Black Adam (DC/Warner Bros., Blu-ray + DVD, PG-13, 124 min.). Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson worked years to bring this version of his childhood hero from the DC Comics to life in film. He not only produced the film, but also stars as the titular antihero, an early Kahndaqi slave who was given the powers of the Egyptian gods to protect his fellow citizens from evil King Ahk-Ton and then placed in suspended animation for 5,000 years. He gets revived when archaeologist Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) speaks the word “Shazam” inside the mountain where he has been stored, just as bad men from Intergang, who have ruthlessly ruled the city for decades, attack her, also seeking the legendary Crown of Sabbac, made of the rare element Eternium and which is supposed to bestow the powers of six demons on its wearer. Eternium, infused with magic, enables Intergang’s fly bikes, as well as weapons.

This brings up the parts of Black Adam’s backstory that the extras go into more than the film. Originally, both Shazam and Black Adam were given their powers at the same time, but Black Adam was corrupted by his power. As this film was in development, it originally was going to feature both Shazam and Black Adam, but Johnson realized that was too much for one film and Shazam was given his own film, released in 2019. By the way, it is only during a short mid-closing credits scene that the name Black Adam is actually used. Throughout the film, he is referred to as Teth-Adam.

Adrianna has a DC comics-loving son, who is very brave, quick on his skateboard and able to sort-of bond with Teth-Adam when the latter shows up at their apartment. The boy (Bodhi Sabongui as Amon Tomaz) also provides some humor with his interactions with Teth-Adam.

Teth-Adam, who can fly, glide in place, shoot energy bolts and has super strength, is a wonderfully different kind of superhero, because he does not emphasize the “hero” part. He would rather vanquish his enemies by killing all of them. Thus, he is neither good nor evil, just a force of nature, like a human Godzilla. Teth-Adam’s ability to glide looks super cool, by the way. Whereas, the meddling Justice Society, led by the too-righteous Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), wants to capture, and securely put Teth-Adam away because he is too powerful and deadly. Teth-Adam can be injured by Eternium.

The people of Kahndaq celebrate Teth-Adam as a savior and literally boo the Justice Society, asking where they have been for the last two decades of the people’s need. The four members of the Justice Society are the judgmental Hawkman, Dr. Fate (a terrific Pierce Brosnan as a calming influence, who gets visions of the future through his gold helmet and can replicate himself via illusion for battle) and two young newcomers on their first mission. The two, who only get very brief backstories during a short conversation, are Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell), who can harness wind and even create tornadoes, and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), who can his expand his size to that of a small building. (Henry Winkler has a small cellphone bit as Atom Smasher’s Uncle Al, warning him to take care of the superhero suit.)
The cynical would guess that Cyclone and Atom Smasher are only in the film to draw in more teenage viewers. Centineo succeeds more than Swindell with his humorous take on his character.

The action in director Jaume Collet-Serra’s film is exciting, with suitable destruction to the city surroundings, although it seems a waste for the Justice Society to fight Teth-Adam. The special effects are often spectacular and very cleverly accomplished. Dr. Fate tries to teach Teth-Adam about sarcasm – more humor – and there even is some humor in the musical cues, especially the use of part of Ennio Morricone’s theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

There are 10 short, but informative featurettes, which cover the comics history of Black Adam (10:08) and the Justice Society (14:16), as well as the film’s development, BA’s moral code, the new tech used, designing Kahndaq and the costumes. Grade: film and extras 3 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera (First Run Features, DVD, NR, 80 min.). Directed by Kristin Atwell Ford, this documentary follows the development of a new opera based on Zane Grey’s 1912 book of the same name from idea stage to the Phoenix premiere by the Arizona Opera. Grey was a popular western novelist; in fact, 112 movies have been made based on his books. The composer is Craig Bohmler and the librettist is Steven Mark Cohn. Fenlon Lamb directed the opera, which uses a large number of LED monitors to show backdrops. They, and the physical backdrops, are based on the artwork by Ed Mell. In addition to background on Grey, we follow Mell doing his paintings and the singers’ auditions and rehearsals. Grade: film 3 stars

Star Trek: Discovery: Season Four (CBS/Paramount, 4 Blu-rays or DVDs, NR, 664 min.). The Discovery is now in its second season in the distant future, playing a role in rebuilding the Federation after The Burn, especially since it is the only starship with the capability of almost instantaneous travel. Now a Dark Matter Anomaly has appeared and destroyed Book’s (David Ajala) home world. As the Federation attempts to track down who or what is behind the anomaly, its forward progress through space must be halted or more worlds, including eventually Earth, will be destroyed. During the debate on how to proceed, a rift grows between Book and his lover, Discovery’s Capt. Michael Burnham (Soneequa Martin-Green). Book finds an ally in scientist Ruon Tarka (Shawn Doyle), who has his own agenda that could further empower the anomaly and threaten all of the known galaxy.

The set comes with more than 90 minutes of extras, including exclusive cast and crew interviews, a gag reel, deleted scenes and audio commentary on the “Coming Home” episode. One extra looks at the personal journey of Capt. Burnham, while another shows the use of the AR wall by the VFX department to create the Holodeck settings. Grade: season and extras 3.5 stars

Charmed: The Complete Series (2018-22, CBS/Paramount, 16 Blu-rays, NR, 49 hours 44 min.). The set includes all four seasons of the reboot of the original 1998-2006 series. This time the Charmed Ones with the magical Power of Three are sisters Mel (Melonie Diaz) and Maggie Vera (Sarah Jeffery), respectively a grad student and college freshman, and their previously unknown older sister Macy Vaughn (Madeleine Mantock), a brilliant geneticist who has just moved to town. The sisters discover their previously-suppressed witch powers – Mel can freeze time, Maggie can read thoughts and Macy wields telekinesis – after the sudden death/murder of their mother (Valerie Cruz as Marisol), who, unknown to them, not only was a witch but a member of the governing Elders. Assigned to help them is pop-up whitelighter Harry Greenwood (Rupert Evans), an advisor to witches who died in 1957 and has no memory of his previous life. He helps train them in their powers, answers their questions and gives help, as well as passing on their mother’s spell book. Mom was clairvoyant too; thus, one spell appears on a black page when needed. Harry has also replaced Marisol as head of the college’s Women’s Studies Department.

In their personal lives, Maggie is all about joining the Kappa sorority, which is led by Lucy (Natalie Hall), only she falls for Lucy’s boyfriend Parker (Nick Hargrove). Macy starts falling for co-worker Galvin Burdette (Ser’Darius Blain), until he falls for a beautiful woman who the sisters come to believe is a succubus. Mel’s time is spent aggressively promoting women’s rights and she initially is dating a female police detective (Ellen Tamaki as Niko Hamada). They, of course, have to fight demons and the Harbinger of Hell.

Of the main actors, Evans’ Harry comes across best. Mel is kind of one-dimensional and the sorority stuff with Maggie tends to be boring. Some interesting boyfriends, ex-boyfriends and possible boyfriends add a bit of eye candy. Some of the special effects work well, but the show has a tendency to increase the volume just before there originally was an ad break.

The extras are minimal: gag reels, one deleted scene and a featurette on the first season. Grade: series 2.75 stars

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

filed under: