REVIEW: BATMAN BEGINS

CAST

Christian Bale (American Psycho)
Michael Caine (Quills)
Liam Neeson (Taken)
Katie Holmes (Go)
Gary Oldman (Red Riding Hood)
Cillian Murphy (Inception)
Tom Wilkinson (Cassandra’s Dream)
Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner)
Ken Watanabe (Godzilla)
Mark Boone Junior (Memento)
Linus Roache (The Chronicles of Riddick)
Morgan Freeman (Ted 2)
Colin McFarlane (Doctor Who)
Christine Adams (Pushing Daises)
Jack Gleeson (Game of Thrones)

As a child, Bruce Wayne falls down a dry well and is attacked by a swarm of bats, subsequently developing a fear of bats. While watching an opera with his parents, Bruce becomes frightened by performers masquerading as bats and asks to leave. Outside, mugger Joe Chill murders Bruce’s parents in front of him. Orphaned, Bruce is raised by the family butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

Fourteen years later, Chill is freed in exchange for testifying against Gotham City mafia boss Carmine Falcone. Bruce intends to murder Chill in revenge, but one of Falcone’s assassins does so first. Bruce’s childhood friend, assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, berates him for attempting to undermine the justice system, saying that his father would be ashamed. Bruce confronts Falcone, who tells him that real power comes from being feared. Bruce decides to travel the world, learning new skills and abilities to confront injustice. In Ladakh he meets Henri Ducard, who trains him as a member of the League of Shadows, led by Ra’s al Ghul. After completing his training and purging his fears, Bruce learns that the League intends to destroy Gotham, believing it to be corrupt and beyond saving. Bruce rejects the League’s cause and burns down their temple during his escape. Ra’s is killed by falling debris, while Bruce saves the unconscious Ducard.

Bruce returns to Gotham intent on fighting crime. Inspired by his childhood fear, he takes up the vigilante identity of “the Batman” and sets up a base in the caves beneath Wayne Manor. He takes an interest in his family’s company, Wayne Enterprises, now run by the unscrupulous William Earle. Company archivist Lucius Fox allows Bruce access to prototype defense technologies including a protective bodysuit and a heavily armored car called the Tumbler. To avert suspicion from his vigilante activities, Bruce poses as a shallow playboy.

Batman intercepts a drug shipment, provides Rachel with evidence against Falcone, and enlists honest Police Sergeant James Gordon to arrest him. When Falcone threatens to reveal psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane’s illicit activities if Crane does not declare him mentally unfit for trial, Crane uses a fear-inducing hallucinogen and a scarecrow mask to drive Falcone insane and has him transferred to Arkham Asylum. While investigating “the Scarecrow”, Batman is exposed to the hallucinogen and left incapacitated. He is saved by Alfred and given an antidote developed by Fox. When Rachel accuses Crane of corruption, Crane reveals that he has been pouring his fear-inducing drug into Gotham’s water supply. He doses Rachel with it, but Batman saves her and subdues Crane, who claims to work for Ra’s al Ghul. Batman evades the police to get Rachel to safety, administers the antidote, and gives her a vial of it for Gordon and another for mass production. Ducard reappears at Bruce’s 30th birthday party and reveals himself to be the actual Ra’s al Ghul. Having stolen a powerful microwave emitter from Wayne Enterprises, he plans to vaporize Gotham’s water supply, rendering Crane’s drug airborne and causing mass hysteria that will destroy the city. He sets Wayne Manor on fire and leaves Bruce for dead, but Alfred rescues Bruce.

Ra’s loads the microwave emitter onto Gotham’s monorail system, releasing the drug as the train travels toward the city’s central water source. Batman rescues Rachel from a drugged mob and indirectly reveals his identity to her. He pursues Ra’s onto the monorail and overpowers him just as Gordon uses the Tumbler’s cannons to destroy a section of the track. Batman refuses to kill Ra’s but also chooses not to save him, gliding from the train and leaving Ra’s aboard as it crashes and explodes. Bruce gains Rachel’s respect but loses her love, as she decides she cannot be with him while he is Batman. Bruce buys a controlling stake in the now publicly traded Wayne Enterprises, fires Earle, and replaces him with Fox. Gordon is promoted to Lieutenant of the Gotham City Police Department, shows Batman the Bat-Signal, and mentions a criminal who leaves Joker playing cards at crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate.

This is a superb telling of the origins of the Batman character, full of brooding tension, a very apt musical score and an exciting finale. This film is a testament to how effective it is as an origin story.

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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)

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: THE SUPER POWERS TEAM: GALACTIC GUARDIANS

CAST (VOICES)

Adam West (Batman)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek:DS9)
William Callaway (Darkwing Duck)
Peter Cullen (Transformers)
Danny Dark (Melvin and Howard)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Stan Jones (Tranformers)
Stanley Ralph Ross (Babe)
Mark Taylor (Melrose Place)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)

A look at what makes this incarnation vastly superior to prior efforts reveals a cast of individuals who would continue going on producing beautiful DCAU efforts even up through today: Andrea Romano (Batman: Animated series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, JL Unlimited, The Batman) directs the voice talent here and story editor Allan Barnett (The Batman) appears on the roster as well. Clearly this show was the stepping-stone to what would eventually become the DCAU as we know it today. Plus, thanks to reworked character models from none-other than famed comic artist José Luis García-López, the team received a much-needed makeover which coincided with DC comic books at the time.Lucy-Locusts-lucy-lawless-37131768-850-709The writing matured to include much more space-scenarios with  an improved scientific understanding throughout. Rather than carbon copy characters in different costumes, for the first time we receive individual personalities, struggles, and conflicts of each of the members of the Justice League of America (which are renamed the Super Powers Team here to better reflect Kenner’s corresponding toyline).The villains are given their proper due as well and, much to my appreciation, are used to near perfection. The Penguin, Lex Luthor, Brianiac, Darkseide, Felix Faust, The Royal Flush Gang, and even the Scarecrow make wonderful appearances. The show’s writers seemed also to finally have figured out that the only way to balance out a cast as diverse and powerful as the Justice League, separation is a necessity (a technique later mastered in Justice League). Many episodes focus on only one or two members of the Team which allows for far better story arcs and character development. Gone are the Wondertwins  and signed on is Cyborg who, like his comic book character, is quite well done and allows the younger set an opportunity for appreciation.Capt3ure_zpsfb4b8813

Episodes that stand out are The Fear, whereby for the first time we receive a Superfriends episode with our heroes out of costume and also Bruce Wayne’s backstory masterfully told without ever showing a gun onscreen. Death of Superman also comes on strong considering just a few short seasons earlier the word death was strictly prohibited. Here it shows up in the very title of one of the episodes which just so happened to be one of the hottest selling comic books of the era. In conclusion, The Super Powers Team: Galacatic Guardians was perhaps the biggest step in the right direction for the Superfriends franchise possible. Sadly this would be the last series but at least it went out on a high.