REVIEW: BABYLON 5 – SEASON 4

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Starring

Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl)
Claudia Christian (9-1-1)
Jerry Doyle (Open House)
Mira Furlan (Lost)
Richard Biggs (Strong Medicine)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
Jason Carter (The Duel)
Stephen Furst (Animal House)
Jeff Conaway (Grease)
Patricia Tallman (Dead Air)
Andreas Katsulas (The Fugitive)
Peter Jurasik (Tron)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Ardwight Chamberlain (Swiss Family Robinson)
Kris Iyer (Two and a Half Men)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Mark Bramhall (Alias)
Kim Strauss (Million Dollar Baby)
Walter Koenig (Star Trek)
Henry Darrow (The Hitcher)
Andrew Craig (Conan The Adventurer)
Robin Atkin Downes (The Conjuring 2)
Marjorie Monaghan (Andromeda)
Clayton Landey (Sully)
Tim Choate (Blow Out)
Richard Steven Horvitz (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batmas: TAS)
Marcia Mitzman Gaven (Small Soldiers)
Richard Gant (Rocky V)
Bruce Gray (Cube 2)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Rance Howard (Small Soldiers)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)

Wayne Alexander in Babylon 5 (1993)“It was the year of fire… the year of destruction… the year we took back what was ours. It was the year of rebirth… the year of great sadness… the year of pain… and the year of joy. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed. The year is 2261. The place: Babylon 5.” For viewers who have been following Babylon 5 from its first season (and with its fantastic continuous storyline, that’s the way to watch B5), the opening voiceover for the credits of Season 4 is extraordinarily stirring. And the fact that the voiceover in the opening credits is shared among the cast highlights the fact that Babylon 5 has a true ensemble cast, with many different characters and story threads interwoven into one dramatic tapestry. In Season 4, appropriately titled “No Surrender, No Retreat,” many of these storylines come to an explosive climax, leaving other parts of the story to take on a larger role in the rest of Season 4.Jeff Conaway and Mira Furlan in Babylon 5 (1993)Season 3 left us at a critical point in B5, in several plot threads. Sheridan, drawn by his own personal demons as well as the need to defeat the Shadows, has gone to Z’ha’dum… and vanished. So too has Mr. Garibaldi. Babylon 5 has seceded from Earthgov, and now stands nearly alone in the fight against the Shadows. Only the Rangers, with Marcus as their representative on B5, and the Minbari, with their gift of the White Star, seem ready and willing to help. Londo Mollari seems to have turned his back on the potential for redemption, while G’Kar has had a philosophical revelation of his own.Jerry Doyle in Babylon 5 (1993)The beauty of Babylon 5, as viewers well know, is that each episode touches on several plot threads, developing them bit by bit as the season progresses. When a plot thread comes to a climax in a particular episode, it’s all the more effective because it has been painstakingly foreshadowed and developed up to that point. Take an episode like “Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?”, which weaves together several crucial story threads involving the fates of Sheridan, Garibaldi, and G’Kar and takes each of them to a new level.Babylon 5 (1993)Since the different plot threads of B5 develop over the course of many episodes, the result when one of them comes to the boiling point is extremely powerful. The story involving Ambassador Mollari is a case in point. In the first three episodes of the season, we see Londo and Vir drawn deeper and deeper in to back-stabbing Centauri politics and the deal-making behind the throne of the Emperor. Then, as G’Kar becomes drawn into this portion of the story, we get some of the episodes that have stayed most firmly in my mind: “Falling Toward Apotheosis,” “The Long Night,” and “Into the Fire.” While the story involving Sheridan, Delenn, and the station is perhaps more explosive, I think a good case could be made for the Centauri-Narn plot thread of Season 4 as the most dramatically effective and powerful of the season (and perhaps even of the series as a whole).Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan in Babylon 5 (1993)The pacing of Season 4 is a bit odd, and for good reason. As Season 4 got underway, there was no assurance that it would be renewed for a fifth season, which would have really thrown a monkey wrench in the works, as B5 was envisioned as a five-year story arc from the very beginning. Babylon 5’s creator, J. Michael Straczynski, dealt with this by bringing many of the show’s main story arcs to a conclusion in Season 4, so that the story would have been (at least mostly) completed even if it didn’t get a fifth season. As it happened, B5 had a fifth year after all, but we can still see the effects: both Season 4 and 5 developed differently than was originally planned.Walter Koenig in Babylon 5 (1993)Most notably we see the effects of the “fast-forwarding” in the treatment of the conflict with the Shadows. The Shadow War, which has been developing over the course of two full seasons, is wrapped up in the first quarter of Season 4. Certainly those six episodes are fantastic, with a tremendous punch and intensity; this is the part of Season 4 that’s most memorable. Still, the ending in “Into the Fire” does feel a bit abrupt, though I won’t elaborate on that: I don’t want to give anything away for those (lucky!) viewers who are watching Babylon 5 for the first time.Babylon 5 (1993)After that, Babylon 5 shifts gears and focuses on the Mars situation and Babylon 5’s relationship with Earth, which remains decidedly shaky. There are some excellent stories here, but I’d be lying if I said they weren’t a bit of a letdown after the intensity of the Shadow-Vorlon conflict and its revelations, and the explosive events on Centauri Prime.Mira Furlan in Babylon 5 (1993)Fortunately, some plot threads that have been on the sidelines for much of the series now start being developed and then mature into gripping stories of their own. The Mars Colony has been a background story element throughout the first three seasons of B5: the rebellion there has on several occasions influenced events on B5, but it hasn’t been a prime concern. Now, in “Atonement,” Marcus and Dr. Franklin are sent to Mars, beginning a story line there that will develop through three following episodes as a main story, and continue to be significant in episodes further down the line as well. Garibaldi (always one of my favorite characters) develops in a new direction in episodes like “Conflicts of Interest,” and the suave and very dangerous Psi Cop, Bester, has a key role to play as well… The result is another of the most exciting episodes of Season 4, “The Face of the Enemy.”Bill Mumy in Babylon 5 (1993)The closing episodes of Season 4 bring us back to the conflict between Earth and Babylon . “No Surrender, No Retreat” is one of the best late-season episodes, ratcheting up the tension in the conflict between Earth and Babylon 5; “Between the Darkness and the Light,” “Endgame,” and “Rising Star” set up a miniature story arc and resolve it fairly quickly. Again, these are well-done episodes, but they’re in the shadow of better episodes, and with the fairly rapid development (unlike the more evenly paced Mars story thread) there’s not as much opportunity for the development of dramatic tension.imagesThe finale of Season 4, “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars,” is a peculiar episode: it’s a “retrospective” of Babylon 5’s history from 100, 500, 1,000, and 1,000,000 years in the future. As such, it effectively wraps up the Babylon 5 story and foreshadows (one could say “spoils”) many of the events in Season 5. It also provides a very definitive stopping point for Babylon 5 viewers: Season 5 is essentially an “extra” season, as all the most powerful story threads that we’ve been following have been wrapped up, most of them very effectively indeed. The one remaining thread that Season 4 leaves unfinished is, interestingly, the one story thread that has been a constant in one way or another from the very first season: the telepath situation.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES – SEASON 5

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Jim Byrnes (Sanctuary)

 Cassandra

 Witch of Donen Woods

 The Highlander

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tracy Scoggins (Babylon 5)
Matthew Walker (Ginger Snaps Back)
Gerard Plunkett (Sucker Punch)
Anna Hagan (The Possession)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Réal Andrews (The Bay)
Rachel Hayward (Jingle All The Way 2)
Gary Jones (Stargate SG.1)
Bruce A. Young (Jurassic Park 3)
Eric McCormack (Will & Grace)
Aaron Pearl (Staragte SG.1)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Marcia Strassman (Third Watch)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Sandra Bernhard (2 Broke Girls)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
April Telek (Hell on Wheels)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Nicholas Lea (V)
John Novak (Wishmaster 3 & 4)
Andrew Divoff (Lost)
Nathaniel DeVeaux (Andromeda)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Steve Bacic (Androemda)
Kira Clavell (Frankie & Alice)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Peter Wingfield (Caprica)
Robert Wisden (Watchmen)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Musetta Vander (Wild Wild West)
Valentine Pelka (The Pianist)
Richard Ridings (Rise of TPOTA)
Marcus Testory (The Cyberstalking)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Dolores Chaplin (The Ice Rink)
Michael Culkin (Dorian GRay)
Roger Daltrey (Tommy)
Michael J. Jackson (Emmerdale)
Jonathan Firth (Victoria & Albert)
Katie Carr (Heroes)
Michel Modo (The troops Get Married)
Peter Hudson (Hitman)

Jim Byrnes in Highlander (1992)The immortal suave and sword fighting style of Highlander: The Series continues for Season 5 – from BC to the nineties and then some. Immortal Highlander Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) struggles with who he is and who is friends are- thanks to prophecies of good and evil and secrets withheld by the 5,000 year old Methos (Peter Wingfield). Watcher Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) also wrestles with his immortal friendships and the mortality they so often harbinger. Unfortunately, Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) and Richie (Stan Kirsh) must also face immortal fame, infamy, and religion. imagesOne might think Highlander: The Series would retread a topic or two after such a solid syndicated tenure- but no. Faith and hope in immortal pacifism are tempted in “Little Tin God” and “The Messenger”; the uses and wastes of immortality are examined in “Haunted” and “The Modern Prometheus”; “The End of Innocence” questions the immortal mentor and student relationships. Yes, the season opener “Prophecy” and the finale “Archangel” do stray into a little mythical and magic fantasy much- but hey, what do you expect in a show about folks who live forever? Fortunately, there’s plenty of fun, too, especially in the period piece treats “Money is No Object” and “The Stone of Scone.” Despite its reduction to 18 episodes, Year 5 nicely balances one-off immortal explorations with ongoing storylines and multiple part shows. Instead of growing old and withered, Season 5 is the culmination of Highlander: The Series. The audience knows the mythos and the players well enough by now, so there’s no need for filler or fluff or straying beyond the exploration of our Immortal repertoire.highlanderWhile some of the Depression era hijinks are oft played, at least Duncan MacLeod has some fun in the past, from time to time, occasionally- just so long as he doesn’t get too fun and crazy in the present! MacLeod seems increasingly tired, weary, burned out beautifully by the likes of “The Valkyrie,” “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” and “Duende.” Perhaps part of that was indeed the growing stress of Adrian Paul- naturally so much rides upon him. However, it’s understandable that Mac gets tired of being the good guy after 400 years- in the same way he remains haunted by when he wasn’t always the good guy and made costly, nay deadly mistakes. Duncan clings to his friendships in an attempt to deal with all this routine death- the cost for his long life- but even his support system carries tragic consequences.s5-e16-5One thing that has always bugged me about the Watchers- you know the secret organization watching Immortals that isn’t really so secret and that isn’t supposed to interfere but always does- is that they’ve blindly keep their presence hidden from immortals. I’m so glad Joe Dawson at last gets his friendship with Mac out in the open. Why can’t the Watchers share on a case-by-case basis with immortals? Hey, he’s a good guy, I can ask him some questions about The Bronze Age and get the facts right! “Glory Days” again gives us a beautiful peak into Joe’s life thanks to Duncan and likewise, Joe provides wonderful reflection in, well, every episode he appears! By contrast, Amanda allows for more sexy fun and tongue in cheek cool with “Dramatic License.” Not without their immortal drama, it’s also great to see her and Mac wonder what their relationship really is under all the laughter and if their difficulties could not only survive mortal conventions, but immortal lifetimes. Then let’s toss in some competition from Nicholas Lea (The X-Files) as Cory Raines in “Money for Nothing” just to keep the romance on its toes. Of course, seeing Amanda and Roger Daltry’s Hugh Fitzcairn go head to head in “The Stone of Scone” is so, so sweet, too!highlander47I know I’ve mentioned some of the same episodes more than once- hey, they bear repeating- but most viewers probably remember ‘the horsemen ones’ most from Season 5, if not the entire series. Peter Wingfield guests in count ‘em seven episodes this year, and “Comes A Horseman” and “Revelation 6:8” finally give us a piece of the Methos mythos (hee). Not that “The Messenger” and “The Modern Prometheus” don’t, but seeing the wild side of Methos is an exceptional antithesis to do-gooder MacLeod. Toss in the lady scorned Tracy Scoggins (Babylon 5, The Colbys, and I always remember Watchers II for some reason) for 3 shows as immortal witch Cassandra, and oh me oh my! These storylines add to MacLeod’s own legend and the ancient presence of immortals without having to disastrously explain where they all come from- as in the various versions of Highlander 2. They are, they f*ck up, they move on. Highlander: The Series needs nothing else, indeed. Although I must say, I always thought I liked Fitz more than Methos, but now I’m not so sure. The Methos possibilities are just too interesting- be he good or evil, selfless and righteous for the greater good, or downright arrogant and self centered. highlander39Unfortunately, Richie always gets the short end of the sword and never quite gets a head above the rest. “The End of Innocence” tries to backpedal on Richie’s off screen whereabouts from last season- but if the audience is supposed to find all this so important, why weren’t we seeing snips of these adventures then? How ironic he’s a regular character who also appears in only 7 episodes. Sadly, in this rewatch, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really like Richie. He isn’t treated as any more significant than the guest immortals, he’s kind of a jerk who always screws up or never really learns anything, or if so, the changes never stick as he comes and goes. All that being said, when Richie gets a spotlight show like “Haunted,” Highlander: The Series still can’t go wrong. Here’s a lovely episode again exploring what exactly a Quickening may be- is it the spirit or the soul? Does it live on in the immortal who takes the victor’s head; do they obtain the quirks and characteristics of their beheaded comrades? If that is the case, immortals must fight to the death in order to pass on all their greatness in one culmination towards The Prize. In a way, it’s almost as if the Quickening is a unique form of…procreation towards one glorious being. Such Intriguing thoughts like this, however, are given a backseat so Richie can have another one off romance and then disappear. Snark. The visiting Bruce A. Young’s (The Sentinel) Carl Robinson in “Manhunt” is far more interesting as the slave turned ball player with political hopes who can’t quite get past his own immortal racism. 25309860c90b36158_wSome of the narrations leading into the flashbacks this season are, however, a little unusual. Show don’t tell, after all. Some exotic locations like Peru or unexplored times and places like Andersonville, the 1970s, and Spain add more zest and fun to the always lovely and upscale period design. Again, perhaps Depression era crime and Nazi motifs are over played- and the dojo really looks ready to retire. How can a members only gym be open all the time yet be so empty? How can it close down and get wrecked all the time and expect to keep such bare clientele? Then again, episodes like “The Stone of Scone” make one wonder why Highlander: The Series didn’t do an entirely period episode at least once a season- or continue on with stand alone totally in the past television movies or multipart miniseries.  Those who know and love the Highlander franchise will absolutely adore Season 5.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE BATMAN – GRUNDY’S NIGHT

Image result for the batman logo

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Rino Romano (Get Him To The Greek)
Alastair Duncan (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Steve Harris (The Rock)

GUEST CAST

Kevin Grevioux (I, Frankenstein)

The pre-credit teaser had me a bit worried about this episode. It wasn’t really doing anything for me and was slightly annoying. The eccentric old women was a bit funny, but started to get on my nerves as the teaser progressed; thankfully that all changes once the credits run, and “Grundy’s Night” kicks into full gear.

According to lore, Grundy is the result of the greed that came to Gotham years ago, greed that overtook a peaceful land and made it the polluted, crime-ridden hole it is today. Citizens, wanting to rid Gotham of this rot, conjured up a swamp zombie to wreak vengeance, which the ancestors of those greedy industrialists must pay. Now, on the darkest Halloween since he was created, Grundy has returned for to finish his mission.

The Batman is, of course, skeptical but finds himself quickly sucked into the myth as the ancient creature returns for revenge.  Personally, I didn’t know what to expect with this episode. The teaser didn’t fill me with much enthusiasm, but once the episode got rolling, it got really engaging. Not only did this episode approach the idea of a 150 year-old zombie coming back to life in a somewhat realistic fashion, but it had a solid twist during the show’s climax. A hint is dropped midway through the episode, but it’s not until we see the actual twist does it seem so obvious, and handled very well.  The flashbacks, and delving into the origin of this lore, adds atmosphere to the episode, and the entire casts gives a good performances. I was surprised at how restrained Alfred came off, and how realistic Batman came off when approaching the whole situation. Just a surprise given the show’s sub-par past. Overall, an excellent episode. This ranks as one of the best episode of the series, and gives viewers a solid mystery to get behind. The episode is fun, and the twist at the end should be a complete shocker. It brings a whole new meaning to “jaw-dropping twist,” that’s for sure.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 5

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Evan Sabara (The Polar Express)
Danielle Judovits (Toy Story)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)

The Batman (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

George Newbern (Justice Leegue)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dana Delany (Superman: TAS)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Legend of The Mummy)
Gwendoline Yeo (Desperate Housewives)
Chris Hardwick (The X’s)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Amanda Anka (Buffy: TVS)
John Larroquette (Stripes)
Charlie Schlatter (18 Again)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Miguel Ferrer (Iron Man 3)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns)
Hynden Walch (Teen Titans)
Jerry O’Connell (The Death of Superman)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Chris Pratt (Avengers Endgame)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)

The Batman (2004)Over time the show has definitely grown and it’s safe to say that it’s come into its own. Though this may be the final season it’s definitely one of the stronger ones and in the end this is a ride any fan of the character should take. In the previous seasons of The Batman all sorts of things happened that continue to have an impact upon Gotham in this fifth outing. Batgirl was added to the roster during the third season with Dick Grayson as Robin in the fourth. Several familiar villains were brought into the fold as well but most notably the finale of the fourth season featured an alien invasion and the introduction of The Justice League. That’s right where we pick up this time around with Gotham reeling in the aftermath of the alien attack.Ring_TossDestruction is everywhere and the people are in need of support. Lucky for them Superman comes to town with a massive check from Metropolis but unluckily for Superman Metallo is waiting for his chance to strike. What transpires is a team up between Batman and Superman to take down Lex Luthor who has his eyes set on Gotham. In the meantime Superman falls under Lex’s control thanks to some help from Poison Ivy and kryptonite. Naturally it’s up to Batman and Robin to stop the man of steel and there’s plenty of fighting between the DC legends.Joker_ExpressIf you have been following the series this marks Superman’s first appearance on the show and you’ll notice a trend that follows throughout this year. The previous season’s introduction of characters such as Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, and Green Lantern fleshes out The Batman’s roster somewhat and really gives is a Justice League feel.Batman_superman_robinThis season is very entertaining even though the focus shifts from Batman and his universe. At this point in The Batman’s run the creative cast definitely had it going on but you can tell that even in the final moments they were experimenting. I see what the producers were aiming to do with this season and for all intents and purposes it is successful.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 4

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Evan Sabara (The Polar Express)
Danielle Judovits (Toy Story)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)Rino Romano in The Batman (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Wallace Langham (CSI)
Julianne Grossman (Star Trek: Discovery)
Allison Mack (Smallville)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters II)
Jerry O’Connell (The Death of Superman)
Kellie Martin (ER)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Hynden Walch (Teen Titans)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil)
Brooke Shields (Pretty Baby)
Gina Gershon (Red Heat)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Legend of The Mummy)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)

The Batman (2004)Few animated TV shows have improved as greatly and as rapidly as much as “The Batman.” When the program debuted on the Kids WB! network in 2004, it was a reboot of the franchise, and while repeat viewings did help the show’s more radical changes become acceptable to lifelong fans of the character, it still never quite hit the heights of the 1990s’ “Batman: The Animated Series,” deemed by most as the definitive presentation of the hero.Strange New World (2006)The season opens with the introduction of Robin, the Boy Wonder. Series producers took a brave risk the season prior by breaking from the continuity of the Batman mythology and bringing in Batgirl as a sidekick first; the official reason given is that Robin was tied up on the “Teen Titans” cartoon, but the switcheroo seems to go beyond that, as it led to a shakeup that helped breathe new life into the franchise.The Batman (2004)Perhaps to counterbalance such changes, the season premiere strays very little from the established Robin backstory: young Dick Grayson (seen here at around age 10 or 11, unlike several other incarnations that aged him slightly) is the son of a successful circus act. Here, Dick’s father also runs the circus, so he’s directly responsible for shooing away the thugs that show up one night for a little extortion. Batman arrives to thwart the baddies, but they return to sabotage the trapeze. The Graysons are killed mid-performance, and Bruce Wayne, seeing a parallel with his own history, takes Dick in as a foster son. Dick later discovers the Batcave, dons his old circus outfit, and sets out to capture the mobsters; by episode’s end, he’s properly christened as Robin.The Batman (2004)It’s interesting to note that every time this legend is retold, its writers find new ways of infusing some modern day logic into the proceedings. Like Dick’s circus costume, which now comes right off the bat with the familiar “R” crest, only for “Richard,” not “Robin.” He later decides to use “Robin” as his superhero alter ego not in tribute to Robin Hood, or because of the goofy motorcycle helmet design from “Batman Forever,” but simply because Dick’s mom liked that nickname. It adds a bittersweet human touch to the myth that feels so natural, I’m surprised it’s never been used before. (In a nice touch, Kevin Conroy, the voice actor who played Batman in the 1990s, appears as Dick’s father. It’s a wonderful passing-the-torch moment that reminds me of when Adam West showed up on “Batman: The Animated Series” as the Grey Ghost. Also providing guest star voice work this season are Mark Hamill, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ron Perlman, James Remar, Wallace Langham, and Brandon Routh.)The Batman (2004)Batgirl is absent from this episode (wisely so – although it’s an excellent story, it’s also pretty cluttered with characters and events). She returns in the follow-up, and there we set the stage for the rest of the season’s tone. The sidekicks spend their time bickering and trying to one-up each other, in pure brother-sister mode. It’s a fun dynamic to the show that allows Batman to remain his moody self without forcing the series to become overly brooding. A peculiar moment regarding the sidekicks comes late in the season, when Robin pauses in the middle of a dangerous mission to ask Batgirl if she’s afraid. After some fudging between the two, she admits that she is. Not only is this a deeper, more thoughtful character moment than the series would have ever attempted a few years earlier, but it’s a startling moment of character honesty that you rarely get in a children’s adventure.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 3

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Danielle Judovits (Toy Story)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)

2347498-14.02

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Piera Coppola (Phineas and Ferb)
Jeffrey Combs (Fortress)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Adam West (Family Guy)
Frank Gorshin (60’s Batman)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Charles Napier (The Silence ofThe Lambs)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Gina Gershon (Red Heat)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)

Kevin Michael Richardson in The Batman (2004)The Batman” went through plenty of growing pains for its third season. Dropped without explanation from the story was Detective Ellen Yin, who had been working toward becoming a new sidekick of sorts to the Dark Knight (actress Ming-Na had become unavailable to return to the series); in her place, we have the arrival of Batgirl, whose presence takes the series in a whole new direction.The Batman (2004)It’s something of a mini-almost-sorta reboot as a result. There’s a new opening sequence, with The Edge’s twangy theme song replaced by a crunchy surf-rock tune from Andy Sturmer, who also wrote the “Teen Titans” theme. That series’ popularity obviously had an influence on this new season, as Batgirl’s wide-eyed character design is similar to the heroes of the Cartoon Network series. In addition, the Gotham landscape is now slightly more abstract, most notably in the swirling red and purple skies above. An entire episode is designed to showcase an all-new Batmobile. Finally, season-long story arcs have been toned down, delivered on a smaller scale, with Dr. Hugo Strange’s ongoing manipulations from behind the walls of Arkham Asylum not carrying the full weight of, say, the Clayface and Ellen Yin storylines of previous seasons. Even Batman’s gradual acceptance of a sidekick is something of a restrained arc.The Batman (2004)The most obvious adjustment is that Batgirl is introduced before Robin (who would not appear in the series until season four). This comes with its share of awkwardness, not because the deviation from Batman mythology (the retooling plays quite well, actually), but because Commissioner Gordon was just introduced in the series two finale. We never get a chance to settle in with him before he’s thrown into the thick of things, and now here he is with a teenage daughter – a daughter whose co-star status means the Gordons now become a key part of nearly every episode. Yet the series plows ahead with the Gordons at the center and never looks back, allowing for a rather quick adjustment to the change.Kevin Michael Richardson in The Batman (2004)The season opens on a very high note, with the excellent two-part saga, “Batgirl Begins,” introducing not only our new heroine, but also Poison Ivy, revamped to be a high school pal of Barbara’s; she’s a young eco-terrorist who gets slimed with nasty plant-growth chemicals. Early episodes that follow manage to revisit old villains – the Penguin, Scarface, Catwoman – while offering new spins, thus keeping stories quite fresh. New baddies are also introduced, most memorably the cybernetic Gearhead (voiced by “Batman Beyond” himself, Will Friedle), whose race car exploits allow the show to provide some thrilling chase sequences, and Cosmo Krank (Patton Oswalt in a deliciously over-the-top turn), a flashy toymaker.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN VS DRACULA

The Batman vs. Dracula (2005)

CAST (VOICES)

Rino Romano (Get Him To The Greek)
Alastair Duncan (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street)
Tom Kenny (The Powerpuff Girls)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Tara Strong (Batman: TAS)

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The Batman vs. Dracula opens inside Arkham Asylum, where a heist is being planned. A mass breakout finds the Joker and the Penguin pitted against each other in search of the loot, which is located in a graveyard. The Batman (voiced by Rino Romano) steps in and heads off the Joker while the Penguin proceeds to break into a crypt and inadvertently awaken Dracula (a perfectly-cast Peter Stormare), who has been “dead” for centuries and somehow vaguely transported to Gotham City. The count begins assembling his army of the undead, and soon the battle is on to decide who will be the last man-bat standing.hello-kitty-vibrator-2396fg2The combination of the Batman mythos with the Dracula legend blends ideally at times. A dream sequence that casts the Batman and Dracula as one and the same is visually arresting and thematically compelling. More importantly, temptations to evil and questions of crime-fighting ethics are a major part of what makes Batman an interesting character. It’s nice when those aspects of Bruce Wayne/Batman are handled honestly, instead of glossing them over.Bat-fans will enjoy both of these features. Although each has a distinct style and different creative teams, they both hew to the basics of the Batman story and the world of Gotham City. There is nothing particularly exceptional here, other than good entertainment and, especially in The Batman vs. Dracula, some wonderful visuals.

 

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 2

 

 

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

The Batman (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Gina Gershon (Red Heat)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Adam West (Family Guy)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Frank Gorshin (60’s Batman)
Daran Norris (Veornica Mars)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Michael Massee (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Kevin Grevioux (Underworld)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)

The Batman (2004)

With this season, the producers opted to play mix-and-match with baddies: Catwoman and Ragdoll, Catwoman and Penguin, Penguin and Man-Bat, Penguin and Joker, Penguin and Joker and Riddler, Mr. Freeze and Firefly. The Catwoman episodes work much better; the series’ take on the Selina Kyle character is as refreshing as has ever been in the decades of Batman tales. She’s one of the few multifaceted characters in this uncomplicated series, working somewhere between heroine and villainess, assisted by clever writing and a commendable vocal performance from Gina Gershon.Kevin Michael Richardson in The Batman (2004)Other episodes manage to shake the series’ problems and find a sturdy balance between fast-paced action and inventive plotting. The introductory adventure with the Riddler (here designed as some sort of Marilyn Manson wannabe) makes for a rollicking quest; an episode that takes Batman literally into the mind of the Joker allows for a fresh take on some overly well-worn cartoon material; a sinister Halloween tale about “swamp zombie” Solomon Grundy’s mythic return makes for ripping holiday viewing. These episodes all show the grand potential of this series. Consider the season’s best episode, “Meltdown,” which provides a return for Clay Face, last seen in season one’s finale. There’s a lot that happens in this episode character-wise, all of it both thrilling and quite emotionally touching.The Batman (2004)In order to make the show more friendly to the notion of reruns, the producers avoid any serious episode-to-episode continuity. Instead, we see ideas that slowly grow – Detective Bennett’s evolution as a character in season one (and slightly in season two), Detective Yin’s secret partnership with Batman in season two – in tiny chunks over the course of a dozen or so episodes. The good news is that these seemingly unimportant arcs do get a payoff in the season finales. In its favor, the series does showcase some incredible animation; “The Batman” remains a genuine treat for the eyes.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Neil Ross (Transformers: The Movie)
Victor Brandt (Neon Maniacs)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
Joaquim de Almeida (24)
Michael Bell (G.I. Joe)
Gina Gershon (Red Heat)
Keone Young (Crank)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Adam West (Family Guy)
Glenn Shadix (Beatlejuice)
Udo Kier (Iron Sky)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Kath Soucie (Space Jam)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Jennifer Hale (The Powerpuff Girls)
Henry Gibson (Sabrina: TTW)

The Batman (2004)

It would be an impossible task to live up to “Batman: The Animated Series” and its various later incarnations. Not only has the series, which ran throughout the 1990s, been hailed by fans as the definitive representation of the Dark Knight, but it also ranks among the very best television series ever aired.

The Batman (2004)

So when the folks at Warner Bros. Animation decided to put together an all-new Batman series to tie in with the impending release of “Batman Begins,” they made the daring but ultimately wise choice of completely revamping the world of Bruce Wayne, at least in terms of style and presentation. “The Batman,” which debuted in September 2004 on the Kids WB!, played out as something of a “Young Batman Adventures,” with the episodes focusing on the Dark Knight’s earliest years as a superhero. The deep, raspy voice of Kevin Conroy (who took the lead role in the 1990s series, and who still voices Batman on Cartoon Network’s “Justice League”) was replaced with Rino Romano, a thirtysomething voiceover veteran who sounds like he’s in his early twenties. Commissioner Gordon is nowhere to be seen; instead, we get two young detectives who are always on Batman’s trail – and in a nifty twist, one of them is Bruce Wayne’s best friend. Robin is also absent, Bruce has yet to get a handle on how to be Batman and run Wayne Industries, and the Rogues Gallery of villains are only beginning to emerge.

The Batman (2004)

The most notable change is the stylistic choice to loosen up the storytelling, with a far heavier focus here on action and fantasy. “The Batman” is above all else a series that skews younger than its predecessors; taking a cue from the success of anime in grade schools across the nation, the series’ producers push the action sequences above all else. In some episodes, fight scenes and chases take up an entire third, or more, of the running time.

The Batman (2004)

Time is also placed on gadgets (Batman’s “Bat Wave” is a pre-Bat Signal pager-like device that flashes when crime’s afoot), alternate costumes (Batman faces off against Mr. Freeze in a souped-up arctic gear Batsuit), and anything else that might translate well into toy sales. Which is neat for the kids, but it takes up screen time, forcing into the background the character development and intelligent drama that made the older series such a hit with fans of all ages. Since all this tinkering was taking place, the producers felt that now would be a perfect time to also revamp the famous villains. The Joker is now a big guy, far more athletic than we’ve ever seen him before, his bare feet allowing him to climb and kick with ease. The Penguin is still short, birdlike, and obnoxious, but this time, he’s a kung fu expert with two silent female assassins (with scissor-like blades on their fingers) at his side. Mr. Freeze, not a scientist but a petty thief, now shoots ice from his hands – no ice gun is necessary.

The Batman (2004)

These changes work for the tone of the series, I’ve come to like the series. Now knowing what to expect has helped with the adjustment. Yes, it still has its many problems – mainly, most of the villain revamps come off as too silly (and the writers rely on the Joker and Penguin way too much in the early episodes) – but it also has so much going for it. For starters, the animation is breathtaking, the combination of influences (the series borrows as much from the sleek 1990s cartoons as it does from recent anime) resulting in a eye-popping visual style that’s a true joy to watch. And as with its predecessor, “The Batman” relies on a healthy dose of impressive guest stars, including Tom Kenny, Gina Gershon, Peter MacNicol, Clancy Brown, Jason Marsden, Udo Kier, Edie McClurg, Glenn Shadix, Fred Willard, Dan Castellaneta, John Di Maggio, and yes, even Adam West, who stars here as the mayor of Gotham City. Combine this with a top notch regular cast and you’ve got a series that matches Warner Brothers’ usual high level of quality.

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 9

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)
John Francis Daley (Game Night)

David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Carla Gallo (Superbad)
Mather Zickel (Rachel Getting Married)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Freddie Prinze Jr. (Scooby Doo: The Movie)
John Ratzenberger (Cheers)
Millicent Martin (Grace and Frankie)
Brittany Ishibashi (Runaways)
Michael Grant Terry (Grimm)
Jessica Juarez (Icebox)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Andrew Leeds (Office Christmas Party)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Rebecca McFarland (Two and a Half Men)
Brian Klugman (Cloverfield)
David Hornsby (Minority Report)

Chuck Liddell (Kick-Ass 2)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Cyndi Lauper (Vibes)
Eugene Byrd (Arrow)
Joel David Moore (Avatar)
Pej Vahdat (Shameless)
Ralph Waite (The Waltons)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Angela Alvarado (Showtime)
Joaquim de Almeida (24)
Loren Lester (Batman: TAS)
Malcolm Goodwin (Izombie)
Ben Lawson (Doubt)
Margo Harshman (Sorority Row)
Kelly Rutherford (Scream 3)
Chad Donella (Final Destination)
Mitchell Fink (Last Resort)
Robert Baker (The Originals)
Scott Lowell (Queer as Folk)
Jonno Roberts (Wrecked)
Robert Picardo (Stargate Atlantis)
Chris Browning (Westworld)
Dayo Okeniyi (See)
Nazneen Contractor (Heroes Reborn)
Ignacio Serricchio (Lost In Space)
David Starzyk (Veronica Mars)
Luke Kleintank (The Man In The High Castle)
Tiffany Hines (Nikita)
Eileen Grubba (Sons of Anarchy)
Courtney Gains (Children of The Corn)
Laura Spencer (The Big Bang Theory)
Rizwan Manji (The Dictator)

David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and T.J. Thyne in Bones (2005)Bones returns for a welcome ninth season with its core cast, clever plots, and sense of humor intact. Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and her crack team of specialists at the Jeffersonian Institute continue to work with their FBI liaison, Special Agent Seeley Booth, on new and challenging criminal cases. First, however, the team will have to resolve their long-running, lethal battle with cyber-genius serial killer Christopher Pelant, who has stayed one step ahead of them while inflicting pain on each member of the cast.David Boreanaz, John Francis Daley, and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)When we last saw the team, they had barely survived their most recent encounter with Pelant. In a final twist of spite, Pelant blackmailed Booth into withdrawing his marriage proposal to Bones, while forbidding him to reveal the reason why. Booth’s promise puts a strain on his relationship with Bones. He will reach out to old Army buddies, including a CIA agent and a former priest turned bartender, for advice. Pelant has his own plan for separating Bones from Bones from Booth, permanently. The entire team will have to be on its mettle to head off Pelant’s insidious plot.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)The ninth season continues to feature crime of the week murders for Bones, Booth, and the Jeffersonian lab rats to solve. One episode will have Booth and Bones resurrecting their undercover “Tony” and “Roxie” identities for a hilarious marriage retreat in which they talk all too frankly about their relationship. Psychologist Dr. Sweets will take a leave of absence to work in an outreach center, only to find himself drawn back into a gut-wrenching case involving a gang feud. As in past seasons, other members of the team, including Lab boss Dr. Saroyan, Dr. Hodgins, Angela, and the interns will have their moments in the spotlight.David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin, Emily Deschanel, Mather Zickel, and Ty Panitz in Bones (2005)The biggest highlight is the Woman in White, featuring the wedding of the two leads after nine years they final tie the knot.