REVIEW: CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981)

CAST
Harry Hamlin (Veronica Mars)
Laurence Olivier (Spartacus)  …
Claire Bloom (The Haunting)
Maggie Smith (Harry Potter)
Ursula Andress (Dr. No)
Jack Gwillim (Patton)
Susan Fleetwood (Young Sherlock Holmes)
Pat Roach (Willow)
Judi Bowker (Sins)
Burgess Meredith (Batman 60s)
Siân Phillips (Dune)
King Acrisius of Argos (Donald Houston) imprisons his daughter Danaë (Vida Taylor), jealous of her beauty. When the god Zeus (Laurence Olivier) impregnates her, Acrisius sends his daughter and his newborn grandson Perseus to sea in a wooden chest. In retribution, Zeus kills Acrisius and orders Poseidon (Jack Gwillim) to release the last of the Titans, a gigantic sea monster called the Kraken, to destroy Argos. Meanwhile, Danaë and Perseus safely float to the island of Seriphos, where Perseus grows to adulthood.
Calibos (Neil McCarthy), son of the sea goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith), is a young man engaged to marry Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker), the daughter of Queen Cassiopeia (Siân Phillips) and heir to the rich city of Joppa; but has not only reduced the Wells of the Moons to a near-lifeless swamp, but also hunted and destroyed Zeus’s sacred flying horses (excepting only Pegasus). To punish him, Zeus transforms Calibos into a monstrous satyr and he is exiled by his people. In revenge, Thetis transports an adult Perseus (Harry Hamlin) from Seriphos to an abandoned amphitheatre in Joppa, where he is befriended by an elderly poet named Ammon (Burgess Meredith) and learns that Andromeda is under a curse and cannot marry unless her suitor successfully answers a riddle, whose failures are burned at the stake. In order to aid his son, Zeus sends Perseus a god-crafted helmet from Athena (Susan Fleetwood) which makes its wearer invisible, a magical sword from Aphrodite (Ursula Andress), and a shield from Hera (Claire Bloom). Perseus, wearing the helmet, captures Pegasus and follows Andromeda to learn the next riddle. Perseus is nearly killed by Calibos but escapes, losing his helmet in the process. He also manages to sever Calibos’ hand.
Perseus befriends Tallo and presents himself as suitor and correctly answers the riddle, presenting the severed hand of Calibos. Perseus wins Andromeda’s hand in marriage. Calibos, finding that Thetis cannot act against Perseus, instead demands that she take vengeance on Joppa. At the wedding, Queen Cassiopeia compares Andromeda’s beauty to that of Thetis herself, whereupon Thetis demands Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken on pain of Joppa’s destruction.
Perseus seeks a way to defeat the Kraken, while Pegasus is captured by Calibos and his men. Zeus commands Athena to give Perseus her owl Bubo; but she orders Hephaestus (Pat Roach) to build a golden replica of Bubo instead, who leads Perseus to the Stygian Witches (Flora Robson, Anna Manahan, and Freda Jackson). By taking their magic eye Perseus forces them to reveal that the only way to defeat the Kraken is by using the head of Medusa the Gorgon, who lives on an island in the River Styx at the edge of the Underworld. The next day, the group continues on their journey without Andromeda and Ammon, who return to Joppa.
On the Gorgon’s island with three soldiers by his side, Perseus fights Medusa’s guardian, a two-headed dog named Dioskilos, who kills one of his companions but Perseus intervenes in the nick of time and kills the beast. Perseus leads his two remaining allies into the Gorgon’s lair. His two other companions die on encounter with Medusa herself; she shoots one of the soldiers with an arrow and turns the other to stone. Perseus uses the reflective underside of his shield to deceive Medusa, decapitates her, and collects her head; but the shield is dissolved by her caustic blood. As Perseus and his party set to return, Calibos enters their camp and punctures the cloak carrying Medusa’s head, causing her blood to spill and produce three giant scorpions called Scorpiochs. The scorpions attack and Perseus’ friend Thallo is able to kill one of them, but he is killed by Calibos himself. Perseus slays the other two scorpions and thereafter kills Calibos.
An excellent rendering of classical Greek myth to film. It is always a joy to have Ray Harryhausen’s distinctive and outstanding work for any production, and this is no exception. The quality of acting is high, and includes Lawrence Olivier in one of his last major performances. Highly recommended.
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12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – THE CHRISTMAS EPISODES

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Season 1: An Echolls Family Christmas
CAST
Kristen Bell (Frozen)
Percy Daggs III (Izombie)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)
Lisa Rinna (Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D)
Lisa Thornhill (The Family Man)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Human Target)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Kyle Secor (The Purge 3)
Brad Bufanda (A Cinderella Story)
Veronica and Keith decorate their Christmas tree. Meanwhile, Duncan (Teddy Dunn) dances around drunkenly at a poker party with Logan, Weevil (Francis Capra), and two others, Sean (Kevin Sheridan) and Connor (Travis Schuldt). Weevil wins $5,000 from Logan when they both go all in. However, when Logan opens his money box, he finds that the money is missing. Weevil grows angry and asks each of the other members for $1,000. The next day at school, Duncan confronts Weevil, who stole his laptop. Veronica approaches him, and Duncan tells her about his problem. Duncan tells Veronica that his computer contains some private information regarding their past relationship. Veronica asks Weevil for the computer back, but he refuses. Weevil explains why he was at the card game and says that Logan had an opportunity to hide the money during the game. Logan’s mother, Lynn (Lisa Rinna), visits Keith and tells him about threatening letters that a mysterious person sent to her husband. Later, Veronica talks to Duncan, who gives his side of the story. Duncan also blames Logan. Later, Duncan confronts Logan about stealing the money, but he refuses to give any details. When Keith visits the Echolls’ house, he finds a pumpkin outside their front door with Aaron’s face on it and a knife through it. Veronica stops by the Echolls’ house and talks to Logan, and he says that he thinks that Connor stole the money.
Veronica visits Connor’s movie set, and she questions him about the poker game. However, he does not know who could have stolen the money. Veronica attempts to visit Sean, but his father turns her away. After deducing that the pumpkin probably has something to do with a halloween encounter or incident, Keith goes to the caterer of the party Aaron was at that day. The caterer tells him that Aaron was having an affair at that party. The next day, Veronica talks to Sean, who tells her that he thinks that Weevil stole the money. Keith talks to Aaron, who admits to the affair and says that it was with his agent’s wife, Monica Hadwin (Emmanuelle Vaugier). Veronica frets about Duncan’s diary before Veronica comes up and makes a deal with Logan: He will host another poker game so Veronica can determine who the thief is. At the poker game, Veronica reveals her findings: Duncan was faking being drunk in order to win the money, not steal it, Connor was simply using a muscle enhancer, and Logan is not the thief because his room was messy (and Veronica figures that if he hid the money, he wouldn’t tear apart his room looking for it. Veronica figures out that Sean is the criminal, not Weevil. Sean stuffed the money into the recycling and picked it up the next morning. Sean and Weevil go off by themselves, presumably so Weevil can punish him.Keith talks to the caterer again and asks her to describe the woman she fired. The poker guests then go to Aaron Echolls’ party. Veronica, off by herself, finds Jake Kane and confronts him about the pictures of her taken by his security chief, Clarence Wiedman. Jake screams at her that he doesn’t know, and Keith views the scene. Jake then angrily talks to his wife, Celeste (Lisa Thornhill), who actually sent Clarence to take the pictures. The majority of the guests go outside to sing Christmas carols while Aaron is confronted by his stalker, the woman whom the caterer fired. The stalker stabs Aaron, but the other guests do not notice because they aren’t there. Keith tackles the stalker, and Lynn calls for an ambulance as Logan looks on, ending the episode on a cliffhanger.
An excellent first Christmas episode for an iconic show.
Season 2: One Angry Veronca
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CAST
Kristen Bell (Couples Retreat)
Percy Daggs III (Izombie)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Kyle Gallner (Smallville)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restess)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy)
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It is almost Christmas break at Neptune high. Veronica tells Duncan (Teddy Dunn) that Meg (Alona Tal) is pregnant, and Duncan says that he already knew because of the letter he got previously. Dick (Ryan Hansen) comes up and invites Veronica and Duncan to a party while informing them that Meg has woken up. Veronica decides to sneak into the hospital. Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg) tells Keith that someone has stolen the Lilly Kane-Aaron Echolls sex tapes. Keith agrees to help him with the case. Veronica and Duncan visit Meg, who talks to them. Meg says that her parents want to give the child up for adoption and don’t want Duncan to have a say in the matter. After Duncan leaves, Meg asks Veronica to prevent the adoption if “anything happens to” her. That night, Veronica learns that she has jury duty. Veronica is voted jury foreman. Keith talks to Sheriff Lamb, who says that the Sheriff’s department is secure. One member of the jury gives the facts of the case—two men are charged in the assault of a woman named Anissa. The prosecution and defendant have very different accounts of the incident. Veronica takes a vote, and the vote is 11 innocent, 1 guilty.
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Keith interrogates another member of the Sheriff’s department but gets nowhere. The holdout identifies herself and makes the other jurors question their votes. Keith talks to Leo D’Amato (Max Greenfield), who says that someone probably sold the tapes. Keith talks to an acquaintance in journalism, who agrees to contact the tabloids. One of the bikers comes up to Veronica and threatens her about the jury case. The holdout makes more deductions that support the guilty vote. Keith interrogates Logan before the journalism insider tells him that the sex tapes are on the open market for $500,000. The jurors take another vote, and another juror and Veronica have switched over to guilty. Veronica decorates the apartment for Keith. Veronica finds out that Anissa’s “pimp” was actually a sports star. Veronica ties up some loose ends that show that the defendants are guilty. However, one juror refuses to change his vote no matter what. The entire Sheriff’s department received an email about the sex tapes.
Logan (Jason Dohring) has the tapes and is watching them, crying. Afterwards, Logan burns the tapes. Keith comes in and finds out that Logan bought the tapes. The remaining juror changes his vote, believing that the defendants will appeal and win. After, one of the jurors invites Veronica to Heart College. Veronica finds that her car is vandalized. Leo actually stole the tapes in order to pay for his sister with Down syndrome to go to a private school. Leo knowingly sent the tapes to Logan. Later, Keith tells Veronica that Meg has died, but her baby daughter has survived. On New Years’ Eve, Veronica hears a knock on the door, and Wallace (Percy Daggs III) appears. They spend New Years’ Eve together.Related image
 A great Christmas episode, seeing Veronica do jury duty is hilarious.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Kristen Bell (Frozen)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Izombie)
Francis Capra (Heroes)
Enrico Colantoni (Powers)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Kyle Gallner (Smallville)
Tina Majorino (Bones)
Julie Gonzalo (Dodgeball)
Chris Lowell (The Help)
Michael Muhney (Columbus Day)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Corinne Bohrer (Police Academy 4)
Amanda Seyfried (Jennifer’s Body)
Lisa Thornhill (The Family Man)
Kyle Secor (The Purge 3)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Brandon Hilock (Villains)
Patrick Wolff (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Bradley Joseph (A Cinderella Story)
Duane Daniels (First Strike)
Paris Hilton (Bottoms Up)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Paul Marshall (Cheaper By The Dozen)
Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Adam Wylie (Under Wraps)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Lisa Rinna (Melrose Place)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Jessica Chastain (Interstellar)
Steven Williams (The Blues Brothers)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Erica Gimpel(Roswell)
Christian Clemenson (Lois & CCLark)
Jonathan Bennett (Van Wilder: Freshman Year)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (Arrow)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Man)
Christopher B. Duncan (Three Kings)
Anthoyn Anderson (Transformers)
Jowharah Jones (The Client List)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Cynthia LaMontagne (That 70s Show)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Fast and The Furious 3)
Erin Chambers (Happy Feet)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Smallville)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Kevin Sheridan (The Closer)
Jeffrey D. Sams (Soul Food)
Charisma Carpenter (Buffy)
Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy)
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
David Starzyk (Bones)
Ari Graynor (For A Good Time, Call..)
Kristin Dattilo (Dexter)
Laura Bell Bundy (Anger Management)
Dana Davis (Heroes)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Rick Peters (The Craving HearT)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Joss whedon (Angel)
Rodney Rowland (The 6th Day)
Taylor Sheridan (Sicario)
Jason Molina (Alpha Dog)
Lucas Grabeel (Smallville)
Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother)
B.J. Britt (Agents of SHIELD)
Curtis Andersen (Sabrina: TTW)
Jessy Schram (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Michael Cera (Juno)
Kayla Ewell (The Vampire Diaries)
Patrick Fabian (The Last Exorcism)
Jason Beghe (G.I. Jane)
Samm Levine (Not Another Teen Movie)
Rider Strong (Cabin Fever)
Chastity Dotson (Single Ladies)
Lucy Lawless (Ash Vs Evil Dead)
Keri Lynn Pratt (Cruel Intentions 2)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight)
Ryan Devlin (Weather Girl)
Armie Hammer (The Social Network)
Lindsey McKeon (One Tree Hill)
Ed Begley Jr. (Batman Forever)
Parry Shen (The New Guy)
Blake Shields (Heroes)
Ryan Pinkston (Bad Santa)
Jaime Ray Newman (Bates Motel)
Krista Kalmus (North Shore)
Adam Rose (Up In The Air)
Amanda Walsh (Disturbia)
Charlie Weber (Buffy)
Sandra McCoy (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Michael Grant Terry (Bones)
David Tom (Pleasantville)
Charles Shaughnessy (Stargate SG.1)
David Blue (Stargate Universe)
Jeremy Roberts (The Mask)
Robert Ri’chard (The Vampire Diaries)
Jesse James (Jumper)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Suzanne Cryer (Two Guys and a GIrl)
Ed Gathegi (X-Men: First Class)
Travis Van Winkle (Meet The Spartans)

Veronica Mars is set in Neptune, California, a town without a middle-class. Everyone’s either a millionaire or works for one, and the man largely responsible for Neptune’s unparalleled success is Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), the resident billionaire software mogul. Kane and his family are still reeling from the murder of his daughter Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) some months earlier, and as if that loss wasn’t enough, the beloved Kane family was doggedly pursued by a county sheriff convinced that they were hiding something. Public sentiment turned against Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), who was ousted from office and abandoned by his wife.

Cue the title character. His daughter Veronica (Kristen Bell) had already lost her best friend with Lilly’s death, but standing by her father also cost Veronica her friends, her social status, her house…even her mother. Veronica had already been unceremoniously dumped by Lilly’s brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) shortly before her friend’s murder, and a defiant visit to face her former friends at a party weeks later led to Veronica being drugged and raped. Despite having lost so much, Veronica is resilient enough to move on with her life, and as her father struggles to stay afloat as a private eye, Veronica puts her smarts and determination to work to help ease the caseload at Mars Investigations. She also puts her talents to use to help her classmates with their troubles — for a price, of course. To cap it all off, Veronica’s faced with a couple of her own mysteries to solve. What convinced Lianne Mars to abandon her family, and where is she now? Who was it who drugged and raped Veronica last December? Also, is her father right — did someone other than disgruntled Kane Software employee Abel Koontz murder Lilly? If there is, who orchestrated the conspiracy that led to Koontz’ confession and why?

The dialogue in Veronica Mars has the same sparkle as Joss Whedon’s work…arguably better, even, since Buffy sometimes sounded like a deliberate attempt to be hip, whereas Veronica Mars manages to be witty and clever without feeling quite so forced. The writing doesn’t skew as young as one might expect from a TV show set in a high school. If anything, the target audience seems to be twentysomething — I don’t know how many fifteen year olds would be able to appreciate references to Archie comics or 21 Jump Street, f’r instance. Characterization is another strength of the series, and part of the reason Veronica Mars works as well as it does is that the audience truly does care about the characters. Despite having a seemingly endless array of talents, Veronica isn’t some sort of idyllic Mary Sue. She’s not always right. Her investigations frequently take morally questionable turns. Things don’t always go the way she wants. Not every episode has a happy ending.Image result for veronica mars return of kaneAlong with the cases that are solved in the space of forty minutes and change every week, a couple of mysteries are introduced in the pilot that are gradually explored throughout the entire length of the season. That’s right — unlike the hydra that is Lost, where answering one question spawns ten more, all of Veronica Mars’ mysteries are resolved by the time the season finale rolls around. (The finale tosses out a couple questions of its own, but if a second season hadn’t gotten the green light, it still would’ve been a fitting end to the series.)

Veronica Mars has a capable cast to match the quality of the writing. Veronica is strong and cynical…bright and sarcastic…and even though all of the trauma she’s suffered over the past year has aged her somewhat, she’s still an emotionally vulnerable teenage girl. That’s a lot to juggle, but Kristen Bell is talented enough to make such a colossal task seem effortless and captivating enough to carry a show on her shoulders. Of course, Bell is joined by a strong enough supporting cast that she doesn’t have to shoulder it all herself.

After cutting down Wallace (Percy Daggs III), the new kid at school, who’d been stripped naked and duct taped to a flagpole, he and Veronica become best friends. In teen-TV land, it’s an immutable rule that people of different genders can’t just be pals…there’s this endless temptation to couple everyone. Veronica Mars manages to resist, resulting in one of the few platonic friendships like this left on television.Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, is another fan favorite, able to shift from warm, loving, and borderline-goofy to secretive and deadly serious when the situation calls for it. There’s also Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), the leader of a local biker gang from the wrong side of the tracks who engages in some mutual backscratching with Veronica.

The character who stands out the most — aside from Veronica, of course — is Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Like Kristen Bell, Dohring is endlessly engaging. He’s introduced as an “obligatory psychotic jackass”, but as the season progresses, Logan’s humanized without being watered-down; even when he’s doing something as thoroughly loathesome as bribing a homeless vet to join in on his homebrew Bumfights video, there’s an undercurrent of understanding why Logan is the way he is. The character changes throughout the season, but the shift feels deserved and natural, not just because that’s what’s scrawled on the whiteboard in the writing room.Other guest stars throughout the season include Napoleon Dynamite’s Tina Majorino as computer whiz Mac, Aaron Ashmore as a love interest with a shady past, Logan’s movie star family (played by Harry Hamlin, Lisa Rinna, and Alyson Hannigan), Anthony Anderson, Zachary Ty Brian, Joey Lauren Adams, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and, in a shameless bit of stuntcasting, Paris Hilton. The fact that the second episode of Veronica Mars manages to be really good despite a Paris Hilton guest spot really is a testament to how good a series this is. Oh, and, in true Laura Palmer fashion, just because Lilly Kane is dead doesn’t mean that Amanda Seyfried can’t rear her head in nearly every other episode.The conclusion to most of the mysteries caught me by surprise. Throughout the entire season, the only time I correctly guessed the culprit was in “Lord of the Bling”, and even then, the motivation and execution were well out of my reach. The many twists the stories take are clever, and watching these episodes a second time, I could spot all sorts of clues and hints that didn’t seem that important the first time through.  Veronica Mars is a series that’s easy to dive into as a marathon, but for viewers catching these episodes for the first time, I’d recommend drawing it out a bit.

The central arcs of Veronica Mars’ first season were all intensely personal: Veronica being abandoned by her mother, not to mention every one of her former friends, roofie-fueled date rape at a party a year earlier, and the brutal murder of her closest friend, Lilly Kane. How do you follow up a season like that? t’d be nearly impossible to craft another set of stories that’d resonate in quite that same way without retreading familiar ground, so season two of Veronica Mars takes a different approach, shifting the focus away from our plucky junior detective and more towards the sticky underbelly of Neptune, California as a whole.Mayoral candidate Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg) has a vision for the glorified country club that is Neptune. Incorporating Neptune would have a Tide with Bleach effect, making the whites whiter and the rich richer as property values are boosted and less desirable elements are rezoned onto someone else’s doorstep. Woody’s plan is announced as the tensions between the haves and have-nots are already boiling over in Neptune.Logan Echols, the cocky son of an aging Hollywood action hero, has walked away unscathed from accusations of stabbing a Hispanic biker to death, prompting a series of vicious attacks from both sides. The stark differences between the classes are also apparent after a school-sponsored trip; the rich kids hop in a limo and ride back in style, and the not-so-privileged cram into a rank schoolbus and careen off the side of a cliff. The town is torn apart by the tragedy, and Veronica, who’d barely missed the bus and was very nearly among the dead, is determined to find out if the crash was a terrible accident, suicide, or something much more ominous.Image result for veronica mars driver edIt’s a hectic season, with a bus crash, two murder trials, class-slash-racial tensions throughout Neptune, a sheriff race, the possibility of Neptune incorporating, the ambiguity about Wallace’s family life, a coma-baby, Beaver following in his shamed father’s footsteps as he tries to get his own real estate endeavour off the ground, the strife former baseball star Terrence Cook and his overbearing daughter Jackie (Tessa Thompson) bring to Neptune, the newly-introduced clan of Irish drug-peddlers known as the Fitzpatricks, and the machinations of Dick and Beaver’s scheming stepmother Kendall (Charisma Carpenter). There’s enough to follow The season plays a lot better on DVD; it’s easier to keep the scores of characters and plot points fresh in the mind over the course of a few days as opposed to the better part of a year.In its third — and ultimately final — season, Veronica Mars steps away from any season-length stories. Slightly truncated to twenty episodes, season three is neatly grouped into three distinct chunks of episodes. The season opens with Veronica settling into her freshman year at Hearst College, but the campus continues to be plagued by a spree of sexual assaults. Mac’s bubbly roommate Parker (Julie Gonzalo) is the latest victim to be roofied and raped, with the attacker leaving his calling card by shaving her head. Having suffered through the past couple of years as a rape victim herself and unwittingly in a position to have caught Parker’s rapist during the attack, Veronica’s grim determination to put an end to this reign of terror makes up the first and the lengthiest of the season’s arcs.The season’s second arc picks up a couple of months after the grisly final shot of “Spit and Eggs” as the police have shrugged off the death of someone close to Veronica as a suicide. A devastating emotional blow delivered just hours earlier, a gunshot to the temple, a vague suicide note typed on a PC…it’s tragic, yes, but the pieces fit neatly together just the same. Still, it’s a scenario lifted directly from a paper Veronica penned for her criminology class on how to commit the perfect murder. Throughout the course of their investigation, Veronica and her father become entangled in a pair of other murders, among them the death of one of Veronica Mars’ most enduring characters.Facing cancellation and attempting to make the largely serialized series more accessible to new viewers, Veronica Mars draws to a close with a set of five standalone episodes. There aren’t any overarching investigations, although some threads leak from one episode to the next, including a sheriff’s race between Keith Mars and an unlikely contender.

The season premiere introduces two other Hearst students who’d go on to stick around for the rest of the year: Wallace’s roommate Stosh “Piz” Piznarski (Chris Lowell) and Mac’s roomieuntitledThe hunt for Hearst’s rapist, which runs for the nine of the season’s twenty episodes, is the highest point of the set. It’s the most engaging of the season’s various arcs, which is impressive considering that these episodes have to juggle the weekly mysteries, the overarching search for the rapist, and introduce the new characters and Hearst College as a whole. There seems to be some connection between the rapes and the Greek system at Hearst, pitting Veronica against a group of feminists determined to bring the frats down, forcing her to defend the same lecherous halfwits she thought were tied to the rapes last season, and clawing her way into the Zeta Theta Beta house. This first half of the season also gives the supporting cast a reasonable amount of screentime, including Wallace and Logan on opposite ends of an Abu Ghraib-inspired prison experiment, Logan stumbling onto a life-changing discovery when trying to find out why his trust fund is dwindling so quickly, and Keith making the same sorts of excuses with a married client as the skeevy men whose infidelities pay his rent. The arc comes to a close with “Spit and Eggs”, which, in true Veronica Mars form, plays like more of a thriller than a mystery, and it’s by far the most intense episode of the season. Veronica Mars was an excellent a show spread across 3 seasons and become a great cult show, and with the arrival of the movie saw resurgence in its popularity.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1-4

Image result for batman the animated series logoMAIN CAST (VOICES)

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Loren Lester (Flashforward)
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Hot Shots)
Bob Hastings (General Hospital)
Robert Costanzo (Dick Tracy)
Melissa Gilbert (Zoya)
Tara Strong (Sabrina Goes To Rome)
Mathew Valencia (Lawnmower Man 2)Image result for batman the animatedRECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)
Neil Ross (Centurions)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
Marc Singer (V)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek:DS9)
Meredith MacRae (Petticoat Junction)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Mari Devon (Howl’s Moving Castle)
Brock Peters (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Edward Asner (Up)
Josh Keaton (Green Lantern: TAS)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Diane Pershing (Centourions)
Ingrid Oliu (Real Women Have Curves)
Henry Polic II (Webster)
Tim Curry (IT)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Alan Rachins (LA Law)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Lindsay Crouse (Buffy)
Paul Williams (Adventure Time)
Aron Kincaid (Freakazoid!)
Heather Locklear (Return of Swamp Thing)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Treat Williams (The Phantom)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Harry Hamlin Clash of The Titans)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
William Sanderson (Blade Runner)
Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil’s Rejects)
John Glover (Smallville)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
Michael York (Logans Run)
George Dzunda (Crimson Tide)
John De Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Julie Brown (Earth Girls Are Easy)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Michael Gross (Familt Ties)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad men)
Jean Smart (Designing Women)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang Theory)
Marica Wallace (The Simpsons)
Marilu henner (Two and A Half Men)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Stephanie Zimbalist (The Story Lady)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Henry Silva (Ocean’s Eleven)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Andrea Martin (Anastasia)
Grant Shaud (Murphy Brown)
Bruce Weitz (Hill Street Blues)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
Roy Dotrice (Beauty and The Beast)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Billy Barty (Masters of The Universe)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Billy Zane (Zoolander)
Mark Rolstan (Alias)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Michael McKean (Smallville)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Linda Hamilton (Chuck)
Billy West (Futurama)

Debuting on Fox in 1992, Batman: The Animated Series was immensely successful, garnering immense critical praise, taking home an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, and continuing in various forms for several years and well over a hundred episodes.First, the series is written and produced by people with a fundamental understanding of what makes the comics work, particularly during its peak in the ’70s under Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams. As a long-time comics fanatic, it’s always welcome to see names like Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman flash across the screen, and in the intervening years, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have made their own impact on the four-color world. The tone is dark but not hopelessly grim, and the scripts don’t inundate viewers with patently obvious exposition or villainous cackling. It’s intelligently written and, while appropriate for a wide range of ages, doesn’t pander to a younger audience. I started watching Batman when it first debuted on Fox in 1992, and I appreciate it every bit as much now as a 34-year-old adult. The writers don’t shackle themselves to comic continuity, and their revisions are frequently more compelling than any other form in which we’ve seen Batman’s rogue’s gallery. Third-stringers like the Clock King and Clayface are given heavily revised origins and almost unrecognizable characterizations that are far more interesting than any other take on them.Batman boasts visuals that are as strong as the writing behind them. It’s incredibly dark; despite its Saturday morning/weekday afternoon origins, this is a series that greatly benefits from being watched at night with the lights off. The character designs are angular and exaggerated, in contrast to the rounded, ’40s-inspired props and backgrounds that further establish the distinctive, timeless look of the show. The detail and fluidity of the animation vary from episode to episode, but the better installments are almost jaw-dropping.

Following the visuals of the series, the next obvious subject to tackle is how it sounds. For me, Batman’s tone is one of the elements that really sets it apart from most every other animated series, and contributing greatly to that is the orchestral score in each episode. The series also has a phenomenal roster of talent contributing its voices. The main group — Kevin Conroy as the definitive Batman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred, Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon — just nail their parts with complete perfection. Very recognizable names also contribute to villains and assorted supporting characters. A complete list would be prohibitively long, but some of the more notable actors and actresses from these episodes are Michael Ansara, Ed Asner, Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Begley Jr., Mark Hamill, David L. Lander, Heather Locklear, Kevin McCarthy, Roddy McDowall, Richard Moll, Kate Mulgrew, Ron Perlman, Alan Rachins, Marc Singer, Jeffrey Tambor, John Vernon, Adam West, and Paul Williams. The campy live action series from the ’60s also drew heavily from established Hollywood talent, but the difference here is that the actors don’t draw attention to themselves as stars.

This set has the show at the absolute top of its form. There isn’t a lame show in the bunch, and many of the episodes in this set are destine to become classics. Prechance to Dream, the second show in the set, is a wonderful look at what might have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents hadn’t been killed. After being knock out while chasing some crooks, Bruce wakes up at home, uncertain as to how he got there. He’s surprised to find that the entrance to the Batcave is blocked, but even more astonished to discover that his mother and father are still alive. Bruce must figure out what going on, but in doing so, he knows he’ll ruin the happiness that he’s discovered.AlmostGot ‘im, probably my favorite show of the series. This story takes place during a “villain’s night out” where Batman’s main enemies aren’t committing crimes. They are all sitting around a table in a bar playing poker, relaxing. While talking, the conversation turns to Batman of corse. Like a group of fisherman swapping stories, each crook takes a turn telling the time that they were closest to killing Batman. The little vignettes were all full of action, and the framing story was very funny. A great combination, with an excellent ending line.
The Batman’s background story takes is fleshed out in a couple of episodes too. His early training plays an important part in Night of the Ninja, and I Am the Night introduces Dr. Leslie Thompkins who is an important person from when Bruce was young. Viewers get to find out just where the Batmoblie came from in The Mechanic, a great show that explains some aspects of Batman’s world that usually gets glossed over. Robin’s origin is recounted in Robin’s Reckoning, a two part story which won an Emmy. This story examines the bond between Batman and Robin, and why the Dark Knight agreed to raise a young boy.
The writing on the show is top notch. The show doesn’t dumb itself down to appeal to a young audience, the creators thought that if you have well written intelligent stories, kids would be attracted. They were right but the show also appeals to adults for the same reason.

One of the things Batman: The Animated Series does particularly well is infuse its villains with personality. They’re not a rotation of thugs with a different gimmick and costume each week — the writers go to great lengths to humanize these characters, and although they’re still unambiguously the bad guys, they still manage to be sympathetic at times. “His Silicon Soul”, following up on the two-part “Heart of Steel” from the previous collection, features a robotic duplicate of Batman unable to come to grips with the realization that he’s a machine.

The title character of “Baby-Doll” was created especially for the series. Think Webster with the race and gender reversed; Mary Louise Dahl was in her twenties but looked like a three-year-old, and she cashed in on that rare disability with a successful and hopelessly bland sitcom. An ill-advised career move derailed her as an actress, and a decade later, she’s systematically kidnapped all of her former co-stars in an attempt to reclaim those happy years. Again, as outlandish as the premise might sound, it really does work. You might smirk at reading about a teary-eyed Baby Doll attempting to fire an already-emptied doll-shaped pistol into a funhouse mirror, but the immeasurably talented writers are gifted enough to eke more pathos than I ever would have thought possible out of that.

Redemption, whether seized or tossed aside, is also frequently touched upon. “Sideshow” opens with a grueling chase between Batman and an escaped Killer Croc, who manages to stumble upon a remote farm that’s home to a group of former sideshow acts. They offer Croc a chance at an honest life, but old habits die hard. Another example is “House and Garden”. When a poisonous plant-creature starts a reign of terror in Gotham, Batman naturally turns his sights towards the recently-released Poison Ivy. She insists that she’s rehabilitated, and by all accounts, Ivy is happily married and living the mundane suburban life. The investigation continues to point back to her, and the final revelation involves some of the creepiest imagery ever seen in the series.

Harley Quinn is also featured in a couple of episodes centered around her attempts to stick with the straight ‘n narrow. She’s a fan favorite for a reason, and these appearances are some of the most memorable episodes in this collection. “Harlequinade” is a chaotic team-up with Batman in an attempt to track down The Joker, who’s managed to get his hands on a bomb that’ll turn Gotham into a smoldering mushroom cloud. “Harley’s Holiday” documents her release from Arkham Asylum, and even though she’s determined to leave that life of crime behind her, an attempt to legitimately buy a pretty pink dress at a store spirals into a bad day…a really, really bad day, culminating in being chased by Batman.

It’s particularly great to see the villains interact with one another. That’s part of the fun of “Trial”, which has a reluctant prosecutor attempting to defend Batman in an insane trial when the inmates take over the asylum. The flipside of that coin is seen in “Lock-Up”, when a cruel jailer’s overzealousness gets him fired from Arkham and compels him to hunt down the left-leaning scum he blames for the state of the world. Another stand-out is “A Bullet for Bullock”, an episode in which the slovenly detective is rattled by death threats and reluctantly teams with Batman, and the ending is just one example of how clever the show’s writers can be. “Clever” is also the first word that instantly springs to mind for “Make ‘Em Laugh”, an episode where The Joker co-opts a fellow criminal’s technology to create a small army of fumbling costumed criminals with inane gimmicks.

These episodes introduce a couple of recurring villains ripped from the pages of the comics. Most notable among them is Ra’s al Ghul, who makes his first appearance in a two-parter penned by Len Wein and Denny O’Neil, familiar names to longtime readers of Batman’s four-color incarnation. The centuries-old Ra’s has virtually unlimited resources at his disposal, equally intrigued by Batman’s boundless skills as a detective as he is frustrated by his foe’s determination to disrupt his machinations. Ra’s often lends a Saturday morning serial flavor to the show, from the globe-trotting in his first few appearances to the flared pants of “Avatar”. The charismatic character has such a presence that he’s able to carry “Showdown” largely by himself in an episode that barely features Batman or Robin in any capacity. “Showdown” is set during the westward expansion of the mid-1800’s as Ra’s’ opposition to the sprawling railroads is pitted against scarred bounty hunter Jonah Hex (one of the few DC characters not connected with the Batman mythos to appear on the show). The other noteworthy recurring villain is The Ventriloquist, a fairly timid-looking middle-aged man who seems more likely to be a CPA than a ruthless crimelord. Taken by himself, that seems to be the right impression, but when he has his puppet Scarface on the end of his arm… The Ventriloquist’s first appearance, “Read My Lips”, is one of my favorites of the season, and he returns twice after that.
Several other characters from the comics briefly appear, including Maxie Zeus, the back-breaking, Venom-fueled Bane, and the fairly obscure masked criminals of The Terrible Trio. The majority of Batman’s rogue’s gallery is present and accounted for, with The Penguin, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, The Mad Hatter, The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Clock King, Catwoman, The Riddler, The Scarecrow, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze all wreaking havoc throughout Gotham City at some point or another. Even with the opening titles shifting on disc three from Batman: The Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin, there’s no discernable drop in quality.

After Batman: The Animated Series wrapped up its long, successful run on Fox, a revised version of the series — with most of the same talent in tow — popped up as part of the animation block on Kids’ WB. This half of The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Although the general look of Batman: The Animated Series is still in place, many of the character designs have been revamped, making them sharper, more angular, and somewhat stripped down. Sometimes the changes worked; The Scarecrow is a much more ominous, disturbing figure now, and I like the exaggerated, deranged look of The Mad Hatter. Others didn’t fare so well, especially the much blander looking Riddler, and I have mixed feelings about the older, frailer Jim Gordon and the beady-eyed look of the Joker. One of the more distinctive changes is that the yellow moon on Batman’s chest is gone, an alteration that makes it easy to distinguish one of these episodes from the previous animated incarnation.

One aspect of Batman: The Animated Series that has always impressed me is that even though it was a weekday afternoon cartoon based on a popular comic book character, it didn’t pander to a younger audience. Rewatching the box sets Warner has issued over the past year and a half, I find myself as engaged by them now in my mid-thirties as I was when I first saw them half a lifetime ago.

The New Batman Adventures is a odd mix because even though many of the stories seem geared towards a younger audience, the censors have lightened up, so the villains can use words like ‘murder’ and ‘kill’ more freely, its female characters (especially Harley Quinn) are less subtle with the sexual innuendo, and there’s even a little blood. Over the Edge, one of my favorite episodes of any of Batman’s animated incarnations, with batman hunted by  by Commissioner Gordon as his men spray gunfire throughout the Batcave in a frantic chase against Batman and Robin. It’s a dark, unflinchingly brutal story about loss and betrayal, showing the Dark Knight at his lowest point with his identity exposed and facing greater adversity than he ever has before.

It’s not all dark and dour, though. Another favorite is “Joker’s Millions”, which opens with the Joker struggling with his finances. Robots, hyena chow, Joker venom, and overly elaborate death traps aren’t cheap, but he gets an unexpected windfall when a dead mobster leaves the flat-broke Joker a quarter-billion dollars in his will. The Joker goes on a spastic spending spree, bribing everyone in sight into wiping his criminal record clean, but…whoops. There’s a catch, of course, and the Joker’s not the one who gets the last laugh.

the Joker also take center-stage in “Mad Love”, an episode penned by Paul Dini that was later spun off by DC into a graphic novel. “Mad Love” takes a look at how ambitious, straightlaced psychiatrist Harlene Quinzel could become infatuated with a psychotic madman like the Joker. The Joker’s far more interested in cobbling together some sort of complicated trap to knock off Batsy than fooling around with his eager-to-please henchwoman, so she tries to get her puddin’s attention by rehashing one of his unused schemes and getting rid of Batman once and for all. This is the sort of character-centric episode that I thought really defined Batman: The Animated Series, and “Mad Love” ranks with the best of the series.
“Legends of the Dark Knight” is another personal favorite, paying homage to some of Batman’s different incarnations over the decades. Dick Sprang gets the first nod in a segment with Batman duking it out with the Joker in a music museum with all of the puns, oversized props, and four-color action you’d expect from a Golden Age comic, followed up by a deeply impressive segment with Frank Miller’s hulking, fifty-something Batman squaring off against an army of mutants in the future. The side story with a few kids getting tangled up in an arson-for-hire gig with Firefly doesn’t stack up to the rest of the episode, but who cares?
There are a few other episodes worth pointing out. “Girls’ Night Out” is set with both Batman and Superman out of town, leaving Batgirl and Supergirl to square off against Harley, Poison Ivy, and electrifying Supes-villain Livewire.Dick Grayson, the original Robin, has struck out on his own as Nightwing, and he’s highlighted several times — first in “You Scratch My Back”, which teams him with Catwoman, much to Batman’s chagrin, and again in “Old Wounds”, where Grayson tells Batgirl why he could no longer fight alongside the Dark Knight. The episodes on this box set also introduce The Creeper, the demon Etrigan, and Firefly to the animated series,  Villains like Two Face, The Mad Hatter, Catwoman, Clayface, Mr. Freeze, The Scarecrow, The Ventriloquist, Bane, Killer Croc, Baby Doll, and, briefly, The Riddler also return to torment Gotham again.