REVIEW: STARGATE: ATLANTIS – SEASON 4

Starring

Joe Flanigan (Thoughtcrimes)
Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary)
Jason Momoa (Aquaman)
Rachel Luttrell (A Dog’s Breakfast)
David Hewlett (Rise of TPOTA)

David Nykl in Stargate: Atlantis (2004)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Torri Higginson (Dark Waters)
Jewel Staite (Firefly)
David Nykl (Arrow)
Claire Rankin (Taken TV)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Yee Jee Tso (Antitrust)
Chuck Campbell (Jason X)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Sharon Taylor (Smallville)
Christopher Judge (The Dark Knight Rises)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Mark Dacascos (Kamen Rider Dragon Knight)
Kavan Smith (Mission to Mars)
Jill Wagner (Blade: The Series)
Michael Cram (Flashpoint)
Brenda James (Slither)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Kimberley Warnat (Freddy vs Jason)
Robert Picardo (The Orville)
Kate Hewlett (A Dog’s Breakfast)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Brendan Penny (The A-Team)
Michelle Morgan (Deep Six)
Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files)
Andee Frizzell (Flash Gordon)
Jodelle Ferland (Kingdom Hospital)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Crystal Lowe (Black Xmas)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Emma Lahana (Cloak & Dagger)
Dylan Neal (Arrow)
Rob LaBelle (Dark Angel)
Ben Cotton (Bates Motel)
Gary Jones (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Connor Trinneer (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Paul McGillion (The Flash)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)

David Hewlett in Stargate: Atlantis (2004)Stargate Atlantis ups its game with season four. But it’s not with particularly clever or imaginative stories that the shows writers and producers manage to bring about this change; it’s actually in the areas of character development and action that this season really excels. With the (implied) deaths of inarguably my favourite two characters in season three, I wasn’t expecting their replacements to integrate perfectly, or right away into the Atlantis team, but both actors are given such great material to work with that it’s impossible not to be engaged with their individual story-arcs.Amanda Tapping in Stargate: Atlantis (2004)Sam carter is (of course) as brilliant as always, but unlike Doctor Weir, doesn’t appear in nearly as many episodes, or seem to be involved as deeply in the decision-making processes on the base. She just feels like any other member of the team and fits right in almost immediately. Doctor Keller is initially unconvincing in her role as chief medic, but before long she too blossoms into a really intriguing and multi-layered character.Rachel Luttrell and Jewel Staite in Stargate: Atlantis (2004)While there are more than a handful of solid Replicator and Wraith-based episodes to enjoy in this twenty-episode season, it’s the character-based stories that stand-out for me as the best examples of this season. Episode 7- `Missing’ , episode 13- `Quarantine’ and episode 16- `Trio’ are each so gripping. The final stand-out story for me would be the concluding episode- `The Last Man’, which breaks out of the mould of the finale’s of previous seasons and doesn’t involve an unprovoked attack on the city, or a multi-episode build-up. It’s pretty self-contained on the whole and mixes well themes of time-travel, action and season four’s despicable mystery nemesis.

REVIEW: SWAMP THING: THE SERIES

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CAST

Dick Durock (The Enforcer)
Mark Lindsay Chapman (Lois & CLark)
Jesse Zeigler (Captiva Island)
Carrell Myers (Problem Child 2)
Scott Garrison (Xena)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Kevin Quigley (Sheena)
Anthony Gaide (Just One of The Guys)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Martha Smith (Animal House)
Marc Macaulay (Monster)
Roscoe Lee Browne (Babe)
Jacob Witkin (Hail, Caesar!)
Summer Phoenix (The Faculty)
Sandahl Bergman (Red Sonja)
Patrick Neil Quinn (Days of Our Lives)
David Ackroyd (After Mash)
Kevin Nash (The Punisher)
Christie Lynn Smith (Bones)
Elizabeth Fendrick (Vacation)
Janet Julian (King of New York)
Heather Thomas (The Fall Guy)
Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey)
Ray Wise (Agent Carter)
Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth)

I enjoyed the Swamp Thing films but didn’t know what to expect of a weekly show that would have a small budget. Looking back, I feel the series succeeded as often as it failed.

The best episodes were those that focused on Swamp Thing (or ‘Alec’ as he was referred to by the people who knew him). The series started out on shaky footing, and had Swamp Thing act out of character. In the first episode he turns a bad guy into a tree until the writers establish that he would never take a human life. Any episode that had him turn back human was well done.

Most of the episodes made him a Rod Serling of the swamp, taking a back seat to the action. A lot of these weren’t too bad. These boiled down to two plots: bad guys hide out in the swamp, only to have to face their crimes in a nightmareish way, or people with problems wander in the swamp, to become better by facing their fears. The best of these was when Ray Wise (Dr. Holland from the original movie) guest starred as someone who might be an alien and almost kills Swamp Thing.

I enjoyed the show Although it could have been so much more, it was certainly better than many other shows or movies based on comic books.

REVIEW: PHOENIX (1998)

CAST
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
Anthony LaPaglia (Analyze That)
Tom Noonan (Robocop 2)
Daniel Baldwin (Vampires)
Jeremy Piven (Old School)
Brittany Murphy (Sin City)
Anjelica Huston (Daddy Day Care)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Al Sapienza (The Sopranos)
George Murdock (Battlestar Galactica)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Glenn Morshower (Transformers)
Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
In Phoenix, Arizona, Harry Collins is a cop whose compulsive gambling has indebted him to a local gangster, Chicago. As his losses mount and time counts down, Collins resorts to exploiting a young woman, Veronica, that he has picked up to distract his friends in a poker game. Despite the successful distraction, he still loses, and he rejects Veronica’s sexual advances, as he considers her to be bad luck. When Collins drops her off at her house, Veronica’s mother sees her daughter in tears and glares at Collins. Collins later tracks down Veronica’s mother, Leila, and defends himself, stating that he did not have sex with her. Unimpressed, Leila rebukes him, which causes him to reassess his behavior and offer a sincere apology. Surprised by his apology, Leila slowly warms to Collins, and they begin a romance. Having lost his lucky lighter, Collins asks her for a keepsake, but Leila tells him that he must make his own luck and avoid whatever trouble in which he’s become involved.
Meanwhile, Chicago cuts off Collins from his bookies and gives him 48 hours to either repay his debt or murder Joey, a young suspect held in custody. Mike Henshaw, Collins’ corrupt partner, suggests murdering Chicago, but Collins, unwilling to welch on a bet or murder Joey, decides instead to rob Louie, a local loanshark. Collins recruits Henshaw and another corrupt cop, James Nutter, and, over their objections, brings in a more straight-laced cop, Fred Shuster. Unknown to the others, Shuster has discovered that his wife, Katie, is having an affair with Henshaw. Distraught and feeling betrayed, Shuster agrees to work with Lt. Webber to bring down the corrupt cops. However, the robbery is botched when the trigger-happy Henshaw kills Louie before he can open the safe. Collins hires a local locksmith to crack Louie’s safe, and the group splits up. Collins and Shuster arrive at the meeting point, but Lt. Webber is already there; Webber betrays Shuster, killing him, and shoots Collins in the gut. Collins escapes, but Webber steals the money.
Nutter and Henshaw, suspecting that Collins has betrayed them, arrive at the meeting point and discover Shuster’s body. Before they can track down Collins and kill him, they are surrounded by the police. When Nutter attempts to surrender, Henshaw kills him; Henshaw is killed in turn by the other cops. Collins hitches a ride back to town and surprises Katie and Webber, who are having an affair. Over their objections, Collins burns most of the money while denouncing them both for betraying Fred. After alerting the cops to Webber’s involvement, Collins takes enough money to pay off his gambling debt and meets with Chicago. Amused, Chicago accepts the money but mocks Collins’ reluctance to murder Joey; Chicago reveals that he has had Joey murdered in prison and points out that had Collins simply murdered Joey, all of this trouble could have been avoided. Enraged, Collins kills Chicago and his bodyguards, then stumbles back to his car, where he apparently dies of his wounds.
It’s a well shot film, neatly edited, with excellent performances from the entire cast.

REVIEW: BATMAN UNLIMITED: MONSTER MAYHEM

CAST

Roger Craig Smith (Avengers Assemble)
Chris Diamantopoulos (About A Boy TV)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Troy Baker (The Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Yuri Lowenthal (Legion of Super Heroes)
Kari Wuhrer (Hellraiser: Deader)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Alistair Duncan (The Batman)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)

Batman Unlimited is DC’s all-ages animation line. The dialogue and storytelling don’t pander to a younger crowd, and while the superhuman slugfests are family-friendly, they’re still every bit as well-staged and thrilling as DC’s PG-13 animated efforts.
Thor-2As much as I dug Animal Instincts, the premiere entry in the Batman Unlimited series, Monster Mayhem easily tops it. The basic formula pretty much remains the same: a motley crew of four super-villains are pulling off heists all across Gotham, it turns out that a scheming master villain-type is yanking their strings, and only Batman and his buddies stand any chance of stopping the technologically-fueled apocalypse. Monster Mayhem reigns supreme over Animal Instincts because of…well, everything! For one, the roster of super villains is a lot stronger this time around. Silver Banshee hasn’t scored a whole lot of screentime in DC’s animated movies or TV series, so it’s pretty great to have her take something close enough to center stage here.MV5BMjM1MzYwMDM1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTg2MjkzNjE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_

Clayface is a character that works more brilliantly animated than in any other incarnation, and Monster Mayhem takes full advantage. I’m not wild about Scarecrow’s pro wrestler redesign, and he’s the most underutilized of this bunch, but the guy’s obviously a great fit for a Halloween-themed rogues gallery. Oh, man, and Solomon Grundy…! Undead and loving it, everyone’s favorite Southern-fried zombie runs away and steals every single scene he’s in. Seriously,The movie keeps its cards close to its chest and takes a while to reveal that the Joker is the sinister mastermind behind it all, but he’s right there on the cover, so you probably figured that out anyway.  Monster Mayhem is so. much. fun.I mean, look at all those clever battles in an abandoned amusement park, complete with Solomon Grundy squaring off against the Caped Crusader in the Tunnel of Love. The movie is pretty much just one “oh, wow!” after another: from its lengthy, masterfully staged, adrenaline-pumping action sequences to the wildly imaginative ways it plays with and against!)its futuristic tech. Though Monster Mayhem is meant to be a cross-promotional thing with Mattel’s action figure line, the dinosaur tie-in is genuinely pretty great and makes sense in context. Not having to deal with any origin stories lets Monster Mayhem hit the ground running and relentlessly plow forward. There just isn’t a wasted moment anywhere throughout this sucker. The master scheme is vastly superior to the one in Animal Instincts, and it’s riddled with twists and turns along the way that make the whole thing that much more engaging.

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Brian Bloom (Vampirella)
Chris Cox (All Star Superman)
Jennifer Hale (The Rick)
Peter Jessop (Jla Adventures)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Eric Loomis (Shin Chan)
James C. Mathis III (Undercover Brother)
Colleen Villard (Duel Masters)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Rick D. Wasserman (Planet Hulk)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST COICES

Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Drake Bell (The Reef 2)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: The Teenage Witch)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and Teh X-men)
Alex Desert (The Flash 90s)
Vanessa Marshall (Duck Dodgers)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Elizabeth Daily (Valley Girl)
Troy Baker (Lego Batman)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Crispin Freeman (Hellsing)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Cam Clarke (He-Man)
Lance Reddick (Lost)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nika Futterman (Hey Arnold!)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Jonathan Adams (Bones)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Graham McTavish (The Hobbit)
Dawn Olivieri (The Vampire Diaries)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
David Kaufman (Superman: TAS)

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Both Marvel and DC have to an astonishing degree started to pick up these last few years, with several well-appreciated shows that I really enjoy: Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Green Lantern TAS, and now this; The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s very rare indeed for a superhero cartoon of this magnitude to be  great from start-to-finish, but that’s what Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is, right from Episode 1 `Iron Man is Born’ to the finale `Avengers Assemble!’. There are literally no dud episodes whatsoever! The whole series is infused with tremendous intrigue, exceptional plotting and some of the tightest continuity I’ve ever seen in a TV series. The number of sub-plots and story-arcs that are juggled here is staggering, but the creative team handled it all with such precision. The coherency, intricacies and pacing is nothing short of exemplary overall. This isn’t just essential for kids; adult Marvel fans will get bags of satisfaction from watching this cartoon!MV5BMTgxOTA1Nzk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk0MzY2MjE@._V1_So what exactly can folk expect? Well, as I said, the choicest pieces of Marvel history (be it in comics or on film) have been successfully adapted and utilized here. From how the Avengers banded together to life-changing events like the Civil War threat and the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion (adapted beautifully here!). Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, the Wasp and Black Panther are all superbly established before `Assembling’ for the first time, members come-and-go, characters undergo changes, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and the Vision join the ranks, and all-manner of superb guests join the party, such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four and even those Guardians of the Galaxy!

And on the villains-front, you can be subjected to a cracking-bunch of dastardly rogues, such as Loki, the Red Skull, Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Zemo, the Enchantress, the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Doom and (of course!) chief arch-nemesis Ultron. And it’s not all just for window-dressing. The depictions of all these characters (hero, villain and otherwise) and their worlds is just pure gold. It’s perhaps the most faithful animated portrayal of the Marvel Universe.
Really, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could (and should) have gone on for more seasons. Instead, Marvel pulled the plug in favor of the replacement show Avengers Assemble. Thus in the last batch episodes, you DO get the feel that the writers were trying to wrap things up and give the show a grand swansong to make way for the next-cartoon-in-line. Admittedly, there are a few loose ends left over, but the series is mostly wrapped-up in winning style with a very acceptable conclusion. And in an age where too many shows are cancelled prematurely/end on a sour note, it makes that final moment of `Avengers Assemble!’ all the more of a triumph, just like the entire series itself.