REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 2

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Nicki Clyne (Saved!)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Paul Campbell (Knight Rider)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)

Tahmoh Penikett and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Samuel Witwer (Smallville)
Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Rekha Sharma (V)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Lorena Gale (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Michael Trucco (Sabrina: TTW)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Graham Beckel (The Loft)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Kate Vernon (Heores)
Alonso Oyarzun (Reindeer Games)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)
Ty Olsson (War of TPOTA)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Dominic Zamprogna (Stargate Universe)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Patricia Idlette (Ginger Snaps 2)
Benjamin Ayres (The Vampire Diaries)
Don Thompson (Watchmen)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Sebastian Spence (First Waves)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Colm Feore (Thor)
David Richmond-Peck (Sanctuary)
Claudette Mink (Paycheck)
Bill Duke (Black Lightning)
Christopher Jacot (Slasher)
John Heard (Home Alone)
Kavan Smith (Staragte Atlantis)
Stefanie von Pfetten (Cracked)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)

Some cynical individual, at some time, blurted out that “there’s always room for improvement” about an accomplishment or achievement that was fine in its own right. In the spectrum of film and television, it’s true that all material can be tightened, focused, and made even more compelling with practice; but oftentimes creative teams fall back into comfort zones and neglect to spit-shine where improvement is needed. Ronald Moore and David Eick, the creators of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, understand this concept. They accomplished something intriguing, thrilling, and dramatically magnetic with their initial 2003 miniseries and, later, a full subsequent season that grappled the structure of the three-hour introduction — characters, mythos, and stunning production merits through striking photography and convincing computer effects — and ran with it. However, there’s always room for improvement, and Battlestar Galactica’s second season finds a deeper focus and more thrill-inducing pace that fully ratchets the series into the stratosphere of superb science-fiction creations.Nicki Clyne and Aaron Douglas in Battlestar Galactica (2004)The first season constructs a “reboot” of the highest accord, taking the original content from the 1978 television series and shaping it into an edgy and modern production in the vein of “West Wing … in space”. Grecian mythology, military-heavy hierarchal bickering, and the relationships between people on the space ship Galactica — both tender and volatile — are all sparked into action when the Cylons, humanity’s slave-like machines evolved into enlightened yet vengeful beings, attack their creators after 40 years of recoiled hibernation. These attacks, which left around 50,000 humans alive, wiped out sixteen of the individuals in-line for the presidency over the “colonies”, which left Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell, Dances With Wolves) as the next in line. Somehow, this all gyrates around the weasel-like scheming of Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis, Bridget Jones’ Diary), who inadvertently fell for the whims of a blonde-haired Cylon (Tricia Helfer) and revealed humanity’s defense secrets — and, now, follows orders from the sultry “machine” in the confines of his own mind, with her as little more than an illusion reminding him of his “importance” as one of God’s pawns. Monotheistic God, not polytheistic, but that’ll become important later on.After its thrilling two-part miniseries and a handful of tense cat-and-mouse episodes at the start, the first season (which should be viewed before continuing this review, as the context here relies on the fact that you’ve seen the first season) coasts along a stream of dynamic back-and-forths between Galactica’s Commander Bill Adama (Edward James Olmos, Blade Runner) and President Roslin — leading to a point where Adama is stretched out on the ship’s command center deck, bleeding from gunshot wounds incurred by an assassination attempt. Season Two picks up directly after the shooting, showing how the military hierarchy moves its pieces around Adama’s incapacitation. His XO (second in command) Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) wrestles with his alcohol addiction as he tries to juggle an unwanted leadership position, shrug off his wife Ellen’s (Kate Vernon) passenger-seat manipulation of the Galactica’s workings, and make the colonies understand why President Roslin has been arrested for subordination. On top of that, we’re also watching the way Adama’s ailment affects his son, Captain Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber), as his allegiance to the Colonial fleet sways between loyalty to his father and his belief in what the theologically-focused President Roslin is trying to accomplish.Richard Hatch and Michael Hogan in Battlestar Galactica (2004)But, as Battlestar Galactica veterans know, that core quarrel really only scoops up the top layer of the conflicts that lie underneath the Colonial fleet’s hunt for a safe, habitable planet — whether it be the fabled planet Earth, the newly-discovered planet of Kobol, or beyond. Season Two also finds a deeper focus on Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff, “Nip/Tuck”), aka Starbuck, as more than a novel imitation of the classic series’ character, concentrating on the depth of her belief in the gods, her bull-headedness giving way to a need for deeper connections with others, and a particular point where she’s, dare I say it, made hopelessly vulnerable in the episode “The Farm”. This happens on Cylon-occupied Caprica, the colonies’ once-thriving central metropolis, where she and Lieutenant ‘Helo’ Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett, “Dollhouse”) are attempting to locate a way off the planet and back to Galactica with the “Arrow of Apollo” in their possession. There, they interact with a second version of the “Sharon” model of Cylon (Grace Park), pregnant with Helo’s child and rebellious against her kind. Along those same lines, we also see how the cluster of Colonial soldiers stranded on Kobol — deck chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and his “knuckledragger” subordinates, as well as Vice President Baltar — find a way to survive until they’re able to make an escape attempt.Mary McDonnell and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Though the introductory season of Battlestar Galactica triumphs for establishing the storyline’s intricacies, a broad spectrum of characters, and suspenseful density, Ron Moore and David Eick still had a handful of creaks in the series’ bow that needed repair — such as tighter concentration on the political banter and more focused balancing between space warfare and non-CIC dramatics. Though intriguing to some, including myself, those elements also tended to bog down the pacing to a degree that could deter some from its deliberate concentration on policy. It’s important, and necessary, for a lengthy story to grow beyond its limitations, and the Moore / Eick team hone the introductory season’s successes into a poised, pulsating blend of drama and thrills that bolsters its initial successes forward two-fold. Everything that underscores the series’ quality — superb, straight-faced acting, slickly detailed cinematography ranging from cold and dark to acidic and overblown, and some of the best music on television, period — persists into the second season, now attached to a sense of obvious plot refinement.Jamie Bamber and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

does it differ? Well, this season knows when and how to play its cards, where the initial season struggles in knowing exactly what to do with the substantially impressive content that it’s generating. The thematic density that it crams into this season is staggering; the complications of martial law (military control of the government), delicateness around following an idealist (dying) leader with religion as their driving force, technology’s advancement and control over our everyday activity, the necessity of black market trade, and, eventually, the power of government-mandated control over population control. All of these elements are timely and meaningful, even allegorical to conflicts present in modern society, and they’re handled with a specific panache in this second season that remains vigilant throughout. But they’re not overtly heavy-handed; sly incorporation allows us to view these elements merely on the surface for service of the story or as deeper insights — whichever suits the viewer.James Remar and Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica (2004)On top of that, Moore and Eick have set sights on how to tie these heady elements in with the bustling activity of operatic space battles, and they’ve succeeded in a way that maintains the series’ accessibility. The hyper-elaborate technobabble prevalent in other series — such as bits and pieces about a ship that “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” and about “trionic initiators in the warp coil” — gets tossed aside to allow for a direct focus on human interactions, such as ebbs and flows between father and son in authoritative positions, the fear and fatigue within a crew that’s never given much of a chance to relax, and an affinity with Laura Roslin as she succumbs to terminal breast cancer. Emotion-heavy episodes, such as the excellent “Flight of the Phoenix” where Chief Tyrol finds distraction and a sense of hope in building a new fighter ship from scraps, are there solely for that purpose. They even work in cliché taglines like, “They can run, but they can’t hide”, and hokey plot points like a bona-fide love triangle to convincing degrees — well, with their own spins on the material. In that, the creators rope us into the emotional fabric as if we’re members of the crew, sharing their plights. We’re not forced to try and comprehend scientific jargon, aside from a few scattered discussions about firewalls, viruses, and FTL drives, but instead asked to unswervingly, and powerlessly, hold our focus on the shifts in power aboard the Galactica.Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Then, with a flick of the writers’ wrists, they change the way that we perceive just about everything in the series with the episode “Pegasus”. Out of nowhere, another one of the colonial fighter bases, the Battlestar Pegasus, arrives unexpectedly within the proximity of Galactica’s location. Once both have confirmed that they’re friendly ships, we’re introduced to Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) — a strong, bloodthirsty woman with a very tight, dictatorial grip on her ship. Unlike the Galactica, the Pegasus is competitive, hardened, chauvinistic and far more stringent on policy, which creates a world of conflict once the two commanders begin comparing notes on Galactica’s personnel issues, power rankings, and the lenience in handling a Cylon prisoner. More importantly, Admiral Cain is Adama’s superior officer, and her iron-fist reclaim of power decidedly tears the fleet apart. In a matter of forty-some-odd minutes, the entire power structure of Battlestar Galactica is rearranged and tossed into volatile disarray, left for our characters to plot around and sort out. And it makes for thoroughly gut-swelling television because of it, stretching over an impressive three-episode arc (“Pegasus”, “Resurrection Ship” Parts One and Two).Lucy Lawless and Patrick Harrison in Battlestar Galactica (2004)It’s at this point, once the dust clears from the Pegasus incidents, that Battlestar Galactica begins to really claim a place in the annals of science-fiction as one of its finest creations — even with a few stumbling blocks that it still fights against. Ellen Tigh’s manipulation of Saul while he’s in command of the Galactica borders on the unbelievable, though one can certainly understand the swaying power of a significant other. A few character moments feel shoehorned into the mix, such as Lee’s character history revelations in “Black Market”, where the desire to beef up each and every character overreaches their bounds. And, quite simply, one or two of the episodes still fall a tad flat, whether they’re because of an unattractive character coming into focus, such as the hot-rod stem junkie pilot Kat in the ho-hum filler ep “Scar”, or the show simply attempting to do things that it can’t pull off, like the meandering MTV reality show style footage in “Final Cut”. Each of these faults are minor blemishes on otherwise successful, and thought-provoking, installments into the story arc, proving that even weak Battlestar Galactica episodes can be compelling to a middling degree.James Callis and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)With its continual and newly-sprung ideas bubbling at the cusp, Moore and Eick reach a conclusion to the second season, the masterful two-parter “Lay Down Your Burdens”, that focuses on the much-anticipated presidential race alluded to in the first season. Restoration of complete democracy and humanization become the weighty element at play, as the candidates — surprises aplenty — duke it out with the fleet’s concerns of safe planetary habitat and population boom as key driving forces. The interplay between all of the individuals is brilliant; however, it’s the outcome, and the legitimately shocking twist at the end of the finale, that’ll likely send one on a contemplative tailspin. With no less than three cliffhanger episodes in this season, it’s only expected that the finale in itself would be a weighty one, and Syfy’s heavy-hitting series doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It’s a brilliant way to swirl the entire season together, even if everything is turned upside down once again. That’s part of Ron Moore and David Eick’s game, a sci-fi neo-political chessgame that’s well worth playing.

 

REVIEW: HUMAN TARGET – SEASON 2

Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)

Starring

Mark Valley (Zero Dark Thirty)
Chi McBride (Hawaii Five-O)
Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)
Indira Varma (Game of Thrones)
Janet Montgomery (Black Swan)

Rick Hoffman and Indira Varma in Human Target (2010)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Timothy Omundson (Xena)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Molly Parker (Lost In Space)
M.C. Gainey (Lost)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Douglas O’Keeffe (Sanctuary)
Cameron Daddo (Stealing Candy)
Jorge Montesi (Caprica)
Lennie James (The Walking Dead)
Nick Chinlund (Eraser)
Tracie Thoms (Cold Case)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)
Christopher Rosamond (The Revenant)
John Michael Higgins (Still Waiting)
Rebecca McFarland (Two and a Half Men)
David orth (The Lost World)
Marie Avgeropoulos (The 100)
Alexander Calvert (Arrow)
Leonor Varela (Blade II)
David Barrera (NYPD Blue)
Anna Van Hooft (Flash Gordon)
Tony Hale (American Ultra)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Carlo Rota (Saw V)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Lauren German (Hostel Part II)
Nicole Bilderback (Dark Angel)
Michael Massee (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Steven Brand (The Scorpion King)

Human Target (2010)FOX has become notorious for cancelling great shows before they’d even gotten started. To them, if the show isn’t in the top 50 after it’s initial 13 episode run, it isn’t worth their time or money. As a result, some of the most imaginative and intense shows to come along in years are cancelled before they’ve even gotten started. Human Target is on a list that includes, Alcatraz, The Chicago Code, Gracepoint, Almost Human, Dollhouse, and dozens of others that you’ve probably never heard of. Unless it’s a top 50 show right from the start, or a lame animated comedy, Fox has no use for it and shows like Human Target are replaced with Bob’s Burgers and The Cleveland Show.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)For those unfamiliar with the story, Human Target is based on a long running DC comic by the same title. It is the story of Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), a mysterious man with a mysterious past. Joined by a former police detective, and a hacker/thug named Guerrero, Chance has formed a company that discreetly serves an elite clientele. Their job is to protect their clients from threats at any cost, by injecting themselves into the persons life. Chance’s job is to identify the threat and eliminate it before anything happens to the client. I don’t know how Mark Valley is not a household name at this point. This guy is so intense, always has tremedous, unorthodox ways of getting out of trouble, and to be honest, he really reminds me of MacGyver. Valley has the looks, the charm, and of course the skills to make Christopher Chance jump off the pages and come to life.Douglas O'Keeffe and Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)But this show isn’t just an episonic show, there is also a deep and complex back story that gets more intense with each episode. We know the players and what they are capable of very quickly in the series, but what we don’t know is their history. As more and more is revealed, the characters just get deeper and more intense.Mark Valley in Human Target (2010)Human Target was a great show, it was original, exciting, and better than almost anything on FOX at the present time. Mark Valley is very impressive, as is the writing. Every episode has at least one thing in it that you did not see coming, and if it were up to me, this show would have been on for years.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 5

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Evan Sabara (The Polar Express)
Danielle Judovits (Toy Story)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)

The Batman (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

George Newbern (Justice Leegue)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dana Delany (Superman: TAS)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Legend of The Mummy)
Gwendoline Yeo (Desperate Housewives)
Chris Hardwick (The X’s)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Amanda Anka (Buffy: TVS)
John Larroquette (Stripes)
Charlie Schlatter (18 Again)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Miguel Ferrer (Iron Man 3)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns)
Hynden Walch (Teen Titans)
Jerry O’Connell (The Death of Superman)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Chris Pratt (Avengers Endgame)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)

The Batman (2004)Over time the show has definitely grown and it’s safe to say that it’s come into its own. Though this may be the final season it’s definitely one of the stronger ones and in the end this is a ride any fan of the character should take. In the previous seasons of The Batman all sorts of things happened that continue to have an impact upon Gotham in this fifth outing. Batgirl was added to the roster during the third season with Dick Grayson as Robin in the fourth. Several familiar villains were brought into the fold as well but most notably the finale of the fourth season featured an alien invasion and the introduction of The Justice League. That’s right where we pick up this time around with Gotham reeling in the aftermath of the alien attack.Ring_TossDestruction is everywhere and the people are in need of support. Lucky for them Superman comes to town with a massive check from Metropolis but unluckily for Superman Metallo is waiting for his chance to strike. What transpires is a team up between Batman and Superman to take down Lex Luthor who has his eyes set on Gotham. In the meantime Superman falls under Lex’s control thanks to some help from Poison Ivy and kryptonite. Naturally it’s up to Batman and Robin to stop the man of steel and there’s plenty of fighting between the DC legends.Joker_ExpressIf you have been following the series this marks Superman’s first appearance on the show and you’ll notice a trend that follows throughout this year. The previous season’s introduction of characters such as Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, and Green Lantern fleshes out The Batman’s roster somewhat and really gives is a Justice League feel.Batman_superman_robinThis season is very entertaining even though the focus shifts from Batman and his universe. At this point in The Batman’s run the creative cast definitely had it going on but you can tell that even in the final moments they were experimenting. I see what the producers were aiming to do with this season and for all intents and purposes it is successful.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 4

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Evan Sabara (The Polar Express)
Danielle Judovits (Toy Story)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)Rino Romano in The Batman (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Wallace Langham (CSI)
Julianne Grossman (Star Trek: Discovery)
Allison Mack (Smallville)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters II)
Jerry O’Connell (The Death of Superman)
Kellie Martin (ER)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Hynden Walch (Teen Titans)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil)
Brooke Shields (Pretty Baby)
Gina Gershon (Red Heat)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Legend of The Mummy)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)

The Batman (2004)Few animated TV shows have improved as greatly and as rapidly as much as “The Batman.” When the program debuted on the Kids WB! network in 2004, it was a reboot of the franchise, and while repeat viewings did help the show’s more radical changes become acceptable to lifelong fans of the character, it still never quite hit the heights of the 1990s’ “Batman: The Animated Series,” deemed by most as the definitive presentation of the hero.Strange New World (2006)The season opens with the introduction of Robin, the Boy Wonder. Series producers took a brave risk the season prior by breaking from the continuity of the Batman mythology and bringing in Batgirl as a sidekick first; the official reason given is that Robin was tied up on the “Teen Titans” cartoon, but the switcheroo seems to go beyond that, as it led to a shakeup that helped breathe new life into the franchise.The Batman (2004)Perhaps to counterbalance such changes, the season premiere strays very little from the established Robin backstory: young Dick Grayson (seen here at around age 10 or 11, unlike several other incarnations that aged him slightly) is the son of a successful circus act. Here, Dick’s father also runs the circus, so he’s directly responsible for shooing away the thugs that show up one night for a little extortion. Batman arrives to thwart the baddies, but they return to sabotage the trapeze. The Graysons are killed mid-performance, and Bruce Wayne, seeing a parallel with his own history, takes Dick in as a foster son. Dick later discovers the Batcave, dons his old circus outfit, and sets out to capture the mobsters; by episode’s end, he’s properly christened as Robin.The Batman (2004)It’s interesting to note that every time this legend is retold, its writers find new ways of infusing some modern day logic into the proceedings. Like Dick’s circus costume, which now comes right off the bat with the familiar “R” crest, only for “Richard,” not “Robin.” He later decides to use “Robin” as his superhero alter ego not in tribute to Robin Hood, or because of the goofy motorcycle helmet design from “Batman Forever,” but simply because Dick’s mom liked that nickname. It adds a bittersweet human touch to the myth that feels so natural, I’m surprised it’s never been used before. (In a nice touch, Kevin Conroy, the voice actor who played Batman in the 1990s, appears as Dick’s father. It’s a wonderful passing-the-torch moment that reminds me of when Adam West showed up on “Batman: The Animated Series” as the Grey Ghost. Also providing guest star voice work this season are Mark Hamill, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ron Perlman, James Remar, Wallace Langham, and Brandon Routh.)The Batman (2004)Batgirl is absent from this episode (wisely so – although it’s an excellent story, it’s also pretty cluttered with characters and events). She returns in the follow-up, and there we set the stage for the rest of the season’s tone. The sidekicks spend their time bickering and trying to one-up each other, in pure brother-sister mode. It’s a fun dynamic to the show that allows Batman to remain his moody self without forcing the series to become overly brooding. A peculiar moment regarding the sidekicks comes late in the season, when Robin pauses in the middle of a dangerous mission to ask Batgirl if she’s afraid. After some fudging between the two, she admits that she is. Not only is this a deeper, more thoughtful character moment than the series would have ever attempted a few years earlier, but it’s a startling moment of character honesty that you rarely get in a children’s adventure.

REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Josh Duhamel (Paradise Lost)
John Turturro (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Patrick Dempsey (Made of Honor)
Kevin Dunn (Samantha Who?)
Julie White (Lincoln)
John Malkovich (Red)
Frances McDormand (Hail, Caesar!)
Keiko Agena (13 Reasons Why)
Lester Speight (Faster)
Josh Kelly (Jarhead 2)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Mark Ryan (Robin of Sherwood)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)
Buzz Aldrin (The Big Bang Theory)
Elya Baskin (Heroes)
Peter Cullen (Dungeons & Dragons)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Jess Harnell (Little Nicky)
James Remar (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation)
Francesco Quinn (Hell Ride)
George Coe (The West Wing)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Tom Kenny (The Powerpuff Girls)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Greg Berg (The Muppets)
Lindsey Ginter (S.W.A.T.)
Anthony Azizi (Lost)
Robert Foxworth (Beyond The Stars)

Ravil Isyanov (Octopus)

In 1961, the “Ark”, a Cybertronian spacecraft carrying an invention capable of ending the war between the benevolent Autobots and the malevolent Decepticons, crash lands on the dark side of Earth’s Moon. The crash is detected on Earth by NASA, and the President authorizes a mission to put a man on the Moon as a cover for investigating the spacecraft. In 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 lands on the Moon.In the present, the Autobots assist the United States military in preventing major conflicts around the globe. During a mission to Chernobyl to investigate suspected alien technology, Optimus Prime finds a fuel cell from the “Ark”, discovering that it had survived its journey from Cybertron. The Autobots are then attacked by Shockwave, a Decepticon scientist, who manages to escape. After learning of the top-secret mission to the Moon, the Autobots travel there to explore the “Ark”. They discover a comatose Sentinel Prime – Optimus’ predecessor as leader of the Autobots – and the Pillars he created as a means of establishing a Space Bridge between two points to teleport matter. After returning to Earth, Optimus uses the energy of his Matrix of Leadership to revive Sentinel Prime.Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky is frustrated that he is unable to work with the Autobots or find a job. He also becomes envious of the close relationship between his new girlfriend, Carly Spencer, and her boss Dylan Gould. After finding work, Sam is provided information by his eccentric co-worker Jerry Wang about the “Ark”, before Jerry is assassinated by the Decepticon Laserbeak. Sam contacts the now-independently wealthy Sector 7 Agent Seymour Simmons, and together they realize that the Decepticons and their leader, Megatron, are murdering people connected to the American and Russian space missions to the “Ark”. They locate two surviving Russian cosmonauts, who reveal satellite photos of hundreds of Pillars being stockpiled on the Moon. Sam realizes that the Decepticons raided the “Ark” long before the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and intentionally left Sentinel and the five Pillars behind to lure the Autobots into a trap with Sentinel being the key to activating the Pillars and the Decepticons lacking the means to revive him. The Autobots rush to return Sentinel to their base for protection, but Sentinel betrays them and murders the Autobot Ironhide, revealing he had made a deal with Megatron to ensure Cybertron’s survival.Sentinel uses the Pillars to transport hundreds of concealed Decepticons from the Moon to Earth. Carly is later captured by Gould, who is revealed to be in service of the Decepticons. The Autobots are exiled from Earth at the demand of the Decepticons to avoid war, but as their ship leaves Earth it is destroyed by Megatron’s second-in-command, Starscream, seemingly killing the Autobots. The Decepticons, led by Megatron and Sentinel, invade Chicago as their agents place Pillars around the world. Gould reveals to Carly that the Decepticons plan to transport their homeworld of Cybertron to the Solar System, then to enslave humanity and use Earth’s resources to rebuild their world. Sam teams up with former USAF Chief Robert Epps and ex-NEST soldiers to go into Chicago to save Carly, but they are nearly killed by Decepticon forces before the Autobots intervene, revealing they concealed themselves during the launch of their ship to convince the Decepticons they were destroyed.Working together, the Autobots and human soldiers manage to rescue Carly and kill Laserbeak, Starscream, Soundwave and Shockwave, with Optimus using Shockwave’s arm-cannon to blast the Control Pillar, disabling the Space Bridge. Sam confronts Gould as he reactivates the Control Pillar, and knocks Gould into the Pillar, electrocuting him. Bumblebee and Ratchet arrive and destroy the Control Pillar, permanently disabling the Bridge and causing the partially transported Cybertron to implode. Optimus and Sentinel fight while Carly convinces Megatron that he will be replaced by Sentinel as leader of the Decepticons. Sentinel severs Optimus’ right arm, and is about to execute him when Megatron intervenes, incapacitating Sentinel. Megatron slyly proposes a truce, having the desire to become the one in charge again, but Optimus instead attacks Megatron, decapitating and killing him. Sentinel pleads for his life, but Optimus executes him too for betraying his own principles. With the Decepticons defeated, Carly and Sam are reunited and the Autobots accept that, with Cybertron gone for good, Earth is now their home.Ultimately, Bay’s primary success here is casting. In addition to Dempsey (pleasingly cynical), Dark of the Moon boasts an elaborate roster of recognizable, exceptional professionals, like John Malkovich (ridiculous), Frances McDormand (deadly serious), Ken Jeong (psychotic), and Alan Tudyk (over-the-top), who give the film color. McDormand in particular adds a level of gravitas to the first half of the movie that really greases the wheels, and even though she’s relegated to the far back in the last third, she shares her time with returning player John Turturro, with whom she has amusing chemistry. Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, and Julie White also return. Everything else is action, action, action. This time, Bay is better with his action geography and choreography, illustrating fights from a distance and turning down the dust clouds a little bit.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 2

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

MV5BMTk1MDgzMTYzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUwOTM2MjE@._V1_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Powers Booth (Sin City)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Seymour Cassel (Dick Tracy)
Takayo Fischer (Moneyball)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Giselle Loren (Happy Feet)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween)
Kim Mai Guest (G.I. Joe: Reneages)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Alexis Denisof (Avengers Assemble)
Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time)
Juliet Landau (Aquaman)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Oded Fehr (V)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Amy Acker (The Gifted)
Virgina Madsen (Highlander II)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator)
Joanne Whalley (Willow)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Michael Ironside (Scanners)
Bud Cort (MASH)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)

MV5BMjQwMjQ0MTUzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTAwOTM2MjE@._V1_Since I was just a young lad, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have been showing me exactly what a superhero should be. They were some of the people behind the sublime Batman: The Animated Series, which is the definitive version of Batman in my eyes. They helped bring a certain Kryptonian to television screens in the late ’90s, taking an extra step into forming a coherent version of the DC universe to life. Hell, they even went so far as to help create a true successor to the Dark Knight. After doing all this, they managed to bring a clean, faithful and truly amazing assortment of champions of the DC Universe to life, showing us all exactly what a superhero should be.MV5BMTQxMjk3MTgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDAwOTM2MjE@._V1_JLU – Season Two  remains faithful to its source material, which isn’t something you’ll find too often when translating a comic to a TV show or movie; whether it’s Green Arrow humming his own theme music while he’s fighting villains to Batman always being the baddest man in the room, the show conveys everything perfectly. A huge strength of the show lies within its voice talent, which is an assortment of voice-over veterans that have had some time to perfect their takes on characters: Kevin Conroy expertly delivers every line as Batman; Michael Rosenbaum has a wonderful, playful performance as Flash; and Clancy Brown is nothing short of brilliant as the ever-scheming, truly egotistic Lex Luthor. Though some of these actors have had over a decade to perfect their take on their respective characters, the guest stars who have little to no VO experience, much less know their characters, manage to be spot-on with their takes, making their characters memorable and charismatic.MV5BMTk4NTY4ODY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDYwOTM2MjE@._V1_Not only that, some of the guest stars who appear are more than enough to cause a nerdgasm to any self-respecting comic geek. Names like Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Amy Acker, Morena Baccarin, Juliet Landau, Michael Ironside, James Remar, and Daniel Dae Kim all bring their characters to life in the best way possible, creating a lasting impact on the series. As the series progressed from the seven core heroes, requiring the talent of so many guest stars, some viewers may be inclined to think, “Wow, DC has a lot of lame heroes in its roster.” Almost at the exact point in the series that the thought occurred to me, the show comes out swinging with the episode “Patriot Act,” hitting the nail on the head. This episode has an Incredible Hulk type character wanting to face off against the JLU varsity squad (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc&#Array;), but what he gets is a slew of D and E-list heroes, like Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E., Shining Knight, Vigilante, Green Arrow and Speedy.MV5BMzcyNjI0Nzc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODI5ODM2MjE@._V1_Though you may be thinking “who?” at this roster of leaguers, and though they get thoroughly trounced, the episode manages to make the point of despite who they’re fighting, these champions won’t ever quit, and it’s a theme that’s brought up more than once during the series without beating you over the head with it nor becoming cheesy, and that’s fine by me. The writing of the series is easily its greatest strength as it has fun with its storylines and it’s very obvious that everyone involved knows their craft. They don’t bother setting up any more characters – they already had four seasons to do so. Rather than exploring the universe further, they jump into tales that can be enjoyed by newcomers and longtime fans alike. The main story-arc of the season is a huge nod to an older crowd as it deals with the Legion of Doom – well, maybe not in name, but without a doubt in spirit: A gaggle of villains led by Lex Luthor who use a giant Darth Vader helmet as a base of operations.MV5BOTE5NTA5MTc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTIwOTM2MjE@._V1_If that isn’t the Legion of Doom, I don’t know what is. The storyline revolves around Luthor’s quest to reunite with Braniac and become a god. Unfortunately, he unleashes one of the most dangerous and powerful foes in the DC universe and the events that follow make for one satisfying bookend to one of the most prolific takes on a comic universe.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

JL_line-up

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Gary Cole (Fam)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Susan Sullivan (Castle)
Corey Burton (Transformers)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Kurtwood Smith (Robocop)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Garrett Morris (2 Broke Girls)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Kristin Bauer van Straten (50 First Dates)
Xander Berkeley (Terminator 2)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Eric Roberts (The Finder)
William Smith (Laredo)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girls)
Cathy Cavadini (THe Powerpuff Girls)
Bill Duke (Black Lightning)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Keone Young (Crank)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Stephen McHattie (300)
David Naughton (The Gathering)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Ted McGinley (No Good Nick)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Udo Kier (Iron Sky)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
William Katt (Carrie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha)
Grant Heslov (THe Scorpion King)
Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender)
Pam Grier (Jackie Brown)
William Morgan Sheppard (Transformers)
Dave Thomas (Coneheads)
Cam Clarke (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Tom Sizemore (Red Planet)
Patrick Duffy (Dallas)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)

secret-origins-pan-01They’re the rockstars of the DC universe and they’re a heck of a lot of fun to be around. Giant robot rampaging through the city and Superman alone can’t stop it? Insidious villain plotting to invade the world with an army of zombies and the task is too much for Wonder Woman? Puzzling crime-spree that Batman can’t – er, wait. Strike that last one. Given enough time, Batman can do just about anything. Even so, when the world is in dire need of saving, it’s a job for the Justice League. MV5BMDMyN2UzOWQtZjg4OS00MmFiLTk0MzItNTlkZTk3NTRjZWRmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_This series is the culmination of nearly ten years of animation continuity headed up by animation producer Bruce Timm and friends. It’s very rare for a consistent creative team to play around in what is essentially the same sandbox for so long. From the writers to the directors to the voice actors – Kevin Conroy has been voicing Batman for over ten years now – Justice League is the spiritual conclusion to the DC animated universe that Batman: The Animated Series helped kick off way back in 1992.MV5BM2Y5M2JmYTEtNWRiMy00OTgwLTkwOGMtMzI2ZWIxZmM3ODAwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_The creative team has taken everything they’ve learned in their previous shows (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond) and brought it to the next level. Justice League features seven main heroes and a host of villains. If that wasn’t enough, in its later seasons the series would expand its roster to include virtually the entire DC comic book universe. MV5BOTUyYzZlMDUtOTk2ZC00NGQxLTkxNzMtZmVmMjNjNWNhNGYzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Obviously, since the show features the world’s greatest superheroes, you’ve got to come up with some pretty challenging foes for them to face. At the same time you’ve got to ensure that the characters maintain unique personas and don’t step over each other’s ground. This is not an easy task, especially when confined to the constraints of a kids’ show. The greatest weakness of the first season is the show’s inability to keep its characters distinct and interesting at the same time. Sure, it’s easy making Batman cool – and it never gets old – but its somewhat more difficult peeling the other characters apart. For example, Superman and Hawkgirl seem to be identical characters in terms of functionality. They both fly, are very strong, and can tear things apart. The only difference is that Hawkgirl uses a mace.MV5BMTYzMjA5NzEyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEwOTM2MjE@._V1_The best way to keep characters with overlapping powers interesting is to develop them as individuals. Sadly, the show’s first season seems more interested in flashy action than character development. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and J’onn J’onzz get some great moments, but The Flash, Superman, and Hawkgirl are left out in the cold. My personal pet peeve this season is that Superman gets dumbed down to the point of uselessness. Bruce Timm admits in the extras that they thought having Superman get beaten up so often would make their villains look even scarier. After all, if something can take down Superman it’s got to be tough. However, after a while Superman gets beat up so often that the “Super” is sapped out of him. If you see anything electrical it’s a guarantee that it will shock ol’ Supes and put him out of action. If you’re willing to forgive a few missteps (I certainly was) then you’ve got a real treat in store for yourself.MV5BODQ1Nzk0OGQtYWNmYy00N2M0LWFmYTgtZjA4MDhjYmVjNjUzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_In a wise move by the show’s producers, the first season (along with the second) is divided into a series of two-part episodes. This gives the show forty-four minute episodes in which to tell more complicated stories than would be possible in the standard twenty-two minutes. The result is a four disc set packed with high-flying superhero fun. From Injustice For All, where our heroes battle an evil society headed-up by a terminally diagnosed Lex Luthor, to The Enemy Below, where the League team up with Aquaman, this entire boxed set is full of great action and enjoyable comic book storytelling.MV5BYjQ4NmY2NzEtMTM1Yi00YzY2LWEyMjItZjlkODE3M2E1N2JmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_If you’re willing to forgive some unbalanced character development then you’ll have a great time with this first season. Justice League is a very entertaining show that any fan of superhero animation should not be without. These guys were the world’s first superhero team and they set the template for everyone that came after. They were the best then, and thanks to this show, they’re the still the best today.