REVIEW: TEEN TITANS – SEASON 1-5

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Scott Menville (Full House)
Hynden Walch (Justice League War)
Khary Payton (The Walking Dead)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Greg Cipes (Anger Management)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Tom Kenny (Superhero Squad)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Tracey Walter (Conan The Destroyer)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dave Coulier (Full House)
Wil Wheaton (Powers)
Malcolm McDowell (Heroes)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass 2)
Ashley Johnson (Dollhouse)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
Thomas Haden Church (Sideways)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Henry Rollins (Wrong Turn 2)
James Hong (BLade Runner)
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh (Cosby)
Freddy Rodriguez (Ugly Betty)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Finder)
Jason Marsden (Return to The Batcave)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Judge Reinhold (Ruthless People)
Virginia Madsen (Highlander II)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)

Teen Titans centers around the five main members of the superhero team: Robin (Scott Menville), the intelligent, capable leader of the Teen Titans; Starfire (Hynden Walch), a quirky, curious alien princess from the planet Tamaran; Cyborg (Khary Payton), a half-human/half-robot who is known for his strength and technological prowess; Raven (Tara Strong), a stoic girl from the parallel world Azarath, who draws upon dark energy and psionic abilities; and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), a ditzy, good-natured joker who can transform into various animals. They are situated in Titans Tower, a large T-shaped structure featuring living quarters as well as a command center and variety of training facilities, on an island just offshore from the fictional West Coast city of Jump City.

The team deals with all manner of criminal activity and threats to the city, while dealing with their own struggles with adolescence, their mutual friendships, and their limitations. Slade, their main enemy, is a newly designed version of the DC villain Deathstroke. The team encounters several allies throughout the series; including Aqualad in the first season; Terra in the second season (who is integral to that season’s story arc), as well as Speedy, Hotspot, and Wildebeest; Bumblebee and Más y Menos in the third season (who join Aqualad, Speedy and bumblebee to form ‘Titans East’), and numerous other heroes adapted from the DC universe in the fifth season to aid in the battle against the Brotherhood of Evil.

I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from Teen Titans. The show is nothing like the Teen Titans comic books, which it is based on. It ended up being more of a kids show. The characters are quite different than their comic book counterparts.


The animation is definitely inspired by Anime. It is borrowing elements from several children’s anime. There is a emphasis on exaggerated character facial expressions, that definitely add to the charm of the show. The show isn’t shy to admit its cultural inspirations by enlisting the Japanese pop band Puffy AmiYumi to perform the catchy theme song.
Teen Titans isn’t for everyone. Overall, I quite enjoy the show. It is worth giving it a try.

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REVIEW: DEMOLITION MAN

CAST

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky)
Welsey Snipes (Blade)
Sandra Bullock (The Heat)
Nigel Hawthorne (Spiderweb)
Benjamin Bratt (Catwoman)
Denis Leary (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Rob Schneider (The Hot Chick)
Bill Cobbs (New Jack City)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Jack Black (Goosebumps)
Jesse Ventura (The Running Man)
Brandy Ledford (Andromeda)

In 1996, psychopathic career criminal Simon Phoenix kidnaps a number of hostages and takes refuge with his gang in an abandoned building. LAPD Sgt. John Spartan uses a thermal scan of the building and finds no trace of the hostages, and leads an unauthorized assault to capture Phoenix. When he is captured, Phoenix sets off a series of explosives that bring down the building, and when the police search the wreckage, they find the corpses of the hostages. Spartan is charged with 30 counts of manslaughter, and he is incarcerated along with Phoenix in the city’s new “California Cryo-Penitentiary”, where they will be cryogenically frozen (the former being sentenced to 70 years, with parole eligibility in 50). During their time “in deep freeze”, they are to be rehabilitated through subconscious conditioning.

During their incarceration, the “Great Earthquake” of 2010 leads the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara to merge into a single metropolis under the name San Angeles. The city becomes a utopia run under the pseudo-pacifist guidance and control of the evangelistic Dr. Raymond Cocteau, where human behavior is tightly controlled. In 2032, Phoenix is woken for a parole hearing, but he finds he somehow knows the access codes to the security systems, and is able to escape the prison and begins wreaking havoc on the city. The police, having not dealt with violent crime for many years, are unable to handle Phoenix and opt to wake Spartan and enlist his help. Spartan is assigned to Lieutenant Lenina Huxley to help with acclimation to the future, which he finds depressing. Others on the police force find his behavior brutish and uncivilized, though Huxley, who is fascinated by the lifestyles of the late 20th century, helps Spartan to overcome this, and the two grow close, despite the limitations on displays of public affection.

They attempt to stop Phoenix from stealing 20th century weapons from a museum display, but Phoenix manages to escape. Phoenix encounters Dr. Cocteau during his escape, and though he tries to shoot him, finds himself unable to do so. Dr. Cocteau calmly asks Phoenix to assassinate Edgar Friendly, the leader of the resistance group called the Scraps that fight against Cocteau’s rule, and allows Phoenix to bring other criminals out of cryo-sleep to help at his request. Meanwhile, Spartan and Huxley review the cryo-prison records and find that instead of the normal rehabilitation program, Phoenix had been given the information necessary for his escape by Cocteau directly. They also discover information directing Phoenix towards Friendly, and go off to warn him.  At the Scraps’ underground base, Friendly is initially distrustful but Spartan is able to convince him of the threat and takes sympathy in their cause given what he has seen above ground. When Phoenix and his gang attack, Spartan and the Scraps ward off the attack, leading to a car chase between Spartan and Phoenix. During the chase, Phoenix taunts Spartan by revealing that he had killed the hostages before Spartan had arrived in 1996. Phoenix escapes while Spartan comes to terms that he had been wrongly charged with the crime. Meanwhile, Friendly and the Scraps work with the police to try to help stop Phoenix and his gang of cryo-cons.

Phoenix returns to Dr. Cocteau with his gang, and as the rehabilitation programming prevents him from killing Cocteau, orders one of his gang to do so. Spartan and Huxley arrive soon after, finding that Phoenix has already left to release more prisoners. Spartan enters the prison alone to fight Phoenix, engages in a violent fight that ravages the facility, and eventually uses the cryogenic chemical to freeze Phoenix before shattering him. Spartan escapes the prison before it explodes and regroups with the police and the Scraps. The police fear the loss of Cocteau will send their society into a downward spiral, but Spartan suggests that they and the Scraps work together to recreate a society that returns some of the personal freedoms that were lost. He then kisses Huxley and the two go off together.Demolition Man is brilliant action packed movie, just what you would expect from a Stallone, or even a Wesley Snipes movie. A treat for fans of both stars or just action and/or sci-fi fans in general and with just the right mixture of comedy and action i highly recommend it to all!

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

CAST (VOICES)

Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride)
Catherine O’ Hara (Beetlejuice)
William Hickey (Puppet Master)
Glenn Shadix (Fast Sofa)
Paul Reubens (Batman Returns)
The story starts in a forest called Holiday Woods with seven trees containing doors leading to towns representing various holidays: Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween and Independence Day. Halloween Town is a fantasy world filled with citizens such as deformed monsters, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves and witches. Jack Skellington, a skeleton known as The Pumpkin King, leads them in organizing the annual Halloween holiday. However, in a monologue, Jack reveals he has grown weary of the same routine year after year, and wants something more. Wandering dejectedly in the woods, he stumbles across the seven holiday doors and accidentally opens a portal to Christmas Town, whose residents are charged with organizing the annual Christmas holiday. Impressed by the bright and cheery feeling and style of Christmas, Jack presents his findings and his understanding of Christmas, to the Halloween Town residents. However, they fail to grasp his meaning and compare everything to their ideas of Halloween, although there is one Christmas character they can relate to: the fearsome lobster-like king of Christmas Town who flies at night, named “Sandy Claws”. Jack is dismayed that no one understands the feeling of Christmas, obsessively tries to study the holiday but fails to grasp any further explanation of it. He ultimately decides that it’s unfair for Christmas town alone to enjoy the feeling and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to, and announces that the citizens of Halloween Town will take over Christmas this year.
Jack’s obsession with Christmas leads him to usurp the role of Santa. Every resident is assigned a task, while Sally, a beautiful rag doll woman created by the town’s mad scientist, starts falling in love with Jack. However, after a vision of a burning Christmas tree, she alone realizes that his plans to run Christmas will become disastrous, but has no luck convincing him. Jack assigns Lock, Shock and Barrel, a trio of mischievous children, to abduct Santa and bring him back to Halloween Town. Against Jack’s wishes and largely for their amusement, the trio deliver Santa to Oogie Boogie, a gambling-addict bogeyman who plots to play a game with Santa’s life at stake.
Christmas Eve arrives and Sally attempts to stop Jack with fog, but fails to do so thanks to Jack’s ghost dog Zero and his glowing nose allowing Jack to embark into the sky on a coffin-like sleigh pulled by skeletal reindeer, guided by Zero. Down on the ground, Sally prays that her premonition does not come true. Jack begins to deliver presents to children around the world, but the gifts (shrunken heads, Christmas tree-eating snakes, pumpkin jack-in-the-boxes, vampire teddy bears, toy ducks with sharp teeth, living wreaths, etc.) only terrify the recipients. The children alert their parents, who call the police, who call the military. The air raid siren is activated, and Jack is spotted with search lights, after which he is then shot at by air raid artillery cannons. Initially mistaking the firing for a celebration, he simply flies higher. However, after a reindeer is hit, and his sleigh is grazed, he realizes that he is being targeted, but the next cannon destroys the sleigh, and Jack falls from the sky to Earth, devastating Halloween Town’s citizens. Thought to have been dead by the attack, Jack crash-lands in a cemetery unharmed. Although he is depressed by the failure of his plan, he quickly regains his old spirit, having come up with new ideas for next Halloween. He then rushes back home to rescue Santa and put things right.
Meanwhile, Sally attempts to free Santa, but is captured by Oogie. Jack slips into the lair and frees them, then angrily confronts Oogie. Almost immediately, Oogie springs several traps on Jack, who manages to dodge them, and Oogie attempts to flee. However, Jack pulls one of Oogie’s loose threads, revealing him to be nothing more than a collection of snakes and insects, which are all incinerated, save for the last one, which Santa squashes with his boot. Jack apologizes to Santa for his actions, and Santa, while still annoyed with Jack, assures him that he can fix things, and leaves to deliver the right presents to the world’s children.
After Jack returns to Halloween Town, the townspeople celebrate that he’s alive, and Santa, after fixing Christmas, returns and makes snow fall over Halloween Town in reconciliation between himself and Jack. The townspeople are confused by the snow at first, but soon begin to play happily in it, finally realizing what Christmas is about. Jack spies Sally heading to the graveyard, and follows her. Atop the graveyard’s big hill, Jack admits that he reciprocates Sally’s romantic feelings for him, and they declare their new found love, and embrace on the hill.
The gothic style of this excellent film has that trademark Tim Burton feel to it, his story is brought to life by animation fan Henry Selick who directs this gloriously dark tale of the pumpkin king who becomes disillusioned by the yearly monotony of Halloween and decides to have a go at running Christmas instead. A Christmas classic.

REVIEW: PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

CAST
Mark Wahlberg (The Perfect Storm)
Helena Bonham Carter (Dark Shadows)
Tim Roth (Lie To Me)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Scorpion King)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Estella Warren (I Accuse)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Elektra)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2)
Kris Kristofferson (Blade)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes Original)
Evan Parke (Alias)
Glenn Shadix (Hercules: TLJ)
Linda Harrison (60s Batman)
Melody Perkins (Power Rangers In Space)
Martin Klebba (Project X)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)
In 2029, aboard the United States Air Force space station Oberon, Leo Davidson works closely with primates who are trained for space missions. His favorite simian co-worker is a chimpanzee named Pericles. With a deadly electromagnetic storm approaching the station, a small space pod piloted by Pericles is used to probe the storm. Pericles’s pod heads into the storm and disappears. Against his commanding officer’s orders, Leo takes a second pod and goes in pursuit of Pericles. Entering the storm, Leo loses contact with the Oberon and crashes on a planet called Ashlar in the year 5021. He discovers that the world is ruled by humanoid apes who can speak human language and treat human beings as slaves.
Leo comes across a female chimpanzee named Ari, who protests the awful treatment humans receive. Ari decides to buy Leo and a female slave named Daena to have them work as servants in the house of her father, Senator Sandar. Leo escapes his cage and frees other humans. Ari sees them, but Leo convinces her to join a human rebellion against the apes. General Thade and Colonel Attar march ape warriors in pursuit of the humans. Leo discovers Calima (the temple of “Semos”), a forbidden, but holy, site for the apes.
Calima turns out to be the remains of the Oberon, Leo’s space station, which has crashed on the planet’s surface and looks ancient (the name Calima coming from the sign “CAution LIve aniMAls”, the relevant letters being the only ones not covered in dust). According to the computer logs, the station has been there for thousands of years. Leo deduces that when he entered the vortex he was pushed forward in time, while the Oberon, searching after him, was not, crashing on the planet long before he did.
The Oberon‍ ’s log reveals that the apes on board, led by Semos, organized a mutiny and took control of the vessel after it crashed. The human and ape survivors of the struggle left the ship and their descendants are the people Leo has encountered since landing. In the present, a battle ensues between the humans and the apes. A familiar vehicle descends from the sky and is identified immediately by Leo as the pod piloted by Pericles, the chimpanzee astronaut. Pericles was pushed forward in time as Leo was, and had just now found his way to the planet. When Pericles lands, the apes interpret his landing as the return arrival of Semos, the first ape, who is their god. They bow, and hostilities between humans and apes disappear.
Pericles then runs into the Oberon and Leo runs after him, followed by General Thade. Inside, Thade and Leo fight, with Pericles trying to help Leo, only to be thrown hard against a wall. Thade gets hold of Leo’s gun, but does not understand how to use it at first. Seeing that Thade is in the pilot’s deck, Leo closes the automatic door of the entrance, trapping Thade as he shoots the gun, the bullets ricocheting off the door harmlessly. Thade thrashes around to escape, but after all attempts to do so fail, he finally gives up. Leo then decides that it is time for him to leave the Planet of the Apes, so he gives Pericles to Ari, with her promising to look after him, also saying farewell to Daena. Leo climbs aboard Pericles’s undamaged pod and uses it to travel back in time through the same electromagnetic storm. Leo ends up crashing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Earth. He looks up at the Memorial, and sees it is now a monument in honor of General Thade. A swarm of police officers, firefighters, and news reporters descend on Leo, but on closer inspection, they are all apes.
This is a remake which managed to outdo all the production values of the previous ‘Apes’ films, but ended up with a film which feels like it was made for a straight-to-TV. We all make mistakes, and this one was was Tim Burton’s. There was no reason to remake what was (and is) a classic film.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 1-2

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CAST (VOICES)

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Killing Joke)
George Newbern (Superman/Shazam)
Susan Eisenberg (Justice League: Doom)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals Barrera (Camp Rock)

Image result for justice league unlimitedRECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives)
Mike Farrell (Vanishing Act)
Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Dakota Fanning (Taken)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Patrick Bauchau (Panic Room)
Michael York (Logans Run)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Robert Foxworth (Syriana)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Billy West (Futurama)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
John C. McGinley (Highlander II)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Grey DeLisle (The Replacements)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Michael Beach (The Abyss)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Ben Browder (Farscape)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters 2)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Nestor Carbonell (The Dark Knight)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Denis Farina (Get Shorty)
Virginia Maden (Sideways)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clark)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: DS9)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: DS9)
Juliet Landau (Buffy)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Jason Bateman (The Ex)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Nathan Fillion (Slither)
Elizabeth Pena (The Incredibles)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Robert Forster (Dragon Wars)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Powers Boothe (Agents of SHIELD)
Seymour Cassel (Rushmore)
James Remar (Flashforward)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Malcolm McDowell (Heroes)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Alexis Denisof (Dollhouse)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)

The first two seasons of Justice League were fantastic. Packed with action, humor and great storytelling the world of DC’s heroes came to life thanks to the collaborative efforts of the folks behind the rest of Warner Brothers’ successful cartoons. The show focused on the adventures of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, Hawkgirl and J’onn (the Martian Manhunter). They spent most of their time fighting established villains and trying to save the world from impending doom as you’d expect. When Justice League Unlimited (the show’s sequel series) was released it shook up the formula a bit and quite frankly, really felt like a new show.


The reason behind this different atmosphere was the change in the cast. The main seven characters were still kicking around but their ranks had swelled since the end of the original series. The basic premise was that the Justice League felt they could do better with more members. Many hands make light work and all that. Therefore anyone with superpowers that could do some good was offered a spot on the team.

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Not every character gets their chance in the spotlight but it certainly fleshed out the show with some of DC’s more obscure characters. Most of these episodes focus on the original characters though many of the rookies become involved in the storytelling. Being a longtime comic book fan, seeing more of these characters was definitely a thrill. Getting Green Arrow added to the ranks was probably the best addition to the show in my opinion, but Supergirl, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Black Canary and The Question definitely helped round things out. In all more characters were added to the series than the show actually featured so you can imagine the insanity that ensues. Many of these characters do get washed out thanks to the lack of coverage, but it’s not handled to the point that they become obscure or disrupt the quality of the show.

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There  are several episodes that made an impression on me. “Fearful Symmetry” was a very solid story that told a tale about Supergirl and really fleshed out her character. In it she is basically cloned and begins to have dreams that mirror the actions of her sinister clone. Green Arrow and Question get involved in order to help her out and we got to see some interesting facets of the DC Universe.


For my money “The Greatest Story Never Told” was probably my favorite episode. It doesn’t have a lot to do with anything and it’s a fairly weak story but it features Booster Gold as its main character. In case you are unfamiliar with Booster he’s basically a smartass guy from the 25th century who travels back in time for fame and fortune. He’s accompanied by a wisecracking robot named Skeets and finds himself not feeling the love from his other JLU teammates. In this episode he’s given the noble duty of crowd control while the League fights to save the world. There’s nothing particularly great about the story it’s just that I love Booster’s character and quite honestly, this episode was hilarious all around.
“Kid Stuff” was another fun episode that featured Morgan la Fey’s son getting his prissy little hands on a powerful amulet. The item makes him more powerful than his mother and he casts a spell that sends all adults to another dimension. In order to set things right Morgan turns Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern into kids so they can once again enter the world. As their younger selves the heroes start to let their juvenile side out and it’s funny to see Batman and Wonder Woman banter as if they were childhood sweethearts.

Overall Justice League Unlimited was a great show.  Any comic book fan, or viewer who enjoyed Timm’s other series, definitely owes it to themselves to check this set out. This release offers 26 episodes.


Unfortunately, as with all good things, Justice League Unlimited came to end. The show was cancelled before its time but luckily the crew was able to eek out another thirteen episodes before it went off the air. This season’s collection of superhero antics follows an episodic pattern but keeps an ongoing plot bubbling beneath the surface. The two-part adventures from the earlier sessions of Justice League went away with this season but the fact that characters reference previous episodes helps to keep everything connected.

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In the first episode of the final season of Unlimited Lex Luthor is on the run from the law after breaking out of jail. The affects of being joined with Brainiac are still being felt by him and throughout the episode you’ll often see Luthor talk to himself because he sees Brainiac standing next to him. When Gorilla Grodd offers Luthor a piece of Brainiac old baldy finds it hard to resist. He agrees to join Grodd’s Legion of Doom and work together with fellow supervillains to take down the Justice League. This set up continues throughout the season and you’ll find bits and pieces of it in each of the thirteen episodes.

In the second episode of this season the shadow of the Thanagarian conflict lingers as an archaeologist discovers something an Egypt. Shayera (Hawkgirl) is lured there by Carter Hall who tries to convince her that he is Hawkman. This was a nice throwback to the prior season and early Hawkman comic books but was certainly not the best episode in the set.

One of my favorite episodes from his collection easily has to be “Flash and Substance”. Four villains from Flash’s past team up to take down the red blur and they plan on doing it on the opening night of his new museum. Batman and Orion tag along with Flash in order to ensure that he’s ok. The writing in this particular episode was easily the funniest that Justice League ever produced. I particularly enjoyed the villains all sitting around the table at a dive bar talking about making their mortgage payments and whatnot.


Anyone who has ever considered themselves to be a comic book fan at some point in their lives will find something to love about Justice League Unlimited. From the very first season through the last of Unlimited the series offered quality unlike any other. This is a definitive comic book cartoon and stands shoulder to shoulder with WB’s Superman and Batman animated adventures. If you have been collecting the show to date then you’ll be pleased to know that the thirteen episodes featured here are as good, if not better in some cases, as what came before it.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 1-5

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 MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Rino Romano (Get Him To The Greek)
Alastair Duncan (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Danielle Judovits (Naruto)
Evan Sabara (The Polar Express)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Jesse Corti (Bringing Down The House)
Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files)
Adam West (Batman 60s)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Joaquim de Almeida (Fast & Furious 5)
Amanda Anka (Lost Highway)
Diedrich Bader (Batman: TBATB)
Jeff Bennett (Porco Rosso)
Victor Brandt (The Head Mistress)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Piera Coppola (Phineas and Ferb)
Jim Cummings (Ben 10)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Jack DeSena (JLA Adventures)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Greg Ellis (Dr. Dolittle 5)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Dave Foley (Monkeybone)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Gina Gershon (Bound)
Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty)
Frank Gorshin (Batman 60s)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Enemy Mine)
Kevin Grevioux (Cradle 2 The Grave)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Chris Hardwick (Halloween II)
Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket)
Tom Kenny (The Powerpuff Girls)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Lex Lang (Power Rangers Turbo)
Wallace Langham (Daddy Day Care)
John Larroquette (Chuck)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Ian Abercromdie (Birds of Prey)
Kellie Martin (Army Wives)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Michael Massee (Flashforward)
Dermot Mulroney (New Girl)
George Newbern (Justice League)
Jerry O’ Connell (Superman/Shazam)
Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
James Remar (The Vampire Diaries)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Allison Mack (Smallville)
Charlie Schlatter (Batman Unlimited)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Hynden Walch (Teen Titans)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Gwendoline Yeo (Vacancy 2)

 

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

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

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

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

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

With this season, the producers opted to play mix-and-match with baddies: Catwoman and Ragdoll, Catwoman and Penguin, Penguin and Man-Bat, Penguin and Joker, Penguin and Joker and Riddler, Mr. Freeze and Firefly.  The Catwoman episodes work much better; the series’ take on the Selina Kyle character is as refreshing as has ever been in the decades of Batman tales. She’s one of the few multifaceted characters in this uncomplicated series, working somewhere between heroine and villainess, assisted by clever writing and a commendable vocal performance from Gina Gershon.

Other episodes manage to shake the series’ problems and find a sturdy balance between fast-paced action and inventive plotting. The introductory adventure with the Riddler (here designed as some sort of Marilyn Manson wannabe) makes for a rollicking quest; an episode that takes Batman literally into the mind of the Joker allows for a fresh take on some overly well-worn cartoon material; a sinister Halloween tale about “swamp zombie” Solomon Grundy’s mythic return makes for ripping holiday viewing. These episodes all show the grand potential of this series. Consider the season’s best episode, “Meltdown,” which provides a return for Clay Face, last seen in season one’s finale. There’s a lot that happens in this episode character-wise, all of it both thrilling and quite emotionally touching.

In order to make the show more friendly to the notion of reruns, the producers avoid any serious episode-to-episode continuity. Instead, we see ideas that slowly grow – Detective Bennett’s evolution as a character in season one (and slightly in season two), Detective Yin’s secret partnership with Batman in season two – in tiny chunks over the course of a dozen or so episodes. The good news is that these seemingly unimportant arcs do get a payoff in the season finales. In its favor, the series does showcase some incredible animation; “The Batman” remains a genuine treat for the eyes.

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.

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 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.
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.

Few animated TV shows have improved as greatly and as rapidly as much as “The Batman.” When the program debuted on the Kids WB! network in 2004, it was a reboot of the franchise, and while repeat viewings did help the show’s more radical changes become acceptable to lifelong fans of the character, it still never quite hit the heights of the 1990s’ “Batman: The Animated Series,” deemed by most as the definitive presentation of the hero.

The season opens with the introduction of Robin, the Boy Wonder. Series producers took a brave risk the season prior by breaking from the continuity of the Batman mythology and bringing in Batgirl as a sidekick first; the official reason given is that Robin was tied up on the “Teen Titans” cartoon, but the switcheroo seems to go beyond that, as it led to a shakeup that helped breathe new life into the franchise.

Perhaps to counterbalance such changes, the season premiere strays very little from the established Robin backstory: young Dick Grayson (seen here at around age 10 or 11, unlike several other incarnations that aged him slightly) is the son of a successful circus act. Here, Dick’s father also runs the circus, so he’s directly responsible for shooing away the thugs that show up one night for a little extortion. Batman arrives to thwart the baddies, but they return to sabotage the trapeze. The Graysons are killed mid-performance, and Bruce Wayne, seeing a parallel with his own history, takes Dick in as a foster son. Dick later discovers the Batcave, dons his old circus outfit, and sets out to capture the mobsters; by episode’s end, he’s properly christened as Robin.

It’s interesting to note that every time this legend is retold, its writers find new ways of infusing some modern day logic into the proceedings. Like Dick’s circus costume, which now comes right off the bat with the familiar “R” crest, only for “Richard,” not “Robin.” He later decides to use “Robin” as his superhero alter ego not in tribute to Robin Hood, or because of the goofy motorcycle helmet design from “Batman Forever,” but simply because Dick’s mom liked that nickname. It adds a bittersweet human touch to the myth that feels so natural, I’m surprised it’s never been used before. (In a nice touch, Kevin Conroy, the voice actor who played Batman in the 1990s, appears as Dick’s father. It’s a wonderful passing-the-torch moment that reminds me of when Adam West showed up on “Batman: The Animated Series” as the Grey Ghost. Also providing guest star voice work this season are Mark Hamill, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ron Perlman, James Remar, Wallace Langham, and Brandon Routh.)

Batgirl is absent from this episode (wisely so – although it’s an excellent story, it’s also pretty cluttered with characters and events). She returns in the follow-up, and there we set the stage for the rest of the season’s tone. The sidekicks spend their time bickering and trying to one-up each other, in pure brother-sister mode. It’s a fun dynamic to the show that allows Batman to remain  his moody self without forcing the series to become overly brooding. A peculiar moment regarding the sidekicks comes late in the season, when Robin pauses in the middle of a dangerous mission to ask Batgirl if she’s afraid. After some fudging between the two, she admits that she is. Not only is this a deeper, more thoughtful character moment than the series would have ever attempted a few years earlier, but it’s a startling moment of character honesty that you rarely get in a children’s adventure.

Over time the show has definitely grown and it’s safe to say that it’s come into its own. Though this may be the final season it’s definitely one of the stronger ones and in the end this is a ride any fan of the character should take. In the previous seasons of The Batman all sorts of things happened that continue to have an impact upon Gotham in this fifth outing. Batgirl was added to the roster during the third season with Dick Grayson as Robin in the fourth. Several familiar villains were brought into the fold as well but most notably the finale of the fourth season featured an alien invasion and the introduction of The Justice League. That’s right where we pick up this time around with Gotham reeling in the aftermath of the alien attack.


Destruction is everywhere and the people are in need of support. Lucky for them Superman comes to town with a massive check from Metropolis but unluckily for Superman Metallo is waiting for his chance to strike. What transpires is a team up between Batman and Superman to take down Lex Luthor who has his eyes set on Gotham. In the meantime Superman falls under Lex’s control thanks to some help from Poison Ivy and kryptonite. Naturally it’s up to Batman and Robin to stop the man of steel and there’s plenty of fighting between the DC legends.

If you have been following the series this marks Superman’s first appearance on the show and you’ll notice a trend that follows throughout this year. The previous season’s introduction of characters such as Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, and Green Lantern fleshes out The Batman’s roster somewhat and really gives is a Justice League feel.

This season is very entertaining even though the focus shifts from Batman and his universe. At this point in The Batman’s run the creative cast definitely had it going on but you can tell that even in the final moments they were experimenting. I see what the producers were aiming to do with this season and for all intents and purposes it is successful.

REVIEW: HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS – SEASON 1-6

 


MAIN CAST

Kevin Sorbo (Julia X)
Michael Hurst (Bitch Slap)

 

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Clare Carey (Stargate SG.1)
Elizabeth Hawthorne (Cleopatra 2525)
Tawny Kitaen (Witchboard)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Kim Michalis (Jack of All Trades)
John Sumner (Power Rangers Dino Charge)
Norman Forsey (Lord of The Rings)
Bruce Allpress (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Todd Rippon (King Kong)
Peter Muller (Step Dave)
Kelson Henderson (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Mark Ferguson (Power Rangers operation Overdrive)
Lisa Chappell (Coffin Rock)
Lucy Liu (Kill Bill)
Lucy Lawless (Ash Vs Evil Dead)
Alison Bruce (Young Hercules)
Jeffrey Thomas (The Hobbit)
Erik Thomson (All Saints)
Reb Brown (Captain America 70s)
Robert Trebor (Universal Soldier)
Tony Todd (Chuck)
Matthew Chamberlain (Avatar)
Dean O’ Gorman (The Hobbit)
Peter Daube (Traffic Island)
Anthony Ray Parker (The Matrix)
Nathaniel Lees (Young Hercules)
Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead)
Kevin Smith (Jubilee)
Liddy Holloway (Without a Paddle)
Simone Kessell (San Andreas)
Simon Prast (Filthy Rich)
Brian Thompson (Hired To Kill)
Bruce Phillips (The Lovely Bones)
Martin Kove (The Karate Kid)
Rose McIver (Izombie)
Paul Norell (Power Rangers SPD)
Teresa Hill (Cruel Intentions 2)
Stig Eldred (Dick Tracy)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Bridget Hoffman (Frozen)
Jed Brophy (District 9)
Karen Sheperd (Cyborg 2)
Latham Gaines (Power Rangers Dino Thunder)
Willa O’Neill (The Price of Milk)
Audie England (Free Enterprise)
Bruce Hopkins (Housebound)
Corinna Everson (Natural Born KIllers)
Jason Hoyte (Nothing Trivial)
Alexandra Tydings (The Sunchaser)
Stephen Tozer (Trial Run)
Marton Csokas (XXX)
Josephine Davison (Power Rangers SPD)
Joel Tobeck (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Lisa Ann Hadley (Infested)
Paul Gittins (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Ashley Laurence (Hellraiser)
Owen Black (Netherwood)
Jeremy Roberts (The Mask)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Julian Garner (Home and Away)
Galyn Gorg (Robocop 2)
Cynthia Rothrock (Undefeatable)
Grant Heslov (True Lies)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Sam Sorbo (Andromeda)
Rene Naufahu (Power Rangers Samurai)
Catherine Bell (Bruce Almighty)
Hudson Leick (Tru Calling)
Ted Raimi (Spider-Man)
Renee O’Connor (Boogeyman 2)
Peter Vere-Jones (Bad Taste)
Amber Sainsbury (Hex)
Danielle Cormack (Xena)
Kara Zediker (Rock Star)
Grant McFarland (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Lindsey Ginter (S.W.A.T.)
Ian Bohen (Pearl Harbor)
Claudia Black (Farscape)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Kimberly Joseph (Lost)
Meighan Desmond (When Love Comes)
Alistair Browning (Vertical Limit)
Katrina Browne (Young Hercules)
Stuart Devenie (Jack of All Trades)
David Weatherley (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Jacinda Barrett (The Last Kiss)
Peter McCauley (The Lost World)
Lacey Kohl (Two Guys and a Girl)
Amy Morrison (Jack of All Trades)
Christopher Graham (Power Rangers Mystic Force)
Roy Dotrice (Hellboy 2)
Chris Conrad (Young Hercules)
Scott Michaelson (Sabrina Down Under)
James Gaylyn (Power Rangers RPM)
Antonio Te Maioha (Spartacus)
Tamara Gorski (Angel)
George Henare (The Dead Lands)
Geoff Dolan (Power Rangers Megaforce)
Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March)
Susan Brady (Without a Paddle)
Jodie Rimmer (Filthy Rich)
Angela Marie Dotchin (Jack of All Trades)
Neill Rea (The Warrior’s Way)
Stephen Lovatt (Cleopatara 2525)
Traci Lords (First Wave)

Shows based on ancient mythology have been common over the years, both in the written form and other media. The myths were a way for people to deal with the uncertainties of their lives, much like religions help people today. Nearly ten years ago a television show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, became the latest in this long line of tributes to age-old stories, albeit with a certain modern flair. The show didn’t stick very close to the original material and updated the language, mannerisms, and sensibilities in order to make the legendary strongman more palatable to modern audiences. After all, there wouldn’t be a big market for a show centered on a demi-god that rapes women, enslaves them, killed his family, and solved problems with brute strength alone No, this was a kinder, gentler guy who was as politically correct as anyone coming out of a Southern California ACLU meeting. The series itself started off with this little monologue: “This is the story of a time long ago. A time of myth and legend, when the ancient gods were petty and cruel, and they plagued mankind with suffering. Only one man dared to challenge their power, Hercules. Hercules possessed a strength the world had never seen, a strength surpassed only by the power of his heart. He journeyed the Earth, battling the minions of his wicked stepmother, Hera, the all-powerful Queen of the gods. But wherever there was evil, wherever an innocent would suffer, there would be Hercules.”

The show started off with a series of five made-for-television movies, most likely designed to test the readiness of the market for a series, and it did so well that the series was made as a mid-season replacement. Hercules was shown as a kind, compassionate man who never took advantage of others using his strength. He assisted people in need, usually people that were victims of the gods or other supernatural forces, since he felt a sense of obligation to do so. His father was Zeus, the king of the gods, and his mother a regular human, so he was caught between both worlds. His step mother, Hera (Zeus’ wife) was always attempting to kill Hercules using whatever means necessary, and this led to a lot of people getting hurt because they were pawns in the epic struggle between these two powerful forces.

As one of the most popular shows in syndication history, the show was somewhat preachy in terms of morality, but a fun ride on the camp wagon, if you catch my drift. After season one, a spin off series, Xena: Warrior Princess, found a huge audience and both shows had large followings (Xena was a bit darker most of the time, but that was in line with the character’s past), outlasting all the critics predictions about the campy, quirky humor used to draw in audiences all over the world.

The show’s strong point was that it never took itself too seriously, even when preaching the virtues of friendship, loyalty, tolerance, and justice. The ladies would appreciate seeing Kevin Sorbo prancing around in tight leather pants with loose or non-existent shirts, getting all hot and sweaty while there was also plenty of eye candy for the guys (Cory Everson’s cleavage and ass come to mind that there was a whole lot more as well). The special effects were cheesy, as was much of the writing but it was all good fun without too much thinking needed to appreciate the situational aspects of the show. Season One established the basic characters and situations they’d get in and later seasons would get lighter in terms of what happened more often than not. The movies themselves were slightly different than the weekly episodes in how Hercules wasn’t quite as refined in them.

 

The second season was where the show really got its stride. The darkness of Season One was excised and sent over to the new Xena: Warrior Princess show and almost all of the shows displayed a lighter tone. There was still the fighting and conflict, still special effects all the time, and still the silly banter (especially in the episodes with Bruce Campbell and Robert Trebor) you’d expect of the tongue in cheek show.

 

 

In season 3, the tales of Hercules as depicted by producers Robert Taper, Christian Williams, Sam Raimi, and a horde of writers produce some of the episodes of the series. Perhaps the most exciting and entertaining episode of season 3, “The End of the Beginning”, features the return of Autolycus, the King of Thieves (Bruce Campbell). Autolycus manages to still the Chronos gemstone, a device that gives the holder the ability to manipulate the strands of time! In this episode Hercules chases Autolycus into the past, where they get stuck. In order to return to the future (the present), Autolycus must team up with a five year younger version of himself and steal the Chronos gemstone again. There are also a few comical Army of Darkness references.

The biggest highlight was the Golden Hind Trilogy showing Hercules falling in love Serena (Sam Jenkins) a creature Half Human, Half Deer. It also brought him into conflict with Ares (Kevin Smith). This will always remain one of my all time favorites as it also includes guest appearances with Xena (Lucy Lawless) and Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor).

 

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Season Four was the season where Kevin Sorbo was ill, episodes had to be created around him not being there.These included using Young Hercules (Ian Bohen) flashbacks, bringing back Autolycus (Bruce Campbell) & Salmoneus (Robert Trebor) to showcase episodes. the most strangest of all would be the introduction of Widow Twanky (Michael Hurst) A Dance Tutor who helps Hercules learn to dance. the Dahak storyline from Xena also crossed over in the excellent  Armageddon Now. We also get to see an alternate Hercules in the brilliant Stranger in The Strange World. Season four despite Kevin Sorbo’s illness Season four still turned out to be a great season.

 

The majority of the episodes in season five are used to tell one story. It follows one central theme, where Hercules undergoes a dramatic life changing event and doesn’t end up the same person. After the death of a very close friend, he loses his desire to help others. Instead, Hercules broods and his character becomes slightly dark. This approach holds great intrigue, because it isn’t everyday that we get to see the overly altruistic hero in a dark fashion. This season is stranger for it. It finally brings closure to the Dahak story.

Iolaus_as_Dahak

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: Season 6, the swan song of the show on television. It only had 8 episodes and served to finish the long run with some decent shows. The main highlight of the season is the finale, Full Circle which sees the return of Zeus and Hera. also featuring the Titans. The episode brings nice closure to a great series.  Hercules would also return in the Xena (Season 5) episode God Fearing Child, after that this would be the last time we would see the Hercules and Iolaus. This show will always remain one of my all time favorite shows and i’m glad to have it on DVD.