REVIEW: BATMAN UNLIMITED: MECHS VS MUTANTS

CAST (VOICES)

Roger Craig Smith (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Diamantopoulos (About A Boy TV)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Charlie Schlatter (Diagnosis Murder)
Dana Snyder (Open Season 3)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Richard Epcar (Power Rangers)
Oded Fehr (V)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Dave B. Mitchell (The Lorax)
Troy Baker (Marvel Anime)

Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsBatman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants is half Batman and Batfamily adventure. This time around for Batman, Robin (Damian Wayne), Flash, and Green Arrow vs. Penguin, Bane, Chemo, Mr. Freeze and Clayface. This is the third in the Batman Unlimited direct to video animated films.The latest in the toy-centric Batman Unlimited storyline transforms from a commercial to current Dynamic Duo adventure in a frozen Gotham City. Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins) returns as Batman and introducing Boy Wonder Damian Wayne voiced by Lucien Dodge (Fate/Zero). The Damian/Batman relationship is explored a bit here, in a surprising move that wholly embraces the current DC Rebirth status quo.Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsThere is no mention of Batman being Damian’s father, but it is hinted that he is the grandchild of Ra’s al Ghul when Robin awakens from a bad dream screaming, “Grandfather, NO!”. Pennyworth encourages Robin not to stay up too late studying to become Robin, as The Dark Knight has enrolled him into a “Robin Training Program”.Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsWill Friedle (Batman Beyond) appears as Nightwing and a simpatico brother to young Master Wayne. When faced with the threats lobbied by a team-up of the exiled Penguin (Dana Snyder) and Mr. Freeze (Oded Fehr) who recruits Killer Croc, Chemo, Clayface and Bane, Batman and Robin enlist the aide of Leaguesters Flash (Charlie Schlatter) and Green Arrow (Chris Diamantopoulos). Good guys round out their team with Commissioner Gordon and Dr. Kirk Langstrom.Genius scientist Victor Fries comes up with a formula to mix the compositional makeup of Bane, Chemo and Clayface to develop monsters capable of crushing cars and stomping through Gotham. Croc is the first to get juiced up, growing ten times his size and making the citizens of Gotham run for their lives. Of course, this is the Godzilla movie part, that frankly works pretty well.Image result for batman unlimited mech vs. mutantsWhat makes this Godzilla-type movie trope work really well is the cartooning and archetypes of these villains filling the Kaiju role. Batman has no choice but  to fight size with size. Batman and Green Arrow are able to pilot their own Mech suits to punish the bad guys before they have a chance to destroy Gotham’s Police Department and the rest of the city. Green Arrow is even conscious of which buildings to destroy in the process (by asking the computer which ones he owns). By placing a seed of doubt in Damian’s character early in the movie, he is able to redeem himself by playing detective himself and helping Batman problem solve. Green Arrow/Ollie Queen serves as a good uncle figure to Robin, who uses his years of experience dealing with Batman to assure Robin that he is important to the Batcave operations. Flash fulfills his normal role as comedian and lab scientist.Image result for batman unlimited mechs vs mutantsWhile not the grim and gritty, this Batman Unlimited release turns out a decent story. Of course, the allied bad guys find a way to stop getting along all together when the heroes’ strength lies in unity. While I was at first skeptical of the gigantic yellow Batsymbol on Bruce’s chest, it is growing on me, ever so slowly. Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants is fun for most ages, riding the fine line between serving the fans and serving the general audience, and selling toys.

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REVIEW: GOTHAM – SEASON 1

CAST

Ben McKenzie (Batman: Year One)
Donal Logue (Ghost Rider)
David Mazouz (Touch)
Zabryna Guevara (All Good Things)
Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers)
Robin Lord Taylor (Another Earth)
Erin Richards (The Quiet Ones)
Camren Bicondova (Girl House)
Corey Michael Smith (Carol)
Jada Pinkett Smith (Collateral)
John Dorman (The Wire)
Victoria Cartagena (Salt)
Andrew Stewart -Jones (Beauty and The Beast)
Drew Powell (Straw Dogs)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Richard Kind (Stargate)
Grayson McCouch (Armageddon)
Brette Taylor (Rescue Me)
Clare Foley (Win Win)
Lili Taylor (The Conjuring)
Carol Kane (The Princess Bride)
David Zayas (Dexter)
Jeremy Davidson (Roswell)
Margaret Colin (Independence Day)
Susan Misner (The Forgotten)
Kim Director (Blair Witch 2)
Christopher James Baker (Sanctum)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Nicholas D’Agasto (Final Destination 5)
Makenzie Leigh (The Slap)
Lesley-Ann Brandt (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)
Morena Baccarin (Firefly)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Peter Scolari (The Polar Express)
Dash Mihok (Silver Linings Playbook)
Anthony Carrigan (The Flash)
Julian Sands (Smallville)
Maria Thayer (Hitch)
Cameron Monaghan (The Giver)
Jeffrey Combs (Star Trek: DS9)
Colm Feore (Thor)
Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes)
Willa Fitzgerald (Scream: The Series)
Chris Chalk (12 Years a Slave)

Gotham City has an old, relatively vague history independent of when Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot down in an alleyway, usually the first and primary thing that comes to mind about the motivation that drives Batman: the crime that got so bad that it took his good-natured parents away from him. The surroundings responsible for the billionaires’ murder weren’t created overnight, though, and intensified in response to their death, a time period that often goes unaddressed unless a detail about Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the brooding hero needs mentioning. As a response to the character’s unrelenting popularity the folks at DC aim to use that largely unexplored space to provide an origin story for the city’s violence and corruption, an attempt to recapture the magic of Smallville in a darker environment. The result is Gotham, a blend of crime-case procedure and mobster politics that also fills in the gaps between the orphaning of Bruce Wayne to where Batman begins.

Taking pages out of the playbook of the comic-book series “Gotham Central”, the show largely focuses on the interworking parts of the Gotham City Police Department, notably the arrival of rookie detective Jim Gordon in the midst of rampant corruption. The OC star Ben McKenzie brings initiative and fire to the character, a war veteran and straight-laced servant of the law who’s thrown together with a dirty partner in Harvey Bullock, whose sympathetic flaws are marvelously embodied by Donal Logue. Their first case together? The murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, later revealed to be connected to the city’s organized crime activity. In their investigation, Gordon quickly gets introduced to key players pulling the strings in Gotham, notably a swanky nightclub operator in Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and her aging, rational boss, Carmine Falcone (John Doman). Then, there’s Oswald Cobblepott (Robin Lord Taylor), an attendant to Fish whose wavering allegiances also come to the surface in response to Gordon and Bullock’s investigation, working him into a position of persistent danger and upward mobility if he plays his cards right.

Against the backdrop of a Gotham City that combines Tim Burton’s gothic vision with Christopher Nolan’s stark approach into a relatively timeless metro area, Gotham comes in hard and fast with its nods to the DC universe, eliminating any early concerns about how much of the mythology it’ll incorporate. In fact, the show actually suffers from an oversaturation of these references, especially in how many of the classic villains have benign links to the GCPD in their pasts and, quite simply, how many have already shown up and taken shape into their well-known personalities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, nor with tweaking what’s known about the universe into its own continuity, but it does detract from the production succeeding as a credible prequel to the age of Batman — touted early on as a selling point for the show.

It’s fascinating to see the riddlesome Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) as an awkward, morbid Dexter-like puzzle-solver working in the precinct, and to see a young Catwoman giving prowler pointers to a young Batman not long after she witnessed the infamous Wayne murder.

The areas where Gotham works are within the politics of the GCPD and the evolving criminal element, and, by association, the origin stories of Jim Gordon’s fight against the department and The Penguin’s ascent up the crime ladder. Elevated by Gordon’s furious diligence against the powers-that-be who keep him from properly doing his job. Gotham is in a comfort zone while exploring maneuverings of Robin Lord Taylor’s brilliantly grimy performance as Oswald Cobblepott. Combining the knowledge that he’ll eventually become a massive player in Gotham with the unpredictable, volatile nature of his younger self exemplifies what a prequel can accomplish.

Gotham really exposes the crux of its issues in the origin story of Bruce Wayne, built around the young orphaned billionaire developing the gumption and skill to investigate his parents’ murder, planting the seeds for his growth into the Caped Crusader.

As Gotham grows in it’s first season it becomes fascinating show dealing with the city before Batman came along and as it heads into it’s second season who can truly see the show has found it’s footing and will hopefully be around for sometime to come.

REVIEW: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D

CAST

Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas)
Dan Yeager (Metal Heads)
Trey Songz (Baggage Claim)
Scott Eastwood (Fury)
Tania Raymonde (Lost)
Shaun Sipos (Final Destination 2)
Keram Malicki-Sánchez (Punisher: Warzone)
Thom Barry (Cold Case)
Richard Riehle (Office Space)
Bill Moseley (Halloween)

Watching Texas Chainsaw 3D, the latest screen incarnation of the iconic chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface, the mind fairly reels. This purported direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic cheerfully ignores that director’s own 1986 follow-up, the 1997 and 2003 remakes, the 2006 prequel and even its basic timeline. It scores points for sheer brazenness.

The opening sequence takes place directly after the final scene of Hooper’s film, depicting a Waco-like encounter in which the house containing Leatherface and his cannibalistic family burns to the ground with all its occupants presumably dead. Except for a baby, who is promptly adopted and, as we soon see, grows up in Oklahoma to be the beautiful Heather (Alexandra Daddario).

Cut to roughly 20 years later, when Heather learns of her origins after being left a Texas mansion by her late grandmother. She and her friends promptly head off in a van to check out her inheritance — which, unbeknown to them, still is the home of the hulking Leatherface (Dan Yeager).

The film’s first half follows conventional horror movie tropes as the heroine and her hottie companions — boyfriend Ryan (singer Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson), BFF Nikki (Tania Raymonde), her new crush Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sanchez) and a hunky hitchhiker (Scott Eastwood) — are pursued by the chainsaw-wielding inhabitant with predictably lethal results. But not before all of them bare as much skin as possible.

Things take a somewhat more complex turn later on when Heather finds herself in an unlikely alliance with her deranged relative against the town’s corrupt mayor (Paul Rae) and his minions. Leatherface is even given a rather sympathetic treatment, depicted as being something of a misunderstood, overgrown child whose propensity for tearing off his victims’ faces is but an extreme example of adolescent rebellion.

That the film obviously takes place in the present day — a key sequence involves a camera phone — is something of a puzzler because that would make Heather nearly 40, something that the tightly toned, midriff-baring Daddario clearly is not. But hey, what’s a couple of decades more or less?

Director John Luessenhop takes advantage of the 3D by shoving blood spurts and the occasional chainsaw directly into viewers’ faces Devoted fans of the original will be gratified by the cameos from several of that film’s castmembers, including original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen, though they are mostly of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them variety.