REVIEW: FUTURAMA – SEASON 4

 

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Segal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)

Futurama (1999)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
David Herman (Angel)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
William Shatner (Star Trek)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Walter Koening (Star Trek)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Jonathan Frakes (STar Trek: TNG)
Al Gore (30 Rock)
Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Roseanne Barr (Roseanne)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)

Futurama is one of the funniest, smartest, most bitingly satirical TV shows around, and I say that with a degree of sighing regret because, with the release of this Volume 4 set, the marvelous ride has come to an end—and far too soon. Filled to brimming with not only eye candy but mind candy, Futurama is definitely a thinking man’s comedy, and for that reason, it’s no wonder Fox had trouble deciding what the hell to do with it. This is a show that requires you to pay attention to its details. Its humor is more often in the minutiae than in the big picture. It’s constantly throwing ripe movie and TV references, accurate yet absurd science trivia, and colorful social commentary in your face, so fast that you can barely keep up, so consistently that it’s one of those rare shows that requires second and third viewings. The brilliance and beauty of Futurama is that it is positively infused with its rib-poking sci-fi geek attitude, from top to bottom, making it one of the more pure TV half-hours I can remember.By now, you know the sordid story behind Fox’s dwindling of support for the decidedly odd Futurama. You know how Fox executives, who apparently just didn’t “get” the show, gradually turned their collective back on Matt Groening’s second TV brainchild, running it only haphazardly and dropping promotions. Surely you know that the show appeared to air for five increasingly sporadic seasons, but that, in fact, Fox simply left the show to die after four seasons worth of episodes were in the can and ran fresh episodes whenever the mood struck them to do so. To be fair, Futurama with its elaborate mix of traditional hand-drawn animation and CGI, was an expensive endeavor. You can understand a profit-motivated studio’s decision to go with something cheaper and less inspired and original—something like, for example, Family Guy. But there’s a certain moment when you have to step back and look at the situation from a global view: The derivative Family Guy is achieving a renaissance of sorts, finding its mediocre way back on the air, whereas Futurama is already relegated to cult status among thinkers. How often will the whims of moneymen, over time, ultimately determine the tastes of the viewership? Can our karma afford such a dumbing down of entertainment? I speak half in jest, but in my opinion, Futurama didn’t deserve its too-quick demise.Futurama (1999)The ultimate irony—or perhaps a form of apology—is the fact that Fox has only now (now that the show is dead) lavished the proper attention on this first-rate show in the form of gorgeous and elaborate DVD season sets. Season 4—at least when considered in its production order, and not in Fox’s careless air-date order—provides a fitting, even emotionally resonant conclusion to a show that grew from geeky lark to wild, confidently hilarious entertainment.Futurama (1999)I doubt you’re new to the show, but if you are, I recommend gathering the first three seasons and watching in production order before you get to this set. That way, you can really appreciate the comic evolution of this unique series. Futurama is about the continuing adventures of Philip J. Fry (Billy West), a 20th-century pizza-deliveryboy blasted into the future, who has found himself suddenly inhabiting a strange Earth filled with weird aliens and robots, an insane media, and any fancifully technological marvel that suits any given episode’s plot. Fry has become part of a bizarre star-hopping troupe of characters that include cyclopean hottie Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal), the blissfully malevolent robot Bender (John DiMaggio), the Grandpa Simpson-inspired Professor Farnsworth (also West), the squid-like Dr. Zoidberg (also West), the Jamaican bureaucrat Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and the Asian human Amy Wong (Lauren Tom). The strength of the cast lies in its leads—Fry, Leela, Bender, and, to a lesser extent, Professor Farnsworth. All are impeccably drawn, distinct personalities, and their humor extends from their characterizations. The minor characters don’t fare quite as well. Indeed, when you compare Futurama’s ensemble with that of The Simpsons, Futurama can’t help but suffer. However, the increasingly no-holds-barred nature of the humor can’t be denied—it’s such an insane, fast-moving barrage of parody and sharp wit that you’ll barely notice any flaws amidst copious laughter. Futurama is a potent, absurd, cartoony sociological commentary about our own present-day world.Futurama (1999)Of the 18 episodes of season 4 I found only a few to be clunkers. The gender-bending Bend Her just didn’t seem have that typical Futurama sharpness of wit. I’ve never been a huge Zoidberg fan, so his big episode, A Taste of Freedom, felt flat. Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch, which also focuses on one of the show’s minor characters, comes across as an equally minor effort. But taken overall, Futurama: Volume 4 is an immensely satisfying amalgam of trippy ideas, loving sci-fi parody, and surprisingly character-driven humor. Considering the show’s steadily brilliant escalation in goofiness, and its refusal to bow to anything in the realm of formulaic, we fans are left feeling a great emptiness when we reach the end of that last show, when Fry finally has Leela’s undivided attention in that abandoned theater. We’re left considering what could have been, had Fox shown a little more faith in one of the more remarkable products it’s ever hefted onto the air.I will rewatch many of these episodes quite often. After exploring this box set, I’m left with the lingering memories of the hilariously ridiculous super-identities of Leela, Fry, and Bender in Less Than Hero; the unexpectedly touching conclusion of Jurassic Bark; the effects of a Planet Express team growing younger in Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles; the wonderfully in-on-the-joke Star Trek cast in Where No Fan Has Gone Before; the fun mind trickery of The Farnsworth Parabox; and—perhaps most of all—the final touching moments of The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings. 

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 3

Main Cast

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

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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: BONES – SEASON 4

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, Michaela Conlin, John Francis Daley, Emily Deschanel, Tamara Taylor, and T.J. Thyne in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Eugene Byrd (Heroes)
Sean Blakemore (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Andrew Buchan (All The Money In The World)
Indira Varma (Game of Thrones)
Carla Gallo (Superbad)
Scoot McNairy (Argo)
Elizabeth Lackey (Heroes)
Jill Wagner (Blade: The Series)
Michele Greene (LA Law)
Brennan Elliott (Curse of Chucky)
Richard Gant (Rocky V)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Devon Graye (The Flash)
Adam Rose (Veronica Mars)
Demetrius Grosse (Rampage)
Eric Millegan (Phobic)
Michael Grant Terry (Grimm)
Joel David Moore (Avatar)
David Gallagher (Super 8)
Ryan Cartright (Alphas)
Bruce Thomas (Army of Darkness)
Blake Shields (Heroes)
Thor Knai (The Outpost)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Jonathan LaPaglia (Seven Days)
Nichole Hiltz (Smallville)
Eric Lange (lost)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
William R. Moses (JAG)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Molly Hagan (No Good Nick)(
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Sterling Beaumon (The Killing)
Mageina Tovah (Spider-Man 2)
Stephen Lee (Robocop 2)
Andy Richter (Scary Movie 2)
Bianca Lawson (Buffy: TVS)
Nathan West (Not Another Teen Movie)
Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Deirdre Lovejoy (The Blacklist)
Marisa Coughlan (Super Troopers)
Oliver Muirhead (Like Crazy)
Betsy Rue (Halloween II)
Zachary Knighton (Flashforward)
Christine Lakin (Hollywood Darlings)
Spencer Breslin (The Happening)
Pej Vahdat (Arrow)
Kayla Ewell (The Vampire DIaries)
Dana Davis (Prom Night)
Eric Nenninger (The Flash)
Audrey Wasilewski (Red)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
P.J. Byrne (Black Lightning)
Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Tania Raymonde (Lost)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Ally Maki (Cloak & Dagger)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Jaimie Alexander (Thor)
Rick Peters (Dexter)
Edwin Hodge (The Purge)
Lorna Raver (Drag Me To Hell)
Jeff Yagher (V)
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)

David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, Indira Varma, and Andrew Buchan in Bones (2005)World-renowned forensic anthropologist Temperance “Bones” Brennan is as brusque and tactless as ever, as confounded by the subtleties of social decorum as ever (or as Sweets exclaims: “She is wicked literal!”). Bones is still very much that intimidating icy intellect, still a wounded soul, and still solving murders. FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth is still the one with the people skills and that well-developed bump of intuition. More onions are peeled in this season as we learn even more about the underpinnings of our core characters. The absolute big draw of this show is that sizzle between David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, their fabulous interplay tantalizing and frustrating the viewers. Could this be the season that they get together? Well, kind of, sort of. Taking what the show is giving, I wallow in their ever evolving relationship.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Staying on the personal, Hodgins and Angela are trying to move past their break-up. “The Skull in the Sculpture” demonstrates that Angela is more ready to move on than Hodgins, and if you thought Angela was a free spirit before, well, now… This episode also has Sweets demonstrating the best way ever to fire someone. Young FBI psychologist Lance Sweets, by the way, becomes a regular cast member in this season, and I like him more and more as each episode progresses, even if Booth and Bones continually treat him like a pesky little brother. Even Dr. Saroyan’s past is delved into.Emily Deschanel and Cesar Millan in Bones (2005)Zack Addy, apprentice to the Gormagon Killer, has been institutionalized, which doesn’t keep him from strolling out to help the squints on a baffling case. Still, this gives rise to a running theme, that of the rotating roster of interns as Saroyan and Bones attempt to fill Zack’s spot, and the fun thing is that each of these interns comes with baggage. There’s the morbid one, the excessively chirpy one, the one constantly dispensing trivia, etc. The most martyred one may well be that repressed intern who insists on keeping things professional at all times – except that, the squints being a tight bunch, he keeps getting exposed to a deluge of innuendo and gossip in the workplace.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)There isn’t really a running mystery arc to tie these episodes together – no one like the Gormagon Killer running around, for example. But that doesn’t mean that the cases aren’t gripping; some of them are really interesting. The season opens with “Yanks in the U.K.” which plants Brennan and Booth in jolly old England, investigating a murder and running into a British version of themselves. In “The Passenger in the Oven” Bones and Booth are on a flight bound to China and have only four hours to solve a murder before the plane lands and Booth loses jurisdiction. “Double Trouble in the Panhandle” has Booth and Bones infiltrating the Big Top as “Buck & Wanda and their Knives of Death,” and their circus act is actually fraught with more suspense than in just about any other scene in this season.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Some other favorites? In “The Double Death of the Dearly Departed,” Bones and Booth steal a corpse due for cremation from a funeral home, Bones believing that the body had been “translated,” which is Booth’s made-up code for murder. “Mayhem on a Cross” unveils some dark stuff about Sweets’ past, this episode also featuring the return of the awesome Stephen Fry as FBI shrink Gordon Gordon Wyatt. It also had me cracking up whenever Bones insisted on correctly pronouncing “skalle” (the Norwegian word for “skull”). “The Hero in the Hold” features the return of the Grave Digger serial killer. “The Princess and the Pear” plonks Bones and Booth’s temp replacement in the world of comic book conventions, and Bones finally gets another chance to flash her martial arts mojo.The-Critic-in-The-Cabernet-Screencaps-bones-10968392-653-435In “The Critic in the Cabernet” Bones drops a bomb on Booth and Booth gets advice from a cartoon character, a frivolous conceit which goes on to have a terrifying payoff. Finally Season 4 closes with a quirky fantasy episode featuring a re-shuffling of roles. In this reality, Dr. Saroyan and Booth’s brother are homicide detectives and Booth and Bones are a married couple who run a nightclub and who end up as suspects in a murder case. It’s neat that just about everyone is in this one.

REVIEW: BATMAN BEYOND- SEASON 2

Main Cast

Will Friedle (Batman Ninja)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Cree Summer (Bambi II)
Frank Welker (Transformers)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Ian Buchanan (panic Room)
Ice-T (Tank Girl)
Stockard Channing (Grease)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Teri Garr (After Hours)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Ryan O’Donohue (Toy Story)
Lindsay Sloane (Sabrina: TTW)
Dan Lauria (The Spirit)
Stephen Collins (Star Trek: TMP)
Wendie Malick (American Housewife)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Ethan Embry (Empire Records)
Stacy Keach (THe Bourne Legacy)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Rider Strong (Cabin Fever)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs)
Miguel Sandoval (Mediam)
Jon Cypher (Masters of The Universe)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Henry Rollins (Feast)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Victor Rivers (Hulk)
Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Shiri Appleby (Roswell)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Tim Curry (IT)
John Ritter (Bad Santa)
Rachael Leigh Cook (Antitrust)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Vernee Watson (The Kid)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Kathleen Freeman (Innerspace)
Andy Dick (Road Trip)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Gary Cole (Fam)
Kerrigan Mahan (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
Chris Demetral (Lois & Clark)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)
Bill Fagerbakke (How I MEt Your Mother)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Eli Marienthal (American Pie)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
George Lazenby (Gettysburg)
Sarah Douglas (Superman I & II)

MV5BMTQxNTk2MTgwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Batman Beyond—Season Two would be ambitious and further expand the adventures of Terry McGinnis, the new Dark Knight of the Gotham City’s future, but it would also be quite different from the first season in several ways. For one thing, the creators had killed off Terry arch nemesis Derek Powers (a.k.a. Blight) at the end of season and despite having a cliffhanger ending, the character never returned for season two, or season three for that matter.MV5BODgxNjYyMzM1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjg5OTQ1MjE@._V1_In fact, the fundamental change between the two seasons was that the network requested more episodes be written around Terry and the kids he interacted with in his high school, instead of focusing on a corporate espionage subplot like in the previous season. The producers did not argue with this as it was more or less the direction they were interested in going too. The network also wanted the show to introduce a stronger female character that could assist Terry in his mission as Batman.MV5BMTQzNzI1MzY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzEwMDU1MjE@._V1_That not led to the creation of new supporting character Maxine “Max” Gibson, a beautiful and intelligent girl at Terry’s high school who would discover his secret in her first episode and would become one of his allies for the rest of the series. She was always intended to be her own character and not a placeholder for Robin, Batgirl, Alfred or anyone from the classic Batman supporting cast. Most of Terry’s teenage peers like Dana Tan, Chelsea Cunningham, Blade Summer and Nelson Nash came back in this season and is some cases got slightly more prominent roles. But there was also at least one more friend of Terry’s introduced named Howard Groote, a nerdy comic relief who design was, amusingly, inspired by producer/writer Paul Dini.MV5BMTQ1MTU2MTkyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQ5OTQ1MjE@._V1_As for villains this season, many characters like the Jokerz gang, Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, Spellbinder, Willie Watt, Shriek and Curare return for further episodes. But there were also several new villains introduced, though unfortunately many of them were only one-time threats and did not become members of terry’s recurring rogues gallery. The three major recurring villains introduced this season were the Stalker, a cybernetically-enhanced big-game hunter who sees Batman as his ultimate prey, the insanely liberal bomber Mad Stan, and the terrorist snake cult known as Kobra). Memorable one-shot villains include gene splicer Dr. Able Cuvier, the A.I. ‘ghost’ of a former corporate mogul who takes control of the Batsuit, a rat boy named Patrick that kidnaps Dana, the father of one of Terry’s friends who becomes a supervillain named Armory, a burly woman named Mom Mayhem and her two sons, a snobby gossip reporter using invisibility technology, and a vigilante named Payback who takes his revenge against tormentors of troubled teenagers too far.MV5BMTc2NDEzNDU5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Overall, Batman Beyond—Season Two is twice and big as the first season, and just as strong.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 4

Starring

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
Mathew Valencia (Lawnmower Man 2)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Bob Hastings (McHale’s Navy)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Marilu Henner (Taxi)
Liane Schirmer (Dark Wolf Gang)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Corey Burton (Transformers: The Movie)
Peter Jason (Mortal Kombat)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners)
Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Billy Barty (Masters of The Universe)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
George Dzundza (Basic Instinct)
Mel Winkler (Coach Carter)
Paul Williams (Battle for TPOTA)
Allan Rich (Serpico)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Barry Bostwick (Spy Hard)
Sela Ward (Gone Girl)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Dennis Haysbert (Heat)
Billy Zane (Titanic)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Henry Silva (Aove The Law)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Thomas F. Wilson (Legends of Tomorrow)
Brooks Gardner (Raw Deal)
Buster Jones (Transformers)
Laraine Newman (Coneheads)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
Jim Piddock (Mascots)
Ian Buchanan (Stargate SG.1)
Pamela Hayden (The Simpsons)
Neil Ross (Transformers: Ther Movie)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Michael Ironside (Highlander 2)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Tim Matheson (Animal House)
Malachi Throne (Star Trek)
John Glover (Smallville)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Billy West (Futurama)

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The  this fourth boxed set Batman: The Animated Series is finally available on DVD in its entirety. For anyone that grew up loving this ’90s legend, that’s a very good thing indeed. Technically the show “ended” with the third volume, but when the producers moved on to Superman: The Animated Series, they were asked to bring back a Batman cartoon, and they did – making a few changes in the process.MV5BMzIwOTM3ZDYtMWVhMi00NDhlLWI1ZmItM2JlODc1NTgyYmE4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1342,1000_AL_Any fan can tell you that the new series, dubbed Gotham Knights and airing as the part of the double-feature The New Batman/Superman Adventures, wasn’t as good as what had come before. Even so, if you’re a fan then it’s certainly worth checking out as it serves as a nice precursor to what we’d get with the Justice League series. Plus, there are some great episodes here that any Bat-fan shouldn’t miss. An animated segment from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns? Yes, please! While the show is essentially the same as the previous version, there are some differences. For one, the episodes here take place two years after the events in the original show. The Bat family has been expanded to include Batgirl and Nightwing, and the first thing you will notice is the abundance of new character designs.MV5BZTA4ZjYzNzAtM2FkYS00Y2E2LTgxYTYtNjA3ODkwOWMzM2QwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_When coming up with a fresh take on the aging series, producer Bruce Timm decided that sprucing up the characters would give the show more punch. For the most part, he was right. Some of the characters got slight touch-ups while others were totally redesigned. For example, the new Joker looks more menacing, but the lack of red lips to surround his wicked grin takes away from the impact of the character. On the other hand you’ve got the new Scarecrow, with demented eyes staring out at Batman through a terrifying burlap mask, which is far creepier than the old design.MV5BZjg2OGFkMmUtYmQwNC00ZjIyLWFkMGEtNjJkNzA3YWY2YjY4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1340,1000_AL_Batman himself suffered some changes too; the costume loses the yellow around the Bat-insignia and the chin is longer, giving Bats’ head a more rectangular shape. Overall, the changes are welcome and they add more than they take away. While the cosmetic upgrades are easy to spot, they are not the most important change; after a few episodes you’ll see exactly what it is. The show just isn’t as good as it used to be. That isn’t to say that it’s bad – it’s still one of the better animated series out there, but the atmosphere and maturity of the earlier episodes is missing. The greater reliance on secondary characters (Robin, Batgirl) and gadgets (glider jetpack) injects the show with a more playful tone than it had in the past. You’ve got less character, but more characters. At first I saw this as a shortcoming, but I quickly came to see it as something different – an opportunity.MV5BYTI0Nzg2MmQtNTBiNC00NzBjLWE5NDItZTFmODRjYzZiN2EzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_You’ve already got three boxes worth of classic, wonderfully moody Batman material. If the showrunners want to take the show to hipper, more action-oriented place, I say let them. After all, as far as experimentation goes, there’s some great stuff here. There are a number of gimmicky episodes, but don’t count that out as a bad thing. There’s still a lot of fun to be had. Meanwhile, other DC Universe characters are brought in, making the show feel more connected to what would follow (Superman, Justice League). The Demon Within brings in the mystic characters of Etrigan/Jason Blood and Klarion the Witch Boy (talk about timely). Girl’s Nite Out sees Batgirl and guest Supergirl team up to take down Live Wire (from the Superman show), Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.MV5BMTUwMzU0OTUzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE4OTQ1MjE@._V1_But, hand’s down, the standout episode of the box, and one of the coolest of the series, is Legends of the Dark Knight. A group of kids get together and swap stories of what they think Batman is “really” like. One kid tells the story of a campy, golden age interpretation of Batman… and we get to see it animated! It’s a classic story where Batman and Robin battle the Joker in a giant musical instrument museum (?!). The voices and music are hilarious and lovingly done in the ’50s Dick Sprang style; there is no sarcasm here. Seeing the Joker tie our heroes to giant piano strings and then jump on piano keys (in an attempt to squash them) is very amusing for its innocence and simplicity. Next, we have the second kid’s story: she thinks Batman is an old, stoic avenger. In other words, the interpretation that Frank Miller used to catapult Batman into the serious mainstream. We are then treated to a great segment from Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns book as it is brought to life.MV5BMjU3OWFhMWYtYzdlZS00NzRmLWFkMWMtZWZmMjYxMTk3YTg1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_Watching Batman take down the mutant leader in a mud-pit, set against grungy ’80s music, is a real treat. What you get with these two segments over the comics is the great voice acting and an additional storytelling layer by way of background music. The voices and music add a wonderful texture to these classic tales and the idea of juxtaposing bright and goofy with dark and serious makes for a very satisfying episode. While these action-focused and gimmicky episodes are not the show at its best, they are a great diversion and a fun reinterpretation of an aging show. It’s not as good as it used to be, but it’s still Batman: The Animated Series. And that makes it worth your time.

 

REVIEW: LEGION OF SUPER HEROES

CAST (VOICES)

Yuri Lowenthal (Dino Time)
Michael Cornacchia (Happy Feet)
Adam Wylie (The Smurfs 2)
Alexander Polinsky (Teen Titans)
Wil Wheaton (Powers)
Tara Platt (Sailor Moon Crystal)
Dave Wittenberg (The Twelve Kingdoms)
Andy Milder (Weeds)
Keith Ferguson (Legends of Oz)
Kari Wahlgren (wolverine and The X-Men)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Shawn Harrison (Family Matters)
Madison Davenport (Reprisal)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jennifer Hale (Cinderella II)
Heather Hogan (8 Simple Rules)
David Lodge (Family Guy)
Harry Lennix (Man of Steel)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Billy West (Futurama)

The Legion of Super-Heroes of the 31st century traveled back to the early 21st century to try to find Superman for help of against powerful group of super-villains in their era. Unfortunately, they traveled too far back and instead finding a young Clark Kent who haven’t assume his Superman identity yet. Taking him back to their future, Clark embracing his destiny and helps the Legion in fighting evil like Emerald Empress and upholding the laws of the United Planets before he can return to his own time. A new beginning for the Legions on the second season of the show. With Clark returns to the 21st century and began his role as the Man of Steel, The Legions realizes that they still need Superman within their rank. Enter a mysterious Kryptonian from the 41st century, appears to the be the clone of Superman, arrives to the 31st century to aid the Legions.After Teen Titans went off, I’d hoped to find another really good superhero show. This is it! If you are expecting Teen Titans, though, this is not it. A different animation style, different feel, basically everything is different. But different is not a bad thing. Whereas Teen Titans had both its very dark story lines (at times) and its uber-comedic moments, Legion sticks to a straight-forward classic superhero feel. Save the world (or rather, the galaxy).
I had my doubts at the first episode, I will admit, although I stuck through. First episodes usually leave me in doubt. I don’t think I’ve met a cartoon yet that I’ve loved since Episode I. But most cartoons that I’ve actually wanted to check out, I’ve been happy after the first episode. Legion is no exception.

REVIEW: STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE – SEASON 1-7

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MAIN CAST

Avery Brooks (Roots: The Gift)
Nana Visitor (Dark Angel)
Rene Auberjonois (Boston Legal)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Terry Farrell (Hellraiser 3)
Colm Meaney (Intermission)
Cirroc Lofton (Soul Food)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Nicole de Boer (Rated X)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Felecia M. Bell (Nightman)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Aron Eisenberg (Puppet Master 3)
Max Grodenchick (Apollo 13)
J.G. Hertzler (Roswell)
April Grace (Lost)
Majel Barrett (Babylon 5)
Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser)
Gwynyth Walsh (Taken)
Vaughn Armstrong (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Rosalind Chao (I Am Sam)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Jennifer Hetrick (L.A. Law)
John De Lancie (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle)
Tom McCleister (Angel)
Gregory Itzin (Firefly)
Fionnula Flanagan (The Others)
Julie Caitlin Brown (Babylon 5)
Chris Latta (Transformers)
Barry Gordon (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride)
Cliff De Young (Glory)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Keone Young (Men In Black 3)
Jack Shearer (Star Trek: First Contact)
Harris Yullin (Rush Hour 2)
Louise Fletcher (Heroes)
Frank Langella (Masters of The Universe)
Stephen Macht (Galaxina)
Steven Weber (Izombie)
John Glover (Smallville)
Tim Russ (Samantha Who?)
Daphne Ashbrook (The Love Letter)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Brian Thompson (The Terminator)
Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Am Legend)
William Schallert (Innerspace)
K Callan (Lois & CLark)
Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play)
John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica)
Michael Ansara (Batman: TAS)
William Campbell (Dementia 13)
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)
Michael Bell (Rugrats)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Salome Jens (Superbot)
Martha Hackett (Leprechaun 2)
Ken Marshall (Krull)
Mary Kay Adams (Babylon 5)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Brett Cullen (Lost)
Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners)
Tricia O’ Neil (Gia)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Free Enterprise)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Richard Lee Jackson (Saved By The Bell: The New Class)
Andrew Prine (V)
Tracy Scoggins (Lois & Clark)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
Leland Orser (Seven)
Chase Masterson (Terminal Invasion)
Penny Johnson Jerald (Castle)
Andrea Martin (Wag The Dog)
Diane Salinger (Batman Returns)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Robert O’ Reilly (The Mask)
Obi Ndefo (Stargate SG.1)
Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5)
Galyn Gorg (Robocop 2)
Jeremy Roberts (Veronica Mars)
James Cromwell (Species II)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Conor O’Farrell (Lie To Me)
Robert Foxworth (Syriana)
Brock Peters (Soylent Green)
Casey Biggs (Broken Arrow)
Tony Todd (The Flash)
Robert DoQui (Robocop)
D. Elliot Woods (Agents of SHIELD)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Ron Canada (Just Like Heaven)
Jeffrey Nordling (Flight 93)
Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2)
Cliff De Young (THe Craft)
Jim Jansen (Death Becomes Her)
Tom Towles (Fortress)
Philip Anglim (The Elepehant Man)
Bruce Gray (Cube 2)
Ron Taylor (The Simpsons)
Larry Cedar (Deadwood)
Bill Mondy (Smallville)
Michael Reilly Burke (Mars Attacks)
Heidi Swedberg (Hot Shots)
Amanda Carlin (Friends)
Bernie Casey (Under Siege)
Molly Hagan (Izombie)
Michael Jace (The Fan)
Dennis Christopher (IT)
Joseph Ruskin (The Scorpian King)
Lawrence Pressman (Dark Angel)
Jill Sayre (Hercules and The Amazon Women)
Jonathan Frakes (Sar Trek: TNG)
Tina Lifford (Babe)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Lark Voorhies (Save By The bell)
John Doman (Gotham)
Marshall R. Teague (Babylon 5)
Susanna Thompson (Arrow)
Clarence Williams III (The Butler)
Loren Lester (Batman: TAS)
Charlie Brill (Silk Stalkings)
Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Lawrence Tierney (Resevoir Dogs)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Paul Popowich (Rupture)
Courtney Peldon (Out on a Lamb)
Michelle Krusiec (The Invitation)
Clayton Landey (Staragte: Atlantis)
Kevin Rahm (Bates MNotel)
Mike Starr (Ed Wood)
James Black (Anger Management
Meg Foster (Masters of The Universe)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
John Prosky (The Devil Inside)
Hilary Shepard (Power Rangers Turbo)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Charlie Brill (Silk Stalkings)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Marjean Holden (Hostage)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Christopher Shea (Bounty Killer)
Marc Worden (Ultimate Avengers)
Gabrielle Union (Ugly Betty)
Shannon Cochran (The Ring)
Iggy Pop (The Crow 2)
Brad Greenquist (Alias)
Leslie Hope (24)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Michael Weatherly (NCIS)
Henry Gibson (Sabrina: TTW)
James Darren (T.J. Hooker)
Bill Mumy (Babylon 5)
Kevin Rahm (Bates Motel)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
William Sadler (Roswell)

DS9 is one of my all-time favourite television shows. It edges out Star Trek’s original series just barely as my favourite in the franchise. I am not going to state that it’s the best Star Trek series, because it definitely will not appeal to everybody, but it is my favourite.

DS9 deviates from the Trek franchise formula in an important way – it is based on one location – a Cardassian-built space station near the planet Bejor. So even the architecture of the main set is alien – not another sterile militaristic star ship inhabited by a primarily white European crew – but a true Babel. Bejor has just been liberated from 60 years of occupation by an expansionist militaristic race – the Cardassians. Both Bejorans and Cardassians will play important roles throughout DS9. Since the station does not move much during the show’s seven year run, DS9 has a much stronger sense of place than the other ST series, and is able to develop story arc and character continuity much more powerfully than the others.

All of the major characters and most of the frequent returning characters have their own interwoven story arcs – most of which span the entire series. Ben Sisko (Avery Brooks), the station’s commander, is a somewhat disgruntled Star Fleet officer who has several personal vendettas which have almost driven him from Star Fleet. He is also a single parent and a genius. In the very first episode, Sisko’s arc begins and it is clear that his story will be the frame within which the entire series is organized – though the reasons for this will no become entirely clear until near the end. Also memorable are the gruff, shape-shifting Chief Constable Odo(Rene Auberjunois) who does not know what he is and where he came from; Kira (Nana Visitor) Sisko’s aggressive and intense Bajoran second officer; Garak (Andy Robinson) a Cardassian Tailor and – possibly – spy, who is easily the most well-developed, well-acted and interesting recurring guest star Star Trek has ever had; Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) – the beautiful Trill science officer whose consciousness is enhanced by the memories and personality of a 600 year old symbiotic slug who lives in her stomach and has inhabited dozens of previous hosts; Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) the station’s young, brilliant, adventurous and naive doctor; and Quark (Armin Shimmerman), the greedy, conniving, but entirely lovable Ferengi casino owner.

The characters, cast, and serialized stories make DS9 stand apart from the franchise as the most powerfully plotted, intensely dramatic and politically charged Star Trek ever. The show is, however, not for those with limited attention spans and a disdain for complexity. While it isn’t exactly hard to follow, the dialog is often dense and DS9 – more than any other Trek show – uses non-verbal communication very well. Brooks, Visitor and Robinson – all of whom are masters at this – are particularly non-verbal and make a big impression from the first few episodes.

Throughout the series, there are constant underlying political intrigues and surprisingly little filler. Almost every story connects with the main story arc (Sisko’s and Bejor’s) in one way or another, and no time is wasted with aimless experimentation by the writing team (a problem Voyager and Enterprise both suffered from).

The production is consistently theatrical in scope. The special effects are still – even today – above average for television, and even the new BSG doesn’t approach the scope and coherence of the plot.Highly recommended for bright people looking for something more than typical TV drama normally delivers.