12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: BIRDS OF PREY – DEVIL’S EYES

wall11

MAIN CAST

Ashley Scott (Into The Blue)
Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers)
Rachel Skarsten (Reign)
Shemar Moore (Criminla Minds)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Mia Sara (Lost In Oz)

he-lives

RECURRING /NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Shawn Christian (Famous In Love)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)
Rob Benedict (Waiting…)

hillary-quinn

Long before comic book superhero TV shows were as common as they are today, the WB launched a live-action Birds of Prey TV series that lasted just thirteen episodes.

final-clocktower-powwow

Devil Eyes

Having discovered that Helena is Huntress, Harley Quinn uses a machine that gives her metahuman hypnotic powers. She then hypnotizes Helena and persuades her to knock Barbara unconscious and steal an access disk. Barbara recovers and uses her subneural device to enable her to stand and fight Helena, eventually neutralizing the trance. But Harley uses the disk to gain complete control of the clock tower and, after killing Wade, she broadcasts the hypnotic signal to every television set in New Gotham. Working together with Alfred, Dinah, and Reese, Helena must infiltrate the clock tower and battle Harley and her cohorts before they gain control of the entire city. It is hinted that Bruce Wayne/Batman is probably still alive, as just before the end credits, Alfred speaks to “Master Bruce” on the phone at Wayne Manor, talking about his daughter Helena and that he would be proud of her.

jester

This episode is probably tied with episode eight, “Shiva,” for my favourite of the series. Everything the show did a lot of things right, as it did here. I would have been down for another season of it, especially after seeing this episode. A great ending to a series tat hopefully one day will be fondly remembered

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: LEGENDS OF THE SUPER HEROES

CAST

Adam West (Return To The Batcave)
Burt Ward (The New Adventures of Batman)
Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Jeff Altman (Highlander 2)
Charlie Callas (Switch)
Gabriel Dell (Earthquake)
Howard Morris (Splash)
Mickey Morton (Starchaser)
William Schallert (Santa Barbara)
A’leisha Brevard (American Pop)
Garrett Craig (The Blue Knight)
Howard Murphy (Satan’s Mistress)
Danuta Rylko Soderman (The 700 Club)
Bill Nuckols (Sunset Cove)
Rod Hasse (Hero at Large)
Barbara Joyce (Hothead)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Ruth Buzzi (Freaky Friday)
Pat Carroll (The Little Mermaid)
Alfie Wise (The Cannonball Run)
Ed McMahon (Bewitched)

On January 18, 1979, NBC aired Legends Of The Superheroes: The Challange, an hourlong special in which Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin reprised their Batman, Robin, and Riddler roles from the campy ’60s Batman series, alongside a cast of legendary TV comedians and generic hunks. The show had the heroes dealing with a series of traps laid by a team of supervillains, with each trap setting the stage for a wacky skit. Intended as a live-action Superfriends, LOTS came off more like a live-action version of Scooby’s All-Star Laff-a-lympics.But even The Challenge wasn’t as wretched at what NBC aired the following week: Legends Of The Superheroes: The Roast, in which the cast of the previous special returned for a series of painfully unfunny sketches and stand-up routines. According to the website TV Obscurities, The Challenge finished 58th out of 59 shows the week it aired, and The Roast finished 62nd out of 63. NBC and Hanna-Barbera’s experiment with live-action superhero slapstick was over.

The Challenge opens with the heroes and villains in their respective lairs, where the former have an orderly meeting, complete with a salute to elderly superhero Retired Man (played by William Schallert, better-known as Patty Duke’s dad on The Patty Duke Show), while the latter have a chaotic meeting complete with random acts of violence and lots of indistinct muttering, captured in an ugly-looking medium-long shot.
The villains seize on a doomsday plot put forward by Dr. Sivana (played by sitcom vet Howard Morris, a.k.a. Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show) and divide up, each tasked to find ways to slow the superheroes down. Sinestro (played by funny-faced comic Charlie Callas) poses as a gypsy and reads Green Lantern’s fortune.The Weather Wizard (played by fast-talking young comedian Jeff Altman) poses as a used-car salesman, and sells Batman and Robin a lemon. The Riddler pretends to be a psychiatrist and gets Captain Marvel to sit on his outdoor couch and talk about his feelings. Finally, the heroes locate the villain’s island hideout, where Batman and Robin hop on Jet Skis and chase the wizard Mordru (an obscure DC bad guy played by former Dead End Kid Gabriel Dell) before heading indoors for an old-fashioned punch-up.
Oddly enough, the cheesiness of the costumes are a point in favor of LOTS: The Roast, where the ridiculousness of everything is part of the concept. At the outset, host Ed McMahon jokes that he hasn’t seen so many crazy costumes since he last “had lunch at Alice Cooper’s house,” and adds that the heroes’ HQ looks like “Truman Capote’s closet.”
The Roast is a beast to sit through. The special includes several corny routines in which McMahon trades quips with guests like Hawkman’s mom (played by showbiz legend Pat Carroll, who jokes that when young Hawkman brought notes home from school, “they were strapped to his leg”) and hulking monster Solomon Grundy (who roars and threatens McMahon whenever he’s reminded of the word “swamp”), and, yet again, Retired Man.
Later, Dr. Sivana shows up, giving Howard Morris a chance to get uncomfortably close to Black Canary’s breasts.…and the inevitable Ruth Buzzi pops up as a gun-toting Aunt Minerva.
Also, gossip-monger “Rhoda Rooter” conducts an interview with the unlikely couple of The Atom and Giganta……and West and Ward participate in an interminable skit where Robin tries to keep Batman from finding out that he totaled the Batmobile. Again, it’s impressive—at least for an old DC devotee like myself—to see how far into the character pool the writers were willing to jump, and it’s not like the level of comedy here was any worse than moist shows of its time.  Hanna-Barbera use the occasion of this special to allow Jeff Altman to do a few minutes of stand-up material as Weather Wizard (complete with storms), and to have comedian Brad Sanders lay down some jokes along the lines of “If Hawkman walked through Harlem, by the time he got to Lennox Avenue, he’d be Kentucky-fried,” in the unfortunate guise of Ghetto Man. The Roast ends with Mordru doing a little song-and-dance routine, changing the lyrics to “That’s Entertainment” to something more villain-friendly……and then the whole affair should’ve been permanently consigned to the ash-heap of TV history. But alas, it was dug back up by warner brothers.
It’s a collectable piece for any DC fan as long as they don’t take it seriously

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 1-2

Image result for jlu logo

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.

Image result for justice league unlimited

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.

Image result for justice league unlimited
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.

Image result for justice league unlimited

 

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

Image result for batman the brave and the bold logo

MAIN CAST

Diedrich Bader (Vampires Suck)
Image result for batman the brave and the bold logo
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW: ARROW – SEASON 1 & 2

CAST

Stephen Amell (The Vampire Diaries)
Katie Cassidy (Black Xmas)
Colin Donnell (Chicago Med)
David Ramsey (Pay It Forward)
Willa Holland (Legion)
Susanna Thompson (Dragonfly)
Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Manu Bennett (Spartacus)
Colton Haynes (Teen Wolf)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Colin Salmon (Limitless TV)
Jamey Sheridan (The Ice Storm)
Annie Ilonzeh (Beauty and The Beast)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Derek Hamilton (Disturbing Behavior)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Kelly Hu (The Vampire Diaries)
Ty Olsson (X-Men 2)
Byron Mann (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (First Wave)
Euegen Lipinski (Goosebumps)
Michael Rowe (Tomorrowland)
John Barrowman (Reign)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Kyle Schmid (The Covenant)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (V)
Jessica De Gouw (Dracula)
Jeffrey Nordling (Tron: Legacy)
Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica)
Sebastian Dunn (The Other Half)
Andrew Dunbar (Leprechaun: Origins)
Danny Nucci (Eraser)
Ben Browder (Stargate SG.1)
Christie Laing (Scary Movie 4)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
David Anders (Izombie)
Ona Grauer (V)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
James Callis (Battlestar Galactica
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Chin Han (The Dark Knight)
Janina Gavankar (True Blood)
Alex Kingston (Flashforward)
Celina Jade (The Man with The Iron Fists)
Seth Gabel (Salem)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Dylan Bruce (Heroes Reborn)
Caity Lotz (The Machine)
Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight)
Kevin Alejandro (Ugly Betty)
Bex Taylor-Klaus (Scream: The Series)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Aubrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes)
Cle Bennett (Flashpoint)
Dylan Neal (Sabrina: TTW)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus)
David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
James Kidnie (Robocop: The Series)
Katrina Law (Chuck)
Nicholas Lea (V)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Animated Series)
Lochlyn Munro (Little Man)
Jorge Vargas (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
Danielle Panabaker (Sky High)

Image result for arrow pilotAfter turning the story about Clark Kent’s evolution from humble teenager to world’s greatest hero into one of the most successful science fiction TV series of all time, what exactly do you do for an encore? The obvious answer would be a series about a young Bruce Wayne. Or maybe a crime procedural starring the men and women of the Gotham City Police Department. Instead, The CW gave us Arrow, a series that simultaneously explores Oliver Queen’s first months as a vigilante hero and the painful hero’s journey he undertook while stranded on a remote island. Even considering Green Arrow’s popularity in Smallville and Justice League Unlimited, it wasn’t the most obvious choice. Nor was it the choice many DC fans wanted. But ultimately, it was a choice that paid off.

To their credit, they succeeded. Even right off the bat, there were many notable elements that he writers introduced into the Green Arrow mythos. Generally a loner in the comics, here Ollie was given a full family and circle of allies. Some were inspired by characters from the comics, while others were entirely new creations. Probably the most successful new addition was John Diggle as Ollie’s personal bodyguard-turned-ally in his war on crime. Watching the dynamic between Ollie and Diggle morph from cold and hostile to warm camaraderie was a treat. And the two sequences featuring Diggle in the costume rather than Ollie suggested that this show could have a life beyond that of its lead character.Image result for arrow pilotAmell’s performance grew stronger over time, and the subtle ways in which he distinguished his performances during the present-day and flashback scenes stood out.With other characters, it was more a question of the scripts shedding light on motivation and relationships before they really came into their own. This was certainly the case with Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), who was a bit of a hard sell as a sympathetic mother figure until viewers came to understand her role in “The Undertaking.” Similarly, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) came across as a fairly flat and unimportant character at first. But by the end of the season, Tommy had emerged as the emotional heart of the series and Donnell’s one of the strongest performances.

Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) was endearing, her instant charm made fans fall in love with her making her a regular was the best choice when they headed into season 2. As Laurel, Katie Cassidy was excellent as future Black Canary, dealing with her emotions of seeing her former boyfriend back from the dead and the lost of her sister.  Structurally, the season started out strong and finished even stronger. The writers managed to weave together an overarching narrative as Ollie slowly uncovered the truth of The Undertaking and his own parents’ involvement while contending with various smaller villains and conflicts.

Anchoring the series throughout were the frequent flashbacks to Ollie’s five years on the island. The pilot episode offered a tantalizing glimpse of what had transpired over the course of those five years with the Deathstroke mask discarded on the beach. Various plot twists revealed just how complicated that story is, teaming Ollie with Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) and Shado (Celina Jade) in an ongoing guerrilla war against mercenary leader Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn). Particularly once Slade entered the picture and his bond with Ollie became a major focal point, the flashbacks emerged as one of the strongest elements of the show.

Everything in Season 1 culminated in two climactic episodes as Ollie fought for the survival of Starling City in the present and to stop Fyers from sparking an international incident in the past. These episodes offered a satisfying blend of big action scenes and emotional character showdowns. In particular, the final scene between Ollie and Tommy that closed out the season was perhaps the best the show has delivered so far.

Right off the bat, “City of Heroes” set the tone and direction for Season 2. We saw a despondent Ollie still crushed by the death of his best friend, Tommy, and having retreated to the island in a self-imposed exile. Though Colin Donnell only briefly reprised his role as Tommy this season, his character was very much a lingering presence driving the actions of Ollie and Laurel throughout the year. And his death formed the crux of Ollie’s renewed mission. It was right there in the revised opening sequence – “To honor my friend’s memory, I can’t be the killer I once was.” And that, more than Ollie’s battles with Slade Wilson or Sebastian Blood or Isabel Rochev, was the core conflict of the season. It’s easy enough to fight criminals by shooting them dead. But could Ollie muster the strength and the courage not to kill, even if it meant putting himself, his family, and his city in greater danger? It was a struggle, but the most satisfying element of the finale was the way Ollie definitively answered that question and established himself as a better class of vigilante.

Overall, Season 2 was a good showcase for Stephen Amell’s acting talents.  Ollie was haunted by demons and shouldering heavy burdens throughout the year. He suffered more often than he succeeded, and Amell conveyed that pain well. Most impressive was the way Amell was so capable at portraying Ollie at different periods in his life. We saw plenty more of Ollie’s life on the island in the various flashback scenes. Having already spent a year fighting for his life against men like Edward Fyers and Billy Wintergreen, flashback Ollie was closer to the man he is in the present, but not all the way there. And we even caught glimpses of a pre-island Ollie, most significantly in “Seeing Red.” More than the changes in hairstyle or fashion, it was Amell’s purposeful shifts in vocal intonation and body language that differentiated the different versions of Ollie.

Having established himself as one of the better supporting players in Season 1, it was very gratifying to see Manu Bennett step fully into the spotlight and become the big antagonist of Season 2. That’s despite him not even being revealed as the secret mastermind of Brother Blood’s uprising until the mid-season finale, “Three Ghosts.” But it was crucial that the show spend so much time, both this season and last, in building up the brotherly bond between Ollie and Slade and the island. We needed to feel the pain of seeing them broken apart and Slade become a vengeful villain hellbent on tearing his former friend’s life down. And it wasn’t until much later still that we saw how that rift occurred and Slade turn his wrath against Ollie. It’s a testament to both the writing and Bennett’s acting that the character never quite lost his aura of sympathy even as he murdered Ollie’s mother and tried to do the same to Felicity. This was a man driven half-mad by the loss of the woman he loved and an injection of a super-steroid. But conversely, I appreciated how the finale took pains to establish that it wasn’t just the Mirakuru fueling Slade’s anger. Even now, super-strength gone and exiled back to the island, Slade is a clear and present danger to Ollie’s world.

The show introduced Sebastian Blood and Isabel Rochev as Slade’s subordinates, with Blood serving as the most visible villain for much of the season. I really enjoyed Kevin Alejandro’s portrayal of Blood. Alejandro’s Blood was so disarmingly charming that it was often difficult to reconcile him with the masked man kidnapping drug addicts and turning street thugs into super-soldiers. Ultimately, Blood became the sort of villain who does the wrong things for the right reasons. He had an honest desire to make Starling City a better place. And when it became clear to him that Slade Wilson wouldn’t leave a city left for him to rule, Blood did the right thing and aided Team Arrow.

Most of the increasingly large supporting cast were given their moments to shine in Season 2. I was often disappointed that Diggle wasn’t given more to do, but at least he was able to take a starring role in “Suicide Squad.” Diggle’s backseat status was mainly the result of Sara Lance stepping into the limelight early on and eventually becoming the fourth member of Ollie’s vigilante crew. The Arrow had his Canary finally. Sara’s own struggles with the desire for lethal force and reuniting with her family often made for good drama. But among Team Arrow, it was often Felicity Smoak who often had the best material.  Emily Bett Rickards had much better material to work with this year, whether it was her unrequited love for Ollie, her burgeoning relationship with Barry Allen, or her desire to pull her weight alongside her more physically capable allies. The final three episodes all featured some standout moments for Felicity as she established herself as a force to be reckoned with.

Elsewhere, Roy Harper was often a focus as he transitioned from troubled street punk to superhero sidekick. Roy’s temporary super-strength powers were a welcome story swerve and a fitting physical manifestation of his inner rage. His character arc received a satisfying conclusion in the finale when he proved himself worthy and received his own red domino mask, but lost Thea as a result.

As for the various women in Ollie’s life, Felicity and Sara aside, Season 2 was a little more uneven. Moira definitely had an interesting ride. She started out Season 2 fighting for her life while on trial for her role in the Undertaking. Then, in an unlikely turn of events, she was spurred to run for mayor. And finally, her life did end when she became a pawn in Slade’s cruel game. It was a terrific finish for Moira, proving once and for all that, whatever wrongs she committed, she was only ever trying to ensure her children’s survival. Thea was more up and down throughout the season. She was often underutilized, but received a boost late in the season when she learned the truth about her parentage. Laurel’s character  had her own crucible this season, spiraling into into drug and alcohol addiction and losing her job before hitting bottom, rebounding, and playing her part in saving Starling City.

The Mirakuru drug served as a plausible, pseudo-scientific way of introducing super-strength and allowing Slade to transform into Deathstroke. And even when it came time to introduce the Flash midway through the season, Barry Allen never felt too out of place alongside the more grounded characters.

Season 2 really opened the floodgates as far as drawing in characters and elements from other DC properties. Barry Allen’s debut was the most high-profile, but we also saw plenty more of Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. “Professor Ivo became a recurring villain, along with a very different take on Amazo. And in a welcome twist, it turned out that even the Batman franchise is fair game with this show. Early on we learned of Sara Lance and Malcolm Merlyn’s connection to the League of Assassins. Nyssa al Ghul appeared in a couple of episodes, and we know her father is out there in the world, leading his shadowy organization in the hidden city of Nanda Parbat. Even Harley Quinn had a brief cameo.

And beyond the introduction of all these new elements, the scope of Arrow really opened up in Season 2. The action was bigger and better choreographed. The scale of the conflicts was bigger. The producers simply seemed to have more money to throw around. And whether that was actually the case or just the result of experience and planning, the end result was the same. Arrow became a bigger, more cinematic TV series this season.

REVIEW: BIRDS OF PREY

MAIN CAST

Ashley Scott (Into The Blue)
Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers)
Rachel Skarsten (Reign)
Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Mia Sara (Legend)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Chris Ellis (The Dark Knight Rises)
Shawn Christian (Las Vegas)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
AJ Michalka (super 8)
Maggie Baird (Eragon)
Silas Weir Mitchell (My Name Is Earl)
Brent Sexton (Flightplan)
Joe Flanigan (Stargate: Atlantis)
Robert Patrick Benedict (Waiting)
Autumn Reeser (The American Mall)
Riley Smith (Eight Legged Freaks)
Michael Welch (Twilight)
Brody Hutzler (Angel)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Shane Johnson (Behind Enemy Lines)
Sarah Brown (VR Troopers)
Kristoffer Polaha (Dollhouse)
Brian Thompson (Hired To Kill)
Annie Wersching (The Vampire Diaries)
Sung Hi Lee (The Girl Next Door)
Neil Hopkins (Lost)
Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files)
Bob Papenbrook (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Llia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
J.P. Manoux (Euro Trip)
Bob Clendenin (That 70s Show)
Ian Reed Kesler (2 Broke Girls)
Kirk Baltz (Natural Born Killers)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)

Loosely based on DC Comics and a variety of other sources with a touch of Marvel’s the X-Men thrown in, the series continues the legend of The Batman. We enter the future, dark and fantastic world of New Gotham City. Long after The Batman has driven himself into exile, his legacy lives on in the form of the Birds of Prey – Black Canary, Oracle, and the Huntress. From the creators of the CW hit Smallville, Birds of the Prey was produced in 2002 for the now defunct WB, but had only 13 episodes before cancellation. Since then, its devoted fan base worked tirelessly to have the series released on DVD. It was a really exciting action show, breaking new ground because ALL of the lead characters were women.This boxed set collects all 13 episodes and a never-collected-on-DVD before Flash-animated series “Gotham Girls.” Awesomely, it also includes the unaired pilot, which featured Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) in the role of Dr. Quinzel. Mia Sara was later cast as Quinzel in the series. She also appeared in the AIRED pilot. Interestingly, all of the scenes featuring the character in the AIRED pilot were reshot with Sara, word-for-word. Also of note, the aspect ratio of the episodes in the set will be full frame, but will have dark bars on top and on bottom to mimic widescreen. While normal citizens slept, the Birds of Prey flocked together to fight crime on the streets of New Gotham City. Several years after the city was abandoned by Batman, the awesome threesome of Huntress (Ashley Scott), Oracle (Dina Meyer), and Black Canary (Rachel Skarsten) was formed. Huntress is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and can smell danger from miles away. Black Canary has the gift of clairvoyance and Oracle leads the team through her cyber experience, despite being wheelchair bound by Batman’s nemesis, the evil Joker.When the series opens, we learn that New Gotham’s Batman has disappeared leaving behind a daughter from his long-time love Catwoman. Her name is Helena Kyle, who transforms herself into the mysterious superhero known as “The Huntress.” Helena has hypersensitive senses and agility, but uses her gifts selfishly. Fate brings her face-to-face with her choices as well as a wheel-chair-bound Barbara Gordon, the hero Oracle, who befriends her but agrees to train her only if she uses her powers for good.She teams up with Barbara, who had been “Batgirl” prior to being paralyzed by the Joker. By day, Barbara is a teacher at New Gotham High, but by night she fights crime from her secret lair in the New Gotham Clock Tower. The two meet a determined Dinah Redmond, a young woman who was drawn to New Gotham to learn more about her powers. Dinah is a touch-telepath and psychic who had terrifying dreams about Batgirl’s brutal incident that resulted in her paralysis. The Huntress resists working with Dinah, but Oracle convinces her to give the younger woman a chance. Now, they must learn not only how to work together as New Gotham’s protectors, but also as a family.Special recognition goes to Mark “Star Wars” Hamill who briefly reprises his award-winning voice role as the Joker from the iconic classic, Batman: the Animated Series. In Birds of Prey, “Mister J” on-camera is portrayed by actor/stuntman Roger Stoneburner but Hamill’s voice was dubbed over Stoneburner’s performance.  During the course of the series, the women are often confronted with schemes masterminded by the Joker’s on-and-off girlfriend, psychiatrist Dr. Harleen “Harley Quinn” Quinzel (Mia Sara), but they always prevail and eventually beat her at her own game.Other characters of note are: Alfred Pennyworth (Ian Abercrombie), who serves Helena as heir to the Wayne estate, and Police Detective Jesse Resse (Shemar Moore), confronted with crimes and abilities he cannot explain. A central feature of the series is the concept of metahumans: Individuals born with powers that cannot be explained. No two metahumans have the same specific ability (or set of abilities) and there exists a whole sub culture of metahuman society that the outside world knows nothing about. It is this world that Detective Reese is drawn into, reluctantly teaming up with Huntress and the Birds of Prey to defeat metahuman criminals. At first, he is disapproving of Helena’s vigilantism, even trying to arrest her, but eventually he realizes there is a need for the Birds of Prey to take down criminals the police can’t handle. Episodes in this four-disc collection are: the Pilot; Slick; Prey for the Hunter; Three Birds and a Baby; Sins of the Mother; Primal Scream; Split; Lady Shiva; Nature of the Beast; Gladiatrix; Reunion; Feat of Clay; and Devil’s Eyes. Very popular theme song “Revolution” was performed by Aimee Allen.