- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2011

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs and also includes a recommended reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

The Green Hornet (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $49.95)  I am part of a generation that sharpened its pop-culture teeth on the 1960s ABC television show “The Green Hornet.”

One of my first moments of pop nirvana was watching actor Van Williams as Green Hornet and the legendary Bruce Lee as Kato battle the Caped Crusader (Adam West) and Boy Wonder (Burt Ward) on a couple of very special “Batman” episodes.

Imagine my chagrin at hearing that the big-budget movie resurrection of George W. Trendle and Fran Striker’s Green Hornet would be led by dullard comic Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, the suave newspaper publisher by day/masked vigilante at night.

A Blu-ray arrives just months after the film’s release to confirm my suspicions of an uninspired effort. Hollywood continues to crush my sequential-art stars under the weight of mediocrity.

This is more of a bromance than a supercharged warrior film. Things occasionally blow up around the inept Hornet and efficient Kato while they comb the streets for criminals, encounter bad-guy Bloodnofsky and prove to each other that they are two heterosexual men.

Mr. Rogen giggles, grunts and guffaws his way through scenes, sucking his persona from his roles in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” and “Funny People” while registering zero percent on the debonair and cool meters.

Jay Chou as Kato keeps the film from being a complete disaster with his energetic and very Bruce Lee-like persona. He perfectly plays the brains and brawn behind the duo.

I’ll also offer kudos to the latest version of Black Beauty, the crime-fighters’ awesome vehicle, which has some impressive firepower.

Amazingly, Mr. Rogen’s underwhelming Hornet won’t infuriate as much as the wasted talent of Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos and Christoph Waltz. (Mr. Waltz, you won an Oscar; what are you doing?)

Mr. Rogen should have set his sights on a Forbush Man film adaptation and left the iconic heroes alone.

By the way, the package also includes the film in 3-D, but adopters of the gimmick will find more satisfaction seeking out Three Stooges shorts in the three-dimensional realm.

Best extra: Viewers won’t be impressed with a load of behind-the-scenes featurettes devoted to the car, fight scenes and writers; deleted scenes; and a gag reel worth gagging over. The optional commentary track featuring many of the key production personnel, including director Michel Gondry, is informative, but viewers also will have to listen to Mr. Rogen.

A welcome innovation is the Cutting Room, a way to create a quick mashup of a key scene from the movie. With access to shots, music and sound effects from the Black Beauty chase scene, a viewer assembles  via a basic editing suite and timeline  a personalized clip to upload and share with friends via BD Live

A mandatory extra should have been a decent documentary on the many media adaptations of the Green Hornet, including radio serials, television shows and comic books. Let’s also add an interview with Mr. Williams; that would be an extra worth watching.

Read all about it: I am lucky enough still to have an issue of Gold Key Comics from 1967 featuring a Green Hornet story and a cover starring a live-action photo of Mr. Williams and Mr. Lee in costume. (Priceless, no matter the condition.)

Less rabid fans will seek out Kevin Smith’s original movie-script-turned-comic-book-series from Dynamite Entertainment, published in 2010. Two hardcover volumes split the 10-issue series run, “Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet, Volume 1: Sins of the Father” and “Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet Volume 2: The Wearing o’ the Green” ($24.99 each).

The Incredibles (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, rated PG, $45.99)  I won’t waste time gushing about this Academy Award-winning, family-friendly superhero cartoon from 2004, written and directed by Brad Bird. It is one of Pixar’s greatest achievements.

Let’s just celebrate that viewers can enjoy the exploits of Mr. Incredible; his wife, Elastigirl; their incredible kids; and good friend Frozone as they battle the evil Syndrome on the very best resolution available through the Blu-ray format.

A story that really builds the personality of the characters also delivers some seat-jumping action scenes as Pixar’s computer-animation developers prove they were light-years ahead of the competition.

I don’t need no stinkin’ 3-D when studios can remaster an animated feature to look this eye-popping. The colors will make a grown man weep.

Best extra: The cornucopia of bonus content on the two Blu-ray discs culls all of the extras from 2004’s two-DVD collector’s set (including all of the Easter eggs) and adds new HD content.

Viewers will want to hear the optional commentary track with Mr. Bird and producer John Walker, a second track with a posse of animators pontificating, and a half-hour documentary about the film.

New highlights include enhancements to the short “Jack-Jack Attack” (it looks fantastic, by the way) with a picture-in-picture visual commentary offering storyboards, narration from Mr. Bird and others, and ties to the movie; a 20-minute round-table retrospective of the film starring Mr. Bird and some of his production pals; and an interactive brochure to family-friendly vacation paradise New Nomanisan Island (the former lair of Syndrome).

I’ll give Disney a pass on not offering any Blu-ray breakthrough moments, such as a sync-up with a Second Screen iPad app because of the voluminous amount of background material presented.

Read all about it: Boom! Studios published a miniseries and monthly series starring the superhero clan between 2008 and 2010. Grab the trade paperback of the four-issue series, “The Incredibles: Family Matters” ($9.99), starring the prose of legendary comics scribe Mark Waid, or any of four volumes of trades compiling about four issues each of the monthly series ($9.99 each).

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