$34.98 two-DVD set; Not rated. Stars Stephen Amell, Alexander Ludwig, Allison Luff, Mary McCormack, Kelli Berglund, Allen Maldonado, James Harrison, Roxton Garcia, Chris Bauer, David James Elliott.
The Starz series “Heels” examines the behind-the-scenes drama of a fictional independent family run wrestling organization in rural Georgia.
Former “Arrow” star Stephen Amell is a natural choice to headline the series, given he’s such a huge fan of professional wrestling he actually participated in storylines and matches for WWE.
Amell plays Jack Spade, who runs the Duffy Wrestling League and also serves as its champion. Jack is the DWL’s primary “heel,” which is wrestling parlance for a bad guy. His brother Ace (Alexander Ludwig) is the DWL’s primary face, aka good guy, and the top contender for the title.
While the DWL remains a popular attraction among the locals, it is struggling financially, fending off a glitzy, well-funded upstart organization from Florida. By day, Jack works as a salesman for riding lawnmowers, though he remains dedicated to keeping the DWL alive to maintain the legacy of his father (David James Elliott), who committed suicide a year earlier and whose plight is depicted in flashbacks.
Wrestling fans should enjoy some of the nods to the inner workings of professional wrestling, but the show also works simply as a family drama. Non-fans will get a good lesson in the mechanics of the wrestling business, including terms such as “kayfabe,” which refers to the presentation of the fictional storylines and characters as if they were real. This often extends to performers who are friends in real life but enemies in the ring avoiding each other in public just to keep up appearances and help sell their feud to the audience.
While the matches might be staged, the competition behind-the-scenes is very real, with the wrestlers jockeying for position among the company’s roster. Solid performers will get a push, and loyalty is rewarded.
When Ace’s ego begins to blur the lines between his character and his real self, the in-ring feud between the brothers boils over into real life, which could have a devastating impact on the future of the DWL.
The flipside of kayfabe, however, sometimes means pretending things that weren’t planned were indeed part of the intended storyline all along, so as not to give the impression the organizers don’t have a handle on what they’re doing.
With Ace as a wild card in Jack’s attempts to steer the DWL toward lasting success despite the pressure of a rival organization, the series manages to apply the framework of wrestling storylines to the Spades’ family drama. The potential for betrayal constantly looms, subverting audience expectations over how the DWL’s in-ring storyline is supposed to play out.
The eight episodes of the first season provide a solid foundation for a series that can be enjoyed by both wrestling fans and casual viewers alike.
Lionsgate will release the pro-wrestling drama Heels: The Complete First Season on DVD Feb. 15.
Set in a close-knit Georgia community, the Starz series follows a struggling small-town family owned wrestling promotion, the Duffy Wrestling League, as two brothers and rivals, Jack Spade (Stephen Amell) and Ace Space (Alexander Ludwig), war over their late father’s legacy. In the ring, someone must play the good guy, the face (Ace), and someone must play their nemesis, the heel (Jack). But in the real world, those characters can be hard to live up to — or hard to leave behind.
The cast also includes Mary McCormack, Kelli Berglund and Allen Maldonado.
Netflix on June 14 said it has acquired the global rights to the Canadian sci-fi sequel Code 8: Part II from Collective Pictures.
The film is directed by Jeff Chan and written by Chan, Chris Paré, Sherren Lee and Jesse LaVercombe.
Robbie Amell (“Upload”) and Stephen Amell (“Arrow”) reprise their roles from the first film, Code 8, a 2019 Canadian film about a man with superpowers who works with a group of criminals to raise money to help his sick mother.
The sequel will shoot in Canada later this year and be released globally by Netflix.
In Code 8: Part II, a teenage girl with abnormal abilities witnesses the murder of her brother and subsequent cover up. She enlists the help of an ex-con (Robbie Amell) and his former partner-in-crime (Stephen Amell). Together, they face a unit of corrupt police officers who deploy advanced robotic technology to prevent themselves from being exposed.
Code 8: Part II is being produced by Chan, the Amell brothers and Paré. The executive producer is XYZ Films.
For most successful TV shows, a final season allows the writers to prepare for the finale by wrapping up various storylines in a way that sends the characters out on a high note. For the CW’s “Arrow,” wrapping up the series was going to be a bit more complicated, considering the series was the anchor of a multi-media franchise of several shows based on various DC Comics characters.
In its eighth and final season, “Arrow” was tasked with not only its own finale, but also a setting up a potential spinoff, not to mention servicing one of the largest crossover events in television history. And it had just 10 episodes to do it, when previous seasons had averaged about 23.
“There were challenges, but also we were very excited about the shorter episode order because it allowed us the freedom to do a different kind of structure, and I don’t think we would have been able to do that if we had a full 22 or 23 episodes,” said executive producer Beth Schwartz, who has written for the show since its first season and served as showrunner for seasons seven and eight.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment April 28 will release Arrow: The Eighth and Final Season as three-disc Blu-ray Disc and DVD sets. The same day also sees the release Arrow: The Complete Series on 31 Blu-ray Discs or 38 DVDs containing all 170 episodes of the show that began in 2012.
Adapted from the Green Arrow comic book, “Arrow” stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, the billionaire’s son who spends five years in exile following a shipwreck that leaves him stranded on a distant island. Tasked by his father’s dying wish to clean up Starling City, Queen returns home and takes up the mantle of a ruthless vigilante who will stop at nothing to complete his mission.
The show’s cast included David Ramsey as John Diggle, Rick Gonzalez as Rene Ramirez, Juliana Harkavy as Dinah Drake, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak. Former cast members such as Paul Blackthorne, Willa Holland, Colton Haynes, Colin Donnell, Echo Kellum, Susanna Thompson, John Barrowman and Josh Segarra return as guest stars in the final season, many in the finale, called “Fadeout.”
For the first five seasons, the show used a flashback structure interweaving and contrasting Oliver’s time in exile with events of the present.
“In some ways the flashback structure was so great, especially in the first two seasons, where is explains that missing time and that’s how it’s constructed,” Schwartz said. “But once we got past that time, it started to feel a little formulaic, where we were just putting flashbacks in because that’s what the structure was. I think that’s when we all realized that it would be nice to take a break from the flashback structure and spend more time with our present-day characters.”
In season seven, the show adopted a flash-forward narrative set in 2040 focused on Oliver’s children, Mia (Katherine McNamara) and William (Ben Lewis).
“We always talked about flash forwarding, but we didn’t want to assume the show was going to go for as many years as it went for, so we didn’t know if that was ever going to be a possibility,” Schwartz said. “But there was always the discussion early on that it would be interesting to see this idea of flash-forwarding to his children.”
Over the course of the series, Oliver meets new heroes, spawning a shared universe, known as the Arrowverse, that contains the TV shows “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Batwoman,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Black Lightning.”
In the final season of “Arrow,” Oliver becomes one of the key players in averting a crisis that threatens to destroy the multiverse. While annual crossovers between the Arrowverse have become a tradition, the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event was bigger than them all, involving characters from all the Arrowverse shows, but also cameos from previous DC Comics movies and TV shows such as “Smallville” and the 1966 version of “Batman.”
“Crisis” began with an episode of “Supergirl,” continued on “Batwoman,” “The Flash” and “Arrow” before concluding with an episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.”
The season-eight and complete-series Blu-ray sets include a limited-edition bonus disc with all five episodes of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and six crossover featurettes. The ability to collect the entirety of “Crisis” thus gives the Blu-ray a distinct advantage over the DVD, which just includes the “Arrow” episode of the crossover.
“We wrote the story imagining the viewer experiencing all of them in order as you watch them live on television,” Schwartz said. “You want to serve your own show obviously in your hour, but you’re also serving a larger story. And how the crossovers have evolved, especially ‘Crisis,’ is it has turned into a huge movie event. But it’s not even about your show anymore, it’s about the story of ‘Crisis.’ Yes, on the DVD it probably won’t make sense if you haven’t seen the other ones.”
Schwartz credits the shows’ assistant directors for keeping all the logistics of the crossover sorted out.
“The real heroes are the first A.D.s on all the shows because the scheduling has the most challenges,” Schwartz said. “And for us having the crossover and also the series finale where we have so many guest stars from the other shows, I’m super grateful for all those actors who were able to squeeze that in after working tirelessly on all the crossover episodes.”
Because the ‘Crisis’ storyline involved alien beings with the power to bend time and space, Oliver’s future children were brought to the present to join the fight.
“That was super important in terms of getting that connection between Mia and Oliver because they never met,” Schwartz said. “So as soon as we knew we were doing ‘Crisis’ and we were allowed to do things like that, because our show as much as we can keep it is very grounded, so it opened it up a lot more which we were grateful for because we knew we could get these amazing scenes between Stephen and Kat. Mia and Oliver because had never met before and she was so much like him, and those scenes were great.”
The fourth episode of “Crisis” was also the third-to-last episode of “Arrow.” The second-to-last episode of the final season, “Green Arrow & The Canaries,” was made as a backdoor pilot for a new spinoff in which Mia picks up the mantle of the Green Arrow 20 years in the future.
“The spinoff was the most challenging because we had to fit it right between ‘Crisis’ and the finale,” Schwartz said. “I think it works really well looking back because you were actually able to see 20 years in the future after ‘Crisis’ … and the other future that we saw leading up to ‘Crisis’ had been changed forever. So I think it allowed us to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to do if we didn’t have that backdoor pilot in that position.”
Production shutdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic have delayed the decision about whether the spinoff has been picked up, she said.
The Blu-ray and DVD also include deleted scenes, the Arrow: Hitting the Bullseye finale retrospective special, and highlights from the DC Comics shows at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. The series is also available for purchase through digital retailers, and the Blu-ray editions of the series and final season will come with digital copies of the episodes.
Schwartz is now working on a project that will take her beyond the Arrowverse, but looks back fondly at her time helping to develop the franchise.
“I think about it more in terms of the characters and not the reality of how they’re making all the shows, but the legacy of ‘Arrow’ and specifically Oliver Queen brings out this world that sort of got out of control with so many shows and it’s so crazy to think about it,” Schwartz said. “I just remember season one, watching the pilot and joining everyone in the writers room and wondering if people were going to like this show. We all liked it and we felt it was something different, but we had no idea how people would respond to it. It’s just so hard to wrap your brain around what it has created and it just makes me feel happy to have been a part of this experience.”
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Arrow: The Eighth and Final Season on Blu-ray Disc and DVD April 28 (order date March 24). Arrow: The Complete Series also will be available on Blu-ray and DVD the same day. All episodes from the series are currently available for digital sellthrough purchase.
The CW series debuted in 2012 as an adaptation of DC Comics’ Green Arrow character, a vigilante archer named Oliver Queen who fights corruption and injustice in Star City, with Stephen Amell in the title role.
The series eventually spawned the CW’s “Arrowverse,” which includes “The Flash,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Supergirl,” “Batwoman” and “Black Lightning.”
In the 10 episodes of the final season, Oliver joins forces with current allies and his family from the future to fight an intergalactic crisis that threatens to destroy the multiverse, culminating in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover with the other Arrowverse shows.
The cast in the final season also includes David Ramsey, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Katherine McNamara, Ben Lewis, Joseph David-Jones and Katie Cassidy.
The ninth episode of the season, “Green Arrow & The Canaries,” serves as a backdoor pilot for an upcoming spinoff about Oliver’s daughter (McNamara) taking up his mission twenty years later with the help of the two Black Canaries (Cassidy and Harkavy).
Season eight Blu-ray and DVD extras include deleted scenes, the “Arrow: Hitting the Bullseye” retroactive documentary special, and highlights from the DC TV panels at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. The Blu-ray also contains a code redeemable for digital copies of the episodes.
The Blu-ray for the eighth season (also contained in the complete-series Blu-ray set) will include a bonus disc containing the complete five-part “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover with episodes from “Supergirl,” “Batwoman,” “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” Extras on the “Crisis” bonus disc include the featurettes “Crisis Past and Present: Kevin Conroy Bat Legend,” “Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Architects Return,” “Crisis Past and Present: Superman vs. Superman,” “Characters in Crisis: Pariah,” “Crisis Management” and “Character in Crisis: The Anti-Monitor.”
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Arrow: The Complete Seventh Season on Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 20 (order date July 16).
The season deals with the aftermath of Oliver Queen’s surrendering to the FBI and publicly admitting to being the vigilante Green Arrow.
The Blu-ray and DVD includes all 22 episodes, plus highlights from the show’s panel at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a “Villains: Modes of Persuasion” featurette, and a featurette about the season’s “Elseworlds” crossover event with other DC TV series.
The Blu-ray will also include the “Elseworlds” episodes from “The Flash” and “Supergirl.”