour interview/sketch-comedy show called “The Netflix Afterparty,” hosted by David Spade. The first episode features cast-members from “Cobra Kai” discussing the new season.

Star Trek: Picard — Season One

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 10/6/20;
Paramount/CBS;
Sci-Fi;
$39.99 DVD, $47.99 Blu-ray;
Not Rated;
Stars Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Isa Briones, Evan Evagora, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadway, Peyton List, Tamlyn Tomita, Jonathan Del Arco, Jeri Ryan, Brent Spiner.

Fans of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” eagerly anticipated this sequel series featuring Patrick Stewart’s return to the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard nearly two decades after the last time we saw him in action.

That would have been the disappointing 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis, which ended with the android Data (Brent Spiner) sacrificing himself to save Picard from a deadly superweapon.

The new series picks up 20 years later, in the year 2399, with Picard settling into retirement at age 94 running his family’s winery in France. However, he remains haunted by Data’s death, as well as the Federation’s abandonment of a mission to ferry Romulan refugees to safety when their planet’s home star exploded 10 years prior (an event alluded to in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 movie).

His ennui is interrupted by a request for help from a young girl (Isa Briones) who turns out to be an android made of flesh and blood, fashioned by remnants of Data’s old programming. She’s being hunted by Romulan agents who consider her the portent of an invasion of artificial life forms that will lead to a galactic apocalypse.

For answers, Picard must find the girl’s twin sister, who happens to be working with a task force studying a ship abandoned by the Federation’s deadly enemy, the Borg, in Romulan space. So he assembles a crew of mercenaries to take him there.

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The creators of the show stress that this is very much not a retread of “TNG.” But that doesn’t rule out the occasional reunion here and there. The best episode of the first season’s batch of 10, for instance, involves Picard seeking temporary sanctuary with his old crewmates Riker and Troi (Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis), who now live on a distant planet with their daughter (Lulu Wilson).

In fact, the show is filled with references to the “TNG” era of “Star Trek” in the 1990s, and the Borg subplot provides a nice excuse to bring in Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), the former Borg from “Star Trek: Voyager.”

Less fortunate are characters who were just guest stars on previous “Trek” shows, as this new series has a nasty habit of having them gruesomely murdered to move the story along.

In addition to the gore, longtime fans might also be surprised by the frequent use of foul language, with Starfleet admirals dropping “F” bombs to a degree never seen on a “Star Trek” show. Remember when “Star Trek” was a family show?

The A.I. storyline ends up going off the rails by the end of the season, which turns out to be a convoluted excuse for eliminating a hanging plot point from “TNG” that didn’t even need to be addressed.

The kinds of fans that “Star Trek” usually attracts will likely fine the show ends up inadvertently raising two questions for every one it thinks it’s answering. The nostalgia is fun for a while, but a few clever references will hardly compensate for other aspects of the franchise the show glaringly ignores. (For specific deviations from established Trek lore, check out the Major Grin YouTube channel.)

The show isn’t covering much new ground in its treatment of androids and A.I., as many of the ideas relating to the nature of artificial existence were previously and better explored in Blade Runner and “Battlestar Galactica.”

In fact, given how the season ends, it almost feels as if the producers were trying to set up a “Star Trek” version of “Firefly.”

Still, the cast is great, and the season manages to squeeze some poignant moments from the legacy characters that fans won’t want to miss.

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The Blu-ray edition of the series offers a nice suite of extras to differentiate it from its streaming presentation on CBS All Access.

Every episode includes a brief behind-the-scenes featurette that runs three to seven minutes. A few episodes also include deleted scenes, though most of these are pretty inconsequential.

The first of three discs includes the “Children of Mars” short that serves as something of a prologue to the series. The disc also includes a 10-minute “Make It So” featurette about the creation of the show.

In addition, the first episode includes a quarantine-recorded picture-in-picture Zoom commentary with producers Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Hanelle M. Culpepper (who also directed the episode).

The third disc includes more making-of featurettes, including the 12-and-a-half-minute “Aliens Alive: The xBs,” about putting the actors into Borg makeup, with a particular focus on Jeri Ryan’s return to her famous role.

“Picard Props” is a 13-minute featurette about the creation of various knick-knacks and weapons used on the show.

“Set Me Up” is a 14-and-a-half-minute featurette about the production design of some of the starship interiors and Picard’s home, showing off a lot of great details.

“The Motley Crew” is a 19-minute featurette about the cast, including some of Briones’ audition footage.

Finally, there’s an eight-minute gag reel, which is pretty great if only for the amount of playful bickering we get to see between longtime friends Stewart and Frakes, who directed a number of the episodes.

Animated ‘Batman: Hush’ Due July 20 Digitally, Aug. 6 on Disc

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Batman: Hush, the next installment of the DC Universe line of animated movies, digitally July 20 and on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and the DC Universe streaming service Aug. 6.

An adaptation of a popular comic book storyline from 2002 and 2003, the film centers on a shadowy new villain in Gotham City known as Hush who uses Batman’s rogues gallery to attempt to destroy his crime-fighting career, as well as Bruce Wayne’s personal life, which has become complicated by a relationship with Selina Kyle, the alter ego of Catwoman.

Batman: Hush is the 35th film in the DC Universe animated movie brand and the 14th film in the DC Animated Movie Universe, a shared continuity started by Son of Batman and Justice League: War.

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The voice cast includes Jason O’Mara as Batman, Jennifer Morrison as Catwoman, Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane, Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Jason Spisak as Joker, Peyton List as Poison Ivy (reprising her role from the “Gotham” TV show), Peyton R. List as Batgirl, Geoffrey Arend as the Riddler, Sean Maher as Nightwing, Maury Sterling as Thomas Elliot, Bruce Thomas as Jim Gordon, Adam Gifford as Bane, Sachie Alessio as Lady Shiva, Stuart Allan as Robin, James Garrett as Alfred, Hynden Walch as Harley Quinn, Chris Cox as Scarecrow, and Tara as a reporter.

The home video release will include the “DC Showcase” animated short Sgt. Rock, based on DC Comics’ gritty World War II hero.

Other extras include the featurette “Batman: Love in Time of War,” about the relationship between Batman and Catwoman; audio commentary executive producer James Tucker, director Justin Copeland and screenwriter Ernie Altbacker; a preview of the upcoming animated movie Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, starring Rosario Dawson; and the episodes “The Underworld Underground Caper” and “Partners in Peril” from the 1968 animated series “The Batman/Superman Hour.”