REVIEW: THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Charlie Adler (Wall-e)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and the X-Men)
Dave Boat (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck)
Grey DeLisle (The Fairly Oddparents)
Mikey Kelley (Gravity Falls)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Travis Willingham (Dragon Ball Z)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
John Barrowman (Arrow)
A.J. Buckley (Disturbing Behavior)
Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Taye Diggs (Private Practice)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Suisan Eisenberg (Justice League)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Nika Futterman (Futurama)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth)
Josh Keaton (Justice League: Gods and Monsters)
Wayne Knight (3rd rock from The Sun)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Phil LaMar (Free Enterprise)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Marsters (Smallville)
Jennifer Morrison (Urban Legends 2)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: TLJ)
Ray Stevenson (Divergent)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Michelle Trachtenberg (17 again)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Jim Ward (Danny Phantom)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)

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When I saw a preview of The Super Hero Squad Show back in February of 2009, I thought it looked pretty interesting, but certainly aimed at the kiddies, and as it aired on Cartoon Network, I never saw an episode. In fact, I forgot all about it, and when I got my hands on this disc, I thought it was an animated take on the old Fisher-Price Marvel kiddie figures. So I had no expectations coming in. Well, my only expectation being that it would be bad. So it was with a good deal of shock that I found it to be a pretty entertaining action-comedy series, if you don’t mind the cheese-level of many of the jokes.MV5BMTY4MzMzMzM2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE2OTc3MjE@._V1_The Super Hero Squad (sort of a loose version of the Avengers) is made up of an assortment of Marvel heroes, including Iron Man (as the leader), Captain America (who provides aid on a regular basis), Wolverine (adding the X-Men’s popularity,) The Hulk, Thor, a spacey surfer-dude version of the Silver Surfer, and Falcon (obviously added to bring some diversity.) Joining them is the mostly unknown Reptil (a dinosaur-powered bit player from the Avengers comics) who is both a young guy and Hispanic, helping fill out the P.C. scorecard a bit more and give younger viewers a stand-in.  They go up against Doctor Doom and his legion of bad guys (and ineffective henchmen), as he searches for the Infinity fractals, shards of the Infinity Sword (which seems connected to the Infinity Gems of the Infinity Gauntlet. Infinity.)MV5BMTUwMzc1OTEzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjU3MDg3MjE@._V1_Though the storylines are pretty solid and offer big action-packed battles, the bulk of the show is comedy, with the character’s out-sized personalities carrying the jokes, be it Thor’s overwhelming concern about his appearance or Captain America being stuck in the ’40s. Maybe I don’t give kids a lot of credit, but I can see a large portion of these gags flying over their heads, which will make the show far more enjoyable for adults than one would have expected. There was more than one joke that got a genuine laugh out of me, though many of them rely on bodily functions or pratfalls for the punchline. The wordplay and character-generated jokes are much more entertaining and fun, especially Thor’s Asgardian versions of modern language, the Silver Surfer’s alien view of Earth life, and anything involving the always-ridiculous floating head known as M.O.D.O.K. (voiced hilariously by Tom Kenny.) One joke about the Hulk swallowing a yo-yo is technically genius. The only thing about the show that doesn’t really work is Reptil, who feels like the Poochie of the show, coming off as a bone tossed to kids, with his dino-focused power, youthful role and extreme behavior.MV5BNzQ1MjI0NzUzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk1OTc3MjE@._V1_This version of the Marvel Universe smartly keeps the same look for its characters, giving long-time Marvel fans an in for the series, but presents them in a super-deformed style (squat bodies, large heads and feet, four fingers) that’s kid-cartoon friendly and which easily separates it from any other version of the Universe you’ve ever seen. That way, there are no issues with continuity or previous incarnations, and the show can be enjoyed on its own merits (allowing them to do something like make Dr. Strange a complete lunatic.) That’s a good thing, because the show is loaded to the gills with fan-service goodies, like the episode titles (which reference famous comic titles) and title cards which replicate memorable cover art. The show also pulls characters from the depths of the Marvel roster, like Screaming Mimi and the Melter, and having silly cartoon fun with them. Taken simply as a silly, almost What The–?! treatment of the characters, it’s well worth a look for comic-book fans out of grade school.MV5BMjM1ODQ2NDUxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjk1OTc3MjE@._V1_On a non-story note, the theme song, provided by Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder, is an energetic blast, while the voice cast for this series has to be one of the best for a non-prime time animated series, with tons of veterans of the cartoon industry, like Kenny, Tara Strong, Jess Harnell, Grey DeLisle, Cree Summer and Charlie Adler, along with plenty of genre stars, including Robert Englund, Tricia Helfer, Jennifer Morrison and Adrian Pasdar. It’s rare to see a show like this pull this kind of voice cast.MV5BNzQ1MjI0NzUzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk1OTc3MjE@._V1_The overall plot of the cycle will feature the villain Thanos seeking the six stones of the Infinity Gauntlet, a powerful cosmic weapon. Opposing him will be the titular Super Hero Squad, which is made up of goofball takes on Iron Man, Thor, Falcon, Wolverine, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, original character Reptil, Scarlet Witch, and sometimes Captain America. While the first two shows focus specifically on the Thanos plot, other episodes detour into one-off excursions. For instance, “World War Witch!” takes the heroes back in time to when Cap was fighting the Red Skull alongside the Invaders in WWII, while “Support Your Local Sky-Father!” pits Olympus vs. Asgard, and it features the Marvel Universe rendition of Hercules.

 

REVIEW: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Chris Evans (The Losers)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
James Spader (Stargate)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Idris Elba (acific Rim)
Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Andy Serkis (The Hobbit)
Julie Delpy (Before Sunset)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)
Henry Goodman (Yes, Prime Minister)
Claudia Kim (The Dark Tower)

MV5BMTk4MjI3NzY4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODY4NjA3._V1_In the Eastern European country of Sokovia, the Avengers – Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton – raid a Hydra facility commanded by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on humans using the scepter previously wielded by Loki. They encounter two of Strucker’s experiments – twins Pietro, who has superhuman speed, and Wanda Maximoff, who can manipulate minds and project energy – and apprehend Strucker, while Stark retrieves Loki’s scepter.MV5BMTk4NTc1NTc0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDQ4NjA3._V1_Stark and Banner discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter’s gem, and secretly use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program. The unexpectedly sentient Ultron, believing he must eradicate humanity to save Earth, eliminates Stark’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. and attacks the Avengers at their headquarters. Escaping with the scepter, Ultron uses the resources in Strucker’s Sokovia base to upgrade his rudimentary body and build an army of robot drones. Having killed Strucker, he recruits the Maximoffs, who hold Stark responsible for their parents’ deaths by his weapons, and go to the base of arms dealer Ulysses Klaue to obtain Wakandan vibranium. The Avengers attack Ultron and the Maximoffs, but Wanda subdues them with haunting visions, causing the Hulk (Banner) to rampage until Stark stops him with his anti-Hulk armor.1
MV5BMTU1NzA3OTI1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjg4NjA3._V1_A worldwide backlash over the resulting destruction, and the fears Wanda’s hallucinations incited, send the team into hiding at a safehouse. Thor departs to consult with Dr. Erik Selvig on the meaning of the apocalyptic future he saw in his hallucination, while Romanoff and Banner plan to flee together after realizing a mutual attraction. However, Nick Fury arrives and encourages the team to form a plan to stop Ultron. In Seoul, Ultron forces the team’s friend Dr. Helen Cho to use her synthetic-tissue technology, together with vibranium and the scepter’s gem, to perfect a new body for him. As Ultron uploads himself into the body, Wanda is able to read his mind; discovering his plan for human extinction, the Maximoffs turn against Ultron. Rogers, Romanoff, and Barton find Ultron and retrieve the synthetic body, but Ultron captures Romanoff.
MV5BNjczNjAzNjgwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQzMTUzMg@@._V1_The Avengers fight amongst themselves when Stark secretly uploads J.A.R.V.I.S. – who is still operational after hiding from Ultron inside the Internet – into the synthetic body. Thor returns to help activate the body, explaining that the gem on its brow – one of the six Infinity Stones, the most powerful objects in existence – was part of his vision. This “Vision” and the Maximoffs accompany the Avengers to Sokovia, where Ultron has used the remaining vibranium to build a machine to lift a large part of the capital city skyward, intending to crash it into the ground to cause global extinction. Banner rescues Romanoff, who awakens the Hulk for the battle. The Avengers fight Ultron’s army while Fury arrives in a Helicarrier with Maria Hill, James Rhodes and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to evacuate civilians. Pietro dies when he shields Barton from gunfire, and a vengeful Wanda abandons her post to destroy Ultron’s primary body, which allows one of his drones to activate the machine. The city plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the landmass. In the aftermath, the Hulk, unwilling to endanger Romanoff by being with her, departs in a Quinjet, while the Vision confronts Ultron’s last remaining body.MV5BZDRkOGQwNWItZjQ1ZC00MjU0LWJiZTUtZWIwMjZkMTdhNWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_Later, with the Avengers having established a new base run by Fury, Hill, Cho, and Selvig, Thor returns to Asgard to learn more about the forces he suspects have manipulated recent events. As Stark leaves and Barton retires, Rogers and Romanoff prepare to train new Avengers: Rhodes, the Vision, Sam Wilson, and Wanda. In a mid-credits scene, Thanos, dissatisfied by the failures of his pawns, dons a gauntlet2 and vows to retrieve the Infinity Stones himself.MV5BZmQ0YmE1MTMtYWQ2ZS00ZDNhLWIzOTctNjk4YTQ1YmQzZDZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_The Avengers: Age of Ultron is solid entertainment and best experienced on the big screen. Long-running trappings of shared movie universe storytelling remain, and the novelty of seeing iconic comic book characters together onscreen is just as impressive as it was in The Avengers.

REVIEW: AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND

 

CAST (VOICES)

Linda Ballantyne (Sailor Moon)
Tony Daniels (The Black Mirror)
Graham Harley (The Cutting Edge)
Roy Landry (The Little Bear Movie)
Hamish McEwan (Amelia)
Ron Rubin (Flying Rhino Junior High)
Martin Roach (Cube Zero)
John Stocker (Babar)
Rod Wilson (Chloe)
Lenore Zann (X-Men: TAS)

MV5BMTQxNDc0MjM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc0MDI5MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Although set in New York, this cartoon is loosely based on the Marvel comic entitled ‘Avengers West Coast’. The team roster includes founding Avengers Ant-Man and the Wasp alongside long-term members Scarlet Witch and the Vision, newer members Tigra and Falcon, plus best friends Wonder Man and Hawkeye, the latter seen in the recent film ‘Avengers Assemble’. Fellow characters and founding members Captain America and Iron Man make guest-appearances in one episode each, as does Sub-Mariner himself, Prince Namor.Although the costume changes weren’t popular with everyone, I really enjoyed team-leader Ant-Man’s new suit which featured a miniature rocket-ship worn as a backpack; when Ant-Man shrunk, he could go aboard the backpack and fly it on missions!MV5BMTg0MTk5NDIyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTYwMDQ2MjE@._V1_The stories, as you’d expect, are very child-friendly, but the relationships between the characters are subtle enough for adults to enjoy. In this series, Ant-Man and the Wasp’s marriage is portrayed as a very strong one with lots of teamwork, there’s a bit of a love triangle between Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, and when Captain America shows up, there’s a bit of friction between he and the team’s leader, Ant-Man.MV5BMTQzOTc0OTY2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTY4NTM2MjE@._V1_

All in all, I feel it’s a shame that the loose ends concerning Wonder Man’s ailments, and the evil alien gang, the Zodiac, were never resolved before the series was cancelled.

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jurassic Park)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Robert Redford (The Sting)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2)
Maximiliano Hernandex (Warriors)
Emily Vancamp (Revenge)
Hayley Atwell (The Duchess)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble0
Alan Dale (Lost)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Gary Sinise (Deception)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)
Callan Mulvey (Batman V Superman)
Jenny Agutter (Child’s Play 2)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Lost)
Evan Parke (King Kong)
Henry Goodman (The New Pope)

MV5BMTYxNTI5OTkyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTUwMDM0MTE@._V1_Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers works in Washington D.C. for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. under Director Nick Fury, while adjusting to contemporary society. Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team, led by Agent Rumlow, to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship’s computers for Fury. Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, to confront Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt the data recovered by Romanoff, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce to delay the project.MV5BMjIzODY0NzA4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODQwMDM0MTE@._V1_On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, Fury is ambushed by assailants led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes to Rogers’ apartment, and warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. After handing Rogers a flash drive containing data from the ship, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Fury dies in surgery, and Hill recovers the body. The next day, Pierce summons Rogers to the Triskelion. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the objective of making humanity willing to surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker, and realize that Pierce is Hydra’s leader within S.H.I.E.L.D.MV5BNDQzMjcwMzA0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,932,390_Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson, whom Rogers befriended, and acquire his powered “Falcon” wingpack. Deducing that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is a Hydra mole, they force him to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra’s plans. The Insight Helicarriers will sweep the globe, using satellite-guided guns to eliminate these individuals. Rogers, Romanoff, and Wilson are ambushed by the Winter Soldier, who kills Sitwell. During the fight, Rogers recognizes the Winter Soldier as Bucky Barnes, his friend who was captured and experimented upon during WWII. Hill manages to extract the trio to a safehouse where Fury, who had faked his death, is waiting with plans to sabotage the Helicarriers by replacing their controller chips.MV5BMTk0NDI5ODQwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjIwMDM0MTE@._V1._CR1,116,933,389_After the World Security Council members arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Rogers broadcasts Hydra’s plot to everyone at the Triskelion. Romanoff, disguised as one of the Council members, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public. Following a struggle, Fury kills Pierce. Meanwhile, Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controller chips, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and fights Rogers on the third. Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River. The Winter Soldier rescues the unconscious Rogers before disappearing into the woods. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and Fury, under the cover of his apparent death, heads to Eastern Europe in pursuit of Hydra’s remaining cells. Rogers and Wilson decide to find the Winter Soldier, while Rumlow, who was a double agent for Hydra, is hospitalized following the Triskelion’s destruction.MV5BMjExMDA3Nzc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMwMDM0MTE@._V1_In a mid-credits scene, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, at a Hydra lab, proclaims that the “age of miracles” has begun as scientists examine an energy-filled scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits a Bucky memorial at the Smithsonian Institution.MV5BMTQxNDc0MjM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc0MDI5MDE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Seeing Cap and Black Widow banter about his dating life,  plays on the established chemistry between Evans and Johansson, working both the humor and the inherent pathos that defines their roles. That Mackie and Redford both effortlessly slide into this established dynamic is testament to what skilled performers they are. There is also some nice continuity to having the same writers return from The First Avenger to craft its sequel. There are plenty of parallels and callbacks here. when  watched back to back, you not only get to appreciate the original more, but enjoy how they connect.