REVIEW: SHAZAM

Starring

Zachary Levi (Chuck)
Asher Angel (Andi Mack)
Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes)
Jack Dylan Grazer (IT)
Adam Brody (Jennifer’s Body)
Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Faithe Herman (This Is Us)
Meagan Good (Saw V)
Grace Fulton (Annabelle: Creation)
Michelle Borth (Wonderland)
Ian Chen (A Dog’s Journey)
Ross Butler (13 Reasons Why)
Jovan Armand (The Middle)
D. J. Cotrona (G.I. Joe: Retalliation)
Cooper Andrews (The Walking Dead)
John Glover (Smallville)
Martin Roach (Cube Zero)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)

Mark Strong and Zachary Levi in Shazam! (2019)In 1974 Upstate New York, young Thaddeus Sivana is arguing with his father and older brother during a car trip when he is transported to the Rock of Eternity, a magical temple hidden in another dimension. He meets the ancient wizard Shazam, last of the Council of Wizards, who has spent centuries searching for a new champion who is “pure of heart” after the previous champion, driven by revenge, released the Seven Deadly Sins upon the world. Thaddeus is tempted by the Sins, entrapped in statues, and is deemed unworthy and returned to Earth.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)In present-day Philadelphia, foster child Billy Batson runs afoul of the law while searching for his birth mother and is placed in a group home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez with five other foster children: Mary Bromfield, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi, Darla Dudley and superhero enthusiast Freddy Freeman. Meanwhile, an embittered adult Sivana discovers a way to return to the Rock of Eternity. There, he steals the Eye of Sin, becoming the Sins’ vessel and besting the Wizard before returning to Earth and using the Sins to murder his brother, father and Sivana Industries’ board of directors.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)At school, Billy saves Freddy from bullies and is chased into a subway, where Shazam summons Billy, chosen as the new champion. By calling Shazam’s name, Billy is transformed into an adult superhero endowed with the wizard’s name; thanking Billy, the Wizard turns to dust, leaving behind his staff. At home, Freddy helps Billy explore his newfound powers: electricity manipulation, near-invulnerability, super-strength, speed, and flight. Freddy’s videos of Shazam testing his powers become a viral sensation, and Billy begins skipping school to use his powers as Shazam for money and fame. Seeing Shazam save a bus on the news, Sivana challenges and easily defeats him, demanding he surrender his powers, but Shazam transforms back into Billy and escapes into a crowd. From the news, Sivana deduces Billy’s identity and abducts Freddy to find Billy. At the Vasquez home, the other children also infer Billy’s secret and tell him they have found his mother, who lives nearby.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)Billy reunites with his mother, but discovers she had abandoned him on purpose, feeling unqualified as a single teenage mother. Billy returns the compass she gave him as a toddler and leaves, telling her he needs to return to his real family. Sivana calls Billy, having taken his foster siblings hostage, and Billy as Shazam agrees to give Sivana his powers in exchange for the family’s safety. Sivana and Shazam travel to the Rock of Eternity where Sivana takes the wizard’s staff, but the siblings follow and attack Sivana. Shazam realizes that Sivana loses his powers when all seven Sins leave his body.Mark Strong and Zachary Levi in Shazam! (2019)Sivana pursues Shazam and his siblings to a winter carnival, unleashing the Sins upon the crowd. As Wrath battles Shazam, the other Sins capture his siblings, demanding his powers. When Sivana recalls the Sins, Shazam uses the opportunity to take the staff and stuns Sivana. Remembering the Wizard’s words, Billy uses the staff to share his powers, transforming his siblings into adult superheroes like him. Shazam breaks the staff and battles Sivana while his siblings distract the Sins. Shazam baits Envy out of Sivana’s body, leaving him powerless, and takes back the Eye of Sin which recaptures all the Sins. Billy and his siblings are hailed as heroes. Returning the Eye and the Sins to their prison, Billy and his siblings realize the Rock of Eternity can be their new lair. Later, Billy arrives at school as Shazam to have lunch with his siblings, revealing he has also invited Superman, to Freddy’s shock and joy.Zachary Levi in Shazam! (2019)In a mid-credits scene, an imprisoned Sivana is approached by a talking caterpillar, who proposes an alliance. In a post-credits scene, Shazam and Freddy test if the former can telepathically communicate with fish.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! (2019)Shazam was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. If you either a comic book fan or not regardless you will enjoy it from start to end. Although Shazam doesn’t contain as much fighting scenes you would see in movies these days it still leaves you with a fully polished story and character development. Shazam shows a teenage kid that gets powers and what he uses it for and obviously its typical things teenage kids would do. If you are plotting on whether or not to see it, the obvious answer is YES!

REVIEW: SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM

 

 

CAST

George Newborn (Justice League)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy)
Zach Callison (Steven Universe)
James Garner (The Notebook)
Josh Keaton (Justice Legaue Action)
Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

The film opens with a young couple sitting in their car on a hillside outside of the city as an apparent meteor streaks across the sky and smashes into the couple’s car. It is revealed that that meteorite is actually Black Adam, returning to Earth after a long exile. The film then cuts to young Billy Batson living in a rundown slum, with very little food and rats for pets. He gets out of bed wearing a t-shirt with the Superman crest. He goes to the kitchen to find food, but discovers he only has potato chips, which he ends up feeding to the rats.

On his way to meet with Clark Kent in a nearby diner, he sees some bullies mugging a homeless man. After attempting to defend the man, Billy himself receives a black eye. The homeless man thanks Billy for his intervention, calling him “The Captain”. Billy tells him that he always tries to do the right thing. Billy gives him the only thing of value he has – a subway token.

At the diner, Clark buys the boy three breakfasts, and tells him he wants to write a story to bring his plight, and those in his same situation, to public light. He tells Mr. Kent that he tries to be good no matter what. As the conversation continues, neither notice that Black Adam has appeared, hovering outside the diner. He claps his hands together, blowing a hole in the side of the diner. Clark attempts to protect the boy, but a blow from Black Adam sends him through several walls. He emerges from beneath the rubble and quickly changes into Superman. Adam stalks young Billy through the streets stating his surprise over the Wizard’s choice to become the next Marvel, but Billy does not know what he means. Black Adam picks up a fire engine to smash Billy, but Superman intervenes and blocks the blow. While Billy makes good his escape, Superman gets a blast of electricity from Black Adam. After recovering he realizes Adam’s powers are magically based, and he is vulnerable. This vulnerability puts Superman and Adam at an equal footing. Black Adam uses magic to his advantage, but Superman responds with powers the magical being doesn’t have – i.e. heat vision. After briefly getting Superman out of the way, Black Adam continues his pursuit of Billy, who runs into the subway, again encountering the homeless man he helped earlier. The man gives him a subway token, telling him he would be paid back. Billy runs out onto the tracks, with Black Adam still in pursuit. Billy is caught on the tracks when a train apparently runs Billy over, causing Adam to leave. Billy awakens to find he is on an empty subway car. The token begins to glow and he begins to crackle with lightning. In the lightning, Billy sees flashes of his life, including his parents’ headstone, the orphanage, and his foster parents who throw him out, leaving him on the streets.

He gets off of the subway car at the next stop, but finds himself in a gigantic cave with statues of the Seven Deadly Sins. Billy finds his way to the Wizard Shazam who tells the boy that he is the next Chosen One. He explains that Black Adam had been his champion 5000 years ago, but Teth-Adam had used his power for personal gain and corrupted the gift. He was then banished to the farthest star in the sky, and now Black Adam has returned seeking vengeance. The Wizard then causes a cave in, telling him that he wishes to atone for the mistake of creating Black Adam, but tells Billy that should he need him, he has only to speak the Wizard’s name. Billy narrowly escapes the cave as it collapses.  Outside, the battle rages between Superman and Black Adam. Superman is barely able to hold his own against the magic used. Superman is again knocked unconscious. Billy confronts Black Adam and defiantly tells Adam to leave Superman alone. He tries to hit an amused Black Adam. Billy anxiously shouts “I need a little help here, Shazam”, which transforms Billy into Captain Marvel. He quickly counters Adam’s attacks with his newfound abilities. Billy has only a few minutes to discover his powers; i.e. speed, strength and flight. He also discovers that randomly saying the Wizard’s name takes the powers away just as quickly.

A recovered Superman is unsure of what to make of this new superhuman, but they soon discover they are on the same side. Black Adam resorts to destroying a dam which threatens to flood Fawcett City. Landing, Black Adam stops a passing car, removing its female driver to hold as a hostage. He tells Billy he must surrender himself in his mortal form, and he will release the woman. Billy complies, and Black Adam throws the hostage into the sky. But before Billy can say his magic word, Black Adam covers his mouth to silence him. From out of nowhere, Adam is blasted by Superman’s heat vision. He stopped the potential flooding after quickly freezing the water with his super cold breath. Superman and Black Adam begin fighting again, but Billy is now able to utter the magic word. Adam is beaten by Marvel who stomps him into a crater in the street. Superman talks the Captain out of murdering Adam to prevent further acts of evil. Adam declares that only death will stop him. The homeless man appears once again and reveals himself to be the boy’s guardian angel Tawky Tawny. Tawky reverts to his true form as a tiger and tells Superman and Captain Marvel that he will make sure the Wizard will send Black Adam far across the universe this time; it will take ten thousand years to return. To keep from being banished even farther from Earth, Black Adam shouts “Shazam” which turns him back into the mortal Teth-Adam, whose body has aged during the thousands years he has been gone. He turns to dust in front of the two superheroes. It was an apparent bluff, as Tawny admits the Wizard is indeed dead. As Tawny walks away, Superman looks at Captain Marvel and says “You have some unusual friends.” Billy finds himself encountering the bullies again in the alley as before. The bullies push Billy against a wall, and defiantly dare him to talk back; daring him to say “…just one word.” To which, it is implied through the appearance of lightning, Billy replies “Shazam…”.This movie was animated very well and the character models were very good. The overall appearance, especially the backgrounds, had a slightly hazy, washed-out look to them at times, giving it an almost anime-style look. They do some really cool animation during the fights between Superman/Marvel and Black Adam, such as some slow motion effects during a couple of the really hard hits, that really punctuate the impact. The voice acting and choices of the actors were quite good (especially Arnold Vosloo as Black Adam),  I’ve always thought Black Adam was a really cool bad guy, and his personality and voice were pretty much as I’ve always envisioned them to be, and I thought the ending was particularly interesting and surprising.

 

REVIEW: HERO HIGH

CAST (VOICES)

John Berwick (Goliath Awaits)
Jere Fields (Aesop’s Fables)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Erika Scheimer (She-Ra)

ds9-cast-1200x786I remember very little about Hero High when it ran on broadcast television on Saturday mornings back in 1981. Presumably my attention was simply devoted to a rival network. However, my love for both Filmation and anything BCI/ Ink & Paint puts out led me to ordering the Hero High box set and I’m quite glad that I did. For starters the set includes all 26 animated episodes of the series (each episode runs about 8 minutes long) with writer commentary on a couple of them. Disc 1 contains the first 14 while disc 2 contains the remaining 12 and a host of interesting special features including interviews with many of the show’s actors and producers. We even hear from producer Lou Scheimer in several of the interviews.MV5BMDcyMGE5NGEtOTMyNC00NDJmLTllY2UtZjUzMWIxMTY3MmI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTEwODg2MDY@._V1_The show (for those who have not yet had a chance to enjoy it) is surprisingly well done and clearly provided the source material for more recent super hero spoofs such as Sky High and The Incredibles. Rather than compete directly with the campy superhero animation out at the time (Hanna Barbara’s Superfriends for example), Hero High knew not to take itself too seriously instead choosing to poke fun at both itself and comic action in general.cvbcbThe episodes are fairly short romps in a tradition of good clean fun rather than epic good versus evil and to be completely honest, some of the humor contained within is on par with the type of material one would expect in sitcoms from the era. Additionally the second disc contains an episode of the live action skit that came packaged in the Kid Super Power Hour at the time. This, too, can be viewed with writer and actor commentary, which really adds to the value of reliving the experience. The package itself is in a league of its own (as all BCI/ Ink & Paint sets tend to be) with colorful sleeve art and a book that not only lists all of the episodes but also provides color photographs, a synopsis of each one and a trivia pertaining to the episode! Talk about going above and beyond to deliver quality. The picture quality is quite crisp and clean (showing no indication of the era) as are the audio tracks. Once again Ink & Paint have provided a masterpiece compilation worthy of shelf space on any collector’s entertainment center.

REVIEW: THE SECRETS OF ISIS

 MAIN CAST

Joanna Cameron (B.S. I Love You)
Brian Cutler (The Incredible Hulk 70s)
Joanna Pang (The Patchwork Family)
Ronaldo Douglas (The New Odd Couple)
Albert Reed (Good Times)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Charles Cyphers (Halloween)
Laurette Spang (Battlestar Galactica)
John Davey (Shazam)

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Oh my Queen!” said the royal sorcerer to Hatshepsup, “With this amulet, you and your decedents are endowed by the goddess Isis with the powers of the animals and the elements. You will soar as the falcon soars. Run with the speed of gazelles. And command the elements of sky and earth!”. 3,000 years later, a young science teacher dug up this lost treasure and found she was heir to: The Secrets of Isis. And so, unknown to even her closest friends Rick Mason and Cindy Lee, she became a dual person: Andrea Thomas, teacher, and Isis, dedicated foe of evil, defender of the weak, champion of truth and justice.

Flat-out one of the most beloved Saturday morning TV shows ever produced, no kid who grew up during the mid-seventies/eighties ever forgot Joanna Cameron as the lithe, confident, serene super-heroine Isis. Introduced along with the already popular Shazam! live-action series, Filmation Studios teamed up Captain Marvel with Isis in 1975 for The Shazam!/Isis Hour on CBS, and the ratings went through the roof. Week after week, each episode of Isis opened with the same prologue (that’s the dialogue quoted above), setting the backstory of the series. On an archaeological dig in Egypt, high school science teacher Andrea Thomas unearthed a small box that contained an amulet that when worn, gave her powers delivered by the spirit of the goddess Isis. When her powers were needed, Joanna simply exposed the amulet, put out her arms in supplication (sometime held up, sometimes down) and calmly called, “Oh Mighty Isis!”. Instantly transformed into a cross between Nefertiti and a tennis pro, Joanna became Isis, holder of super powers that enabled her to fly (“Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!”), perform telekinesis, see into the future, and possess super strength and speed.isis3With these powers, Isis could figuratively crush the world like a tin can, but instead, she chose to help teens (usually students of hers) who got into trouble with the law, see the errors of their ways. Most episodes of Isis found a student reluctantly falling in with mobsters or gangsters or evil businessmen or scientists, aiding their plans to defraud or steal from someone. Just prior to Isis’ arrival, the young adult would start to have second thoughts about their deeds, and as Isis moved in for the collar, they would start spilling their guts and singing like canaries, gently guided by Isis’ requests to look inside themselves, to see if they were acting the way they should act. In keeping with a society that hadn’t yet solidified the “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality that rewards so-called “honesty” by doling out clemency, the students didn’t get off scott-free here for just owning up to their mistakes – they still expected to be punished, and for the most part, they were punished. But Isis smiled, because she knew that deep down, they had learned a valuable lesson; one they that they wouldn’t likely repeat.

When there were no 24-hour cable networks devoted solely to kids programming. The Big Three’s Saturday morning kids line-up was the only significant block of hours aimed at us. So when a show like The Secrets of Isis  came on the scene, kids took notice. Playing like mini-movies every week, these fantasy-based, limited budget, live-action morality plays really connected with kids.b12d51f1a3503cbbda001463628d1f9b--saturday-morning-wonder-womanAnd while most kids couldn’t have cared less about learning a “lesson” while watching these shows, the deeply moralistic nature of Isis didn’t seem to grate on us – perhaps because they were delivered in a cool, direct manner by the unnaturally gorgeous Joanna Cameron. Within each storyline of the Isis episodes, issues of honesty, integrity and personal responsibility were relentlessly explored, and to further hammer home the point, Cameron, still in her Isis outfit, looked directly into the camera, with that disarming suggestion of a smile at her lips, and restated what we the viewers were supposed to have just learned from the stories (criminally, these famous “morals” were eliminated from the film masters in the 1990s — not a good time for morals, I guess; a few have been gathered together for this DVD).secrets_of_isis_isis2.png

But The Secrets of Isis wasn’t just about lecturing kids; it had plenty of action, albeit rather laid-back, California-styled action, that served the point of the story, and not the other way around. Watching Isis today, it’s easy to laugh at the chintzy blue-screen flying sequences and goof on the dopes who bought this stuff decades ago, but don’t feel too superior; we knew they looked cheap and unconvincing, too. We just didn’t care about that stuff as much as technologically-savvy kids do today. We didn’t care if Isis looked like she was hanging from wires, or that they never showed her except from the waist up when she lifted off to fly. It just wasn’t that important an issue. We knew it was a goof, so we just got on with it and didn’t worry about mattes and blue screens and process shots. Besides, who really was paying attention to all of that when Cameron was either walking around in her polyester-only outfits or her sexy tennis dress tunic?MV5BYzBmZjM1MzItNzU2Ny00MzcxLTg2YWYtZmM1NWQ4NzExMmE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_It’s amazing to go back and watch these shows and see how relatively calm and sedate they appear. And despite the budget limitations, the series maintained a professional tone due to the solid TV directors who worked on it, including those old pros Hollingsworth Morse, Earl Bellamy, Arnold Laven, and Arthur H. Nadel. Isis also benefits from a well-chosen supporting cast, with Brian Cutler just fine as the second banana to Cameron’s Isis. Joanna Pang, cute and spunky as Cindy Lee, gets the “gee whiz” tone of her character just right; it’s too bad she didn’t come back for the second season (although Ronalda Douglas is good as student Renee Carroll).

REVIEW: ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1941)

CAST

Tom Tyler (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon)
Frank Coghlan Jr. (Hell’s House)
William Benedict (The Sting)
Louise Currie (The Ape Man)
Robert Strange (Captain America 1944)
Nigel De Brulier (Zorro Rides Again)
John Davidson (The Devil Bat)

The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Tom Tyler, (Serial), 1941 Photo

Modern fans might assume the first comic-book superhero to get the movie treatment would have been Superman or Batman. In fact, one of their biggest rivals throughout the 1940s beat both of them to the screen by several years. According to Wikipedia, Republic Pictures did try to make a Superman serial first, but National Periodicals (which later became DC Comics) turned them down. The studio then approached Fawcett Comics, publishers of Captain Marvel, who was introduced shortly after the Man of Steel and quickly became one of the Golden Age’s most popular heroes.


The concept that kids flocked to was simple. Orphaned 12-year-old newsboy Billy Batson is selected by a wizard named Shazam to replace him as Earth’s protector. When Billy says the Wizard’s name—an acronym of the assorted gods and heroes who were the source of his power (Solomon’s wisdom, Hercules’ strength, Atlas’ stamina, Zeus’ power, Achilles’ courage, and Mercury’s speed)—he’s transformed by a magic bolt of lightning into Captain Marvel.


The movie version is somewhat faithful to the comics. In a cave somewhere in Thailand, a Billy Batson who looks to be somewhere in his mid-to-late 20s (Frank Coghlan Jr.) is granted the powers of Captain Marvel (Tom Tyler) by the old Wizard (Nigel De Brulier). This Billy works as the radio operator for an expedition into “The Valley of Tombs,” where a bunch of American archaeologists break into an ancient tomb over the objections of the local natives. While Billy finds Shazam and gets his superhero identity, the explorers discover “The Scorpion,” a bug-shaped device that functions as a “solar atom smasher,” concentrating the sun’s rays through a series of lenses into a powerful beam that can destroy human life or turn ordinary objects into gold. The Scorpion, which is placed in a heavily fortified tomb, is one of the local culture’s most sacred objects, so naturally, the white archaeologists just take it for themselves. That draws the ire of a mysterious evildoer also named “The Scorpion,” who is the serial’s villain.He sets out to reclaim the atom smasher, while the archaeologists divide its many lenses amongst themselves in order to protect it; over the course of the 12 chapters, the Scorpion sends his henchman to retrieve each crucial piece while Billy and Captain Marvel try to thwart his progress. Serials like ‘Adventures of Captain Marvel’ were originally programmed to run in weekly installments at theaters around the country. They weren’t meant to be watched in one sitting—and frankly it shows. The episodes all rely on a handful of tropes (chase scenes, fist fights, cliffhangers) that begin to get awful repetitive over the course of more than three hours of action. If you’re going to watch ‘Captain Marvel,’ your best bet is to do it the way it was intended; in small chunks before other feature presentations. That’ll keep things from getting too stale, and let you bask in the film’s pleasures in smaller, more manageable doses.


Those pleasures are mostly of the two-fisted action variety. ‘Captain Marvel’ was directed by John English and William Witney, who were well-known in their day for their thrilling, stunt-laden serials. This one is no different, and even on a relatively limited budget (and with some bargain basement special effects) they do a very respectable job of conjuring Captain Marvel to life. Some of the stunts are dodgy, but a lot of them still work, like Captain Marvel bursting through walls like they were made out of cardboard (probably because they were made out of cardboard) or breaking rifles over his knee like they’re made out of wax (probably because they were made out of wax). And the fight scenes, which rely on the actors’ and their doubles’ athleticism instead of frenetic editing and shaky camerawork, are fantastic. The centerpiece battle in Chapter 10 between Billy Batson and the Scorpion’s goons, for example, is more fun than anything in ‘Taken 3.’ And there’s at least half a dozen more fights just like it.tom-tyler-shazam-the-adventures-of-captain-marvel-serialThere’s less to recommend about the story itself, which is mostly about Billy trying to track down the true identity of the Scorpion. Before too long, he realizes the Scorpion is actually one of the archeologists attempting to subvert the group from within, but he guesses incorrectly several times before the real bad guy reveals himself in the final chapter. (And this guy’s supposed to have the “wisdom” of Solomon? Yeah, no.) There are no clues or any real sense of mystery; it’s mostly just a process-of-elimination guessing game. Again, part of this is the nature of the beast; a serial is meant to be so simple that each chapter can be understood on in its own, in case a viewer happened to catch, say, Chapter 3, at the theater without seeing the first two. It’s easy to see why Republic wanted comic-book heroes for their serials; they’re well-suited to the format. Not only were comics loaded with the sort of action and intrigue that were the serials’ bread-and-butter, but the construct of a hero and his secret identity also served as an effective cost-cutting measure. Most of the film could follow the human alter ego sleuthing or romancing his leading lady, while reserving his costumed personality.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
George Eads (CSI)
Eric Robert (The Finder)
Dana Delany (Tombstone)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games)
Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Fam)
Fred Savage (The Princess Diaries)
Jason Hervey (Back To The Future)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Michael York (Logan’s Run)
Patrick Bauchau (Panic Room)
Rachel York (One Fine Day)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Annimator)
Robert Foxworth (Transformers)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Tom Everett Scott (Because I Said So)
Billy West (Futurama)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Jeremy Piven (Old School)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Oded Fehr (V)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Tim Matheson (The West Wing)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Ioan Gruffudd (Ringer)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clark)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Robert Englund (2001 Maniacs)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Jason Bateman (Office Christmas Party)
Susan Sullivan (Castle)
Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Steve Schirripa (Must Love Dogs)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Nathan Fillion (Serenity)
Elizabeth Peña (The Incredibles)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)

MV5BMTk4NTc5Mzg3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc5ODM2MjE@._V1_Fantasy now runs your life? Comic books become your vice? And your best friends still have their virginities? Then look no farther, friends, because this collection of episodes is so good you don’t need friends, significant others, or a single reason to emerge from your Geekdrome. But you know what the best part is? It’s not just for geeks – Justice League Unlimited stands tall as the best collection of American action/adventure animation you’re likely to find. While there is, of course, a certain geek charge some may get out of seeing characters like Powergirl and Green Arrow in action (not to mention an episode featuring Nathan Fillion voicing Vigilante and Gina Torres voicing Vixen – come on, how cool is that?), these episodes will entertain because of good characters, good humor, and good storytelling, even if you don’t know your Booster Golds from your Blue Beetles.MV5BMTA3OTAzMDYwMjdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDMzMDkzNjIx._V1_While the first two seasons of Justice League nicely expanded upon the world first established in the early ’90s with Batman: The Animated Series, it wasn’t until this, the show’s third season (or first, depending on how you look at it) that the format and structure was perfected for the genre. It was an interesting experiment having the previous seasons’ episodes run for one-hour, but with JLU the format is scaled back to stand-alone half-hour stories and, ironically, it fits like a bat-glove. It’s strange, but these shorter episodes actually manage to pack in more than the double-length ones. A lot more. And what a roster of characters to fill a show with! You’ll see everyone from The Atom to Elongated Man. Because this is a full-blown, all-star take on these characters, each character can shine their brightest. When you get Superman, you get the best of Superman. Wonder Woman? The best of Wonder Woman. B’wana Beast? Uh… well, I guess this is the best he’s ever been.MV5BMjIwOTMxMzk2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTU5ODM2MjE@._V1_The surplus of great characters is fun, but what really sells the show are the stories. Or, more specifically, story. No doubt borrowing a page from the work of Joss Whedon – showrunner Bruce Timm admits in a commentary that Whedon was a big influence – these episodes highlight a large and complex season-spanning plot that actually has meaning in today’s world. This is certainly the most mature and thoughtful storytelling you’re likely to get from a cartoon of this type. What elevates the show from great to brilliant is its ability to tell stories that are exciting and also manage to propel the larger narrative forward. For example, Dark Heart – penned by famous comic book scribe Warren Ellis – manages to mix a great science fiction plot (a self-replicating AI) with humor (Wonder Woman, needing both hands to fight, rests The Atom in a very interesting holding place) and its plot still manages to play a part later on down the road in the season’s climax.MV5BMjAwMTU4NDI0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIwOTM2MjE@._V1_The writing is the best the show has ever seen, no doubt a result of staff writer Dwayne McDuffie coming into his own; his versatility with the characters is fantastic. Comic book writers Warren Ellis and J.M. DeMatteis join in on the fun, and new series director Joaquim Dos Santos infuses the episodes with a dynamic energy that allows the show to compete with the best of today’s cutting-edge, anime-inspired programming. It’s like the entire DC animated universe has been supercharged in the best way possible.MV5BMTk3NjM3NzI3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQwOTM2MjE@._V1_This collection contains two seasons, and both season finales are just fantastic. The Once and Future Thing is an exciting time romp (with a great Western segment) and Divided We Fall is a showstopper of epic proportions. Either finale would make for a better DVD movie than any of what has been released thus far. Then there’s Epilogue – just brilliant. It manages to tie in the entire DC animated universe – including films Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker! – and still say something meaningful about a very important character. The episode isn’t just great animation, it’s great television.MV5BMTk1MDgzMTYzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUwOTM2MjE@._V1_There really is nothing bad to say about these episodes. The new rock-inspired opening credits do ring a bit too much of cheesy ’80s electronica, but you get used to it, and, after a while, it fits. Of course, the fact remains that if you aren’t into cartoons in the first place you probably won’t be willing to hop on the bandwagon no matter how cool a series is. But if you consider animation to be a legitimate and respectable medium, then this is the pinnacle of the form.  While there are bigger and more influential cartoon shows out there – namely, comedies like The Simpsons – Justice League Unlimited is still one of the best American animated programs you’ll find. With this show the genre has been perfected – it’s fun, exciting, and thoughtful. In other words, this is exactly what superheroes should be.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD – SEASON 1-3

Image result for batman the brave and the bold logo

MAIN CAST

Diedrich Bader (Vampires Suck)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Marc Worden (Ultimate Avengers)
Grey DeLisle (The Replacements)
John Dimaggio (Futurama)
Tom Kenny (Super hero Squad)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Corey Burton (Critters)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Vyvan Pham (Generator Rex)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Mikey Kelley (TMNT)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Will Wheaton (Powers)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Loren Lester (Batman: TAS)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Jeff Bennett (James Bond Jr.)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Ellen Greene (Pushing Daisies)
Armin Shimmerman (Star Trek: DS9)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Tom Everett Scott (Scream: The Series)
Billy West (Futurama)
Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover)
Paul Reubens (Gotham)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers II)
Peter Woodward (Crusade)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
James Remar (Flashforward)
Jeffrey Combs (Gothman)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
William Katt (Carrie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mark Hamill (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Adam West (BAtman 60s)
Julie Newmar (Batman 60s)
Dana Delany (Body of Proof)
Tony Todd (Chuck)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and Thje X-Men)
John Wesley Shipp (The Flash)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Mae Whitman (Independence Day)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars: Revels)
John Michael Higgins (Still Waiting)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Ted McGinley (Highlander 2)
Henry Winkler (Happy Days)

There’s a gloriously meta moment in the back half of this season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold where the show’s producers are raked over the coals at Comic-Con. One of the twentysomethings in the crowd grouses and groans about how the Caped Crusader in the cartoon isn’t his Batman, and…well, he’s not wrong. DC’s comics anymore are joylessly grim and gritty…22 monthly pages of misery and scowling and torture and dismemberment and death and high collars and way too much crosshatching. Batman: The Brave and the Bold, meanwhile, is defined by its vivid colors and clean, thick linework. It’s a series whose boundless imagination and thirst for high adventure make you feel like a six year old again, all wide-eyed and grinning ear to ear.


You know all about The Dark Knight’s war on crime, and in The Brave and the Bold , he’ll duke it out against any badnik, anywhere. He doesn’t go it alone, either, with every episode pairing Batman up with at least one other DC superhero. Heck, to keep it interesting, The Brave and the Bold shies away from the obvious choices like Superman and Wonder Woman. Instead, you get more interesting team-ups like Blue Beetle (more than one, even!), Elongated Man, Wildcat, Mister Miracle, Kamandi, and B’wana Beast.
Other animated incarnations of Batman have been rooted in something close enough to reality. Sure, you might have androids and the occasional Man-Bat, but they tried to veer away from anything too fantastic. The Brave and tbe Bold has free reign to do just about whatever it wants. One week, maybe you’ll get an adventure in the far-flung reaches of space with a bunch of blobby alien amoebas who mistake Batman for Blue Beetle’s sidekick. The next might offer up Tolkien-esque high fantasy with dragons and dark sorcery. Later on, Aquaman and The Atom could play Fantastic Voyage inside Batman’s bloodstream, all while the Caped Crusader is swimming around in a thirty-story walking pile of toxic waste. He could be in a Western or a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a capes-and-cowls musical or even investigate a series of grisly something-or-anothers alongside Sherlock Holmes in Victorian England.

Batman has markedly different relationships with every one of those masked heroes. There’s the gadget geekery with an earlier incarnation of the Blue Beetle. With the younger, greener-but-still-blue Beetle, Batman takes on more of a mentor role.

More of a stern paternal figure for Plastic Man, and a rival for Green Arrow. Sometime it might not even be the most pleasant dynamic, such as a decidedly adult Robin who doesn’t feel like he can fully step outside the long shadow that Batman casts.

There are some really unique takes on iconic (and not so iconic!) DC superheroes here, and far and away the standout is Aquaman. This barrel-chested, adventure-loving braggart is my favorite incarnation of the king of the seven seas, and if Aquaman ever scores a cartoon of his own, I hope he looks and acts a lot like this. Oh, and The Brave and the Bold does a spectacular job mining DC’s longboxes for villains too, and along with some of the familiar favorites, you get a chance to boo and hiss at the likes of Kanjar Ro, The Sportsmaster, Kite Man, Gentleman Ghost, Chemo, Calendar ManKing, Crazy Quilt, and Shrapnel. The Brave and the Bold delivers its own versions of Toyman, Vandal Savage, and Libra while it’s at it, the latter of whom has the closest thing to a season arc that the series inches towards.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is every bit as fun and thrilling as you’d expect from a series where every episode’s title ends with an exclamation point. Each installment is fat-packed with action, and the series has a knack for piling it on in ways I never saw coming. Even with as imaginative and off-the-walls as The Brave and the Bold can get, it still sticks to its own internal logic, so the numerous twists, turns, and surprises are all very much earned.

The majority of the episodes have a cold open not related to the remainder of the episode. Despite its episodic nature, if you’re expecting a big storyline in these 26 episodes, you’re going to be pretty disappointed as the extent of an overarching story in the season is the occasional villain that appears more than once, like Starro, but that’s really the only connecting bridge between episodes.

Season 2 contains one of my favorite episodes of not only this particular season, but probably in the entire series, “Chill of the Night!”, which goes back to Batman’s origins as Bruce Wayne learns more about the man who murdered his parents, turning him into the crime-fighter he would become, it’s one of the most well known origin stories in media, ever, but it’s done so well here. Another reason I love this episode is my blinding nostalgia for the voice cast.

The original 1960’s Batman, Adam West, guest stars as Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, while Julie Newmar, who starred opposite of West as Catwoman from the original Batman TV show, plays Batman’s mother, Martha Wayne. My favorite Batman of all time, theatrical or not, Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman from Batman: The Animated Series and various other series/movies/games, voices the Phantom Stranger. Lastly, the baddie of the episode, The Spectre, is voiced by none other than Mark Hamill, the definitive voice of the Joker.

The Episodes in season 3 are wildly imaginative; so much so that purists will probably be put off, at least initially. They range from “Night of the Batmen”, where batman is incapacitated and it is up to Aquaman, Green Arrow, Captain Marvel, and Plastic Man to don the cowl, and keep gotham safe. As weird as that may sound, this episode is pure fun, and a joy to watch. Other stand outs are the never before seen in the states “The Mask of Matches Malone”, “Shadow of the Bat”, “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”, and “Powerless”.

Special mention has to be made of the final episode of the series however, “Mitefall”. In this meta episode, Batmite does a fantastic job breaking down why the series is ending, and the disconnect of the so-called “purists”, whose baseless, closed minded, ignorance eventually doomed this excellent series.

When all is said and done, we received three outstanding, and criminally underrated, seasons and it is a joy to see.