25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE FLASH – DON’T RUN

The Flash (2014) title card w/Lightning Bolt background

CAST

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Neil Sandilands (The 100)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Hartley Sawyer (Glory Daze)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Kim Engelbrecht (Dominion)
Kendrick Sampson (The Vampire Diaries)
Jessica Camacho (Sleepy Hollow)

Oh, DeVoe is good. I’m not sure why he would let Barry know about his new, Dominic-shaped form when he didn’t have to, but framing Barry for his own murder is a new villainous move for this show—and one that is welcome after seasons of speedsters who rely on their physical prowess to try to take Team Flash down.Barry’s arrest for the murder of DeVoe is also a nice call back to the crime that set his life down a path of crime-solving and helping others: the murder of his mother, and his arrest of his father for the crime. Like Barry, Henry Allen was also falsely accused. Like Henry, Barry is not someone who runs away from his problems. When given the chance to speedster away, Barry decides to stay. “Don’t run,” he says aloud, looking at a picture of Iris. He not only promised Iris his love, but a life together in the light. If Barry has to stay in the shadows, running from the law, then so will Iris. Much of Don’t Run was a set up for this final reveal and, as far as water-treading goes, this was some pretty entertaining diversion. Katee Sackhoff continues to be delightful as the evil Amunet, bringing energy to the screen whenever she saunters into frame with her over-the-top nefarious nanny accent. Seeing her and Caitlin play off each other again worked well, especially as a vehicle for Caitlin to explore her insecurities about her value compared to the value of Killer Frost.Having your friends potentially like your evil alter-ego more than you may not be a particularly high-stakes problem, but it has some relatable qualities to it. I feel kind of bad for Killer Frost, however, that everyone felt the need to say how terrible she was in order to play up Caitlin’s ego. Can’t we have room for both of them? Killer Frost needs some love too.Heading into the midseason hiatus, things are looking complicated for Team Flash, but not as grim as they have in the past.  Barry may be behind bars, but this is a problem that exists within a system that has established rules, unlike some of the chaos Team Flash has had to deal with in the past. It’s also a villainous obstacle that we haven’t seen before from The Flash. It keeps the very sci-fi drama of DeVoe grounded in something real, at least for now.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE FLASH – THE PRESENT

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MAIN CAST

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Keiynan Lonsdale (Insurgent)
Tom Cavanagh (Van Helsing)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tom Felton (Harry Potter)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Danielle Nicolet (Central Intelligence)
John Wesley Shipp (The Flash 90s)

I’ll definitely say this for “The Present” – it takes a pretty eventful episode to make Mark Hamill reprising his role as the Trickster seem like a footnote. Apparently it’s becoming an annual tradition to celebrate Christmas with another Trickster appearance. This episode certainly shook up the formula by introducing the Earth-3 version of the villain. Hamill really went all-out despite his limited screen time, modeling this Trickster directly after Conrad Veidt’s character Gwynplaine from 1928’s The Man Who Laughs. This was the closest we’ll probably ever get to seeing Hamill playing the Joker in live-action. It was neat seeing him pay homage to Joker’s main inspiration, and neater still to see both Hamill and John Wesley Shipp reviving their rivalry from the 1990 Flash series.

It was frustrating to see so little of the Trickster this week. Hamill is too much fun in the role to On the other hand, how much could the writers feasibly focus on a character who’s clearly out of his pay grade battling two Flashes at once? And if Hamill got the short end of the stick, the same couldn’t be said for Shipp. This might have been the most Shipp-heavy episode of the entire series, regardless of which character he was playing. But that extra focus was certainly justified. Shipp is every bit as perfect for the role of Jay Garrick  as he was Henry Allen in the first two seasons. He was that natural charm and gravitas that befits the elder statesman of the speedster family.

Most importantly, Shipp succeeds in playing Jay as a much different character from Henry. He has the same fundamental decency, perhaps, but there’s a certain aloofness to Jay all the same. There’s a clear awkwardness between Jay and Barry. Barry is turning to Jay for advice almost in spite of himself, seeking fatherly support from a man who isn’t Henry, no matter how much he resembles him. And Jay, for his part, doesn’t seem quite comfortable in this mentor role yet. If there’s one thing this season has accomplished, it’s giving Flash fans the classic Jay Garrick Season 2 denied them.

“The Present” offered quite a bit of progress on the Savitar/Alchemy front, with multiple speedster battles and more insight into what makes both villains tick. The writers were able to retain Julian’s appeal with the reveal that he’s never been in control of his actions as Alchemy. He’s been little more than a pawn preparing the way for the self-proclaimed god of motion to enter this world. And now that Savitar has been exorcised, as it were, Julian seems poised to resume his old role as half friend/half antagonist to Barry. No doubt he’ll still have a major part to play once the Savitar conflict ramps up again, but for now I’m looking forward to seeing his prickly relationship with Barry become the main focus again.
Things are picking up on the Savitar front. The scene where Savitar possessed Julian and spoke to Team Flash was easily the highlight of the entire episode, as well as a reminder that less is often more when it comes to big, monstrous villains. The scene offered much more insight into Savitar’s background and reasons for targeting Barry. He’s not a god, despite his claims, but someone from Barry’s future who feels personally wronged by the Scarlet Speedster. Given his intimate knowledge of everyone in the room, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that one of them will become Savitar.
Savitar’s cryptic tease about future tragedies awaiting Team Flash was a nice touch. With the Flashpoint conflict receding into the background now, it seems the driving force of the second half of Season 3 will be the question of whether the future is inevitable or if fate can be rewritten. Is Iris fated to be murdered by Savitar? Is Caitlin doomed to become Killer Frost? Actually catching a glimpse of what looks to be a pivotal scene in one of the final episodes of the season certainly lends an extra touch of impending doom to the series. Cisco had a solid subplot of his won this week, with Savitar preying on his grief over Dante’s death and using it to nearly usher in his second coming. Carlos Valdes is so often the designated comic relief on this show, so it’s been a refreshing change of pace seeing him explore Cisco’s mourning process and his rift with Barry over the past couple months.

And with all the doom and gloom this week, it was nice to see the writers take some time at the end of the episode to celebrate the holiday season and wrap up 2016 on a more upbeat note. The West family Christmas party was a fun, sentimental way to cap off the episode. We got to see HR get drunk on Grandma Esther’s eggnog, Julian get into the holiday spirit and Caitlin ensure everyone got to enjoy a white Christmas. Plus, Barry gave Iris a very romantic Christmas present. A great Mid-Season finale that keeps us waiting and wondering whats to come in 2017.

 

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE FLASH – RUNNING TO STAND STILL

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RUNNING TO STAND STILL
MAIN CAST
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order)
Keiynan Lonsdale (Insurgent)
GUEST CAST
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)
Teddy Sears (American Horror Story)
Shantel VanSanten (Beauty and The BVeast 2012)
Patrick Sabongui (Stargate: Atlantis)
Violett Beane (The Leftovers)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
It seems we can always rely on The Flash to deliver a great mid-season finale that’s not just a brilliant instalment of the show, but also an unashamed Christmas episode with presents, Turkey and festive soul-searching for our viewing pleasure. I’d even be tempted to say that this, Running To Stand Still, was one of the strongest episodes the show has delivered so far this season, what with the effortless mix of great villains, attention given to the relationships between characters and some nice forward momentum for the Zoom story thread. We begin with Zoom running Wells down before wishing him a particularly threatening ‘Merry Christmas’, setting the tone for the rest of the episode before we flit back to our main gang. It wasn’t much of a secret that Mark Hamill would be returning as the Trickster, but pairing him up with the Weather Wizard was a stroke of genius. The Trickster is threatening enough in his madness but, combined with the guy who actually managed to win last year makes it more than just the run-of-the-mill meta-threat. It also makes for some terrific punning, excused just this one time entirely because it’s the season and all that. Captain Cold isn’t even around for most of it, making a feeble attempt to help Barry out by filling him in on his cohort’s dastardly plans before running for the hills. This is obviously all in service of his role on Legends, which is dangerously close now to actually being on our tellys now.
Because this is a mid-season finale, much of the episode is dedicated to parental angst. Chiefly, Iris finally tells Barry about the existence of Wally West in what was actually a very sweet scene between the two, and they later decide it’s probably best to present a united front to Joe. I worried when we heard about another West sibling that the show would muddle the relationship between Barry and the family, but this episode did a lot to allay those fears. Joe gives Barry his own father’s watch even after he finds out about Wally, for instance, and it highlights the nice place that part of the show is in now that the Barry/Iris romance is done (or at least on pause). But Joe’s understandably upset to discover that he has a son he never knew about, and we’ll have to wait until January to find out how that particular family reunion goes. We’re fairly sure that he’s going to become some kind of speedster, entirely because of his name, but it’ll just be interesting on its own to see how he slots into the show’s existing dynamic. It’ll also presumably give Iris something to do at last.
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My highlight of the episode, though, was the fleshing out of Patty’s character, giving her layers beyond the cute Felicity-esque girlfriend for Barry she’s been so far. We already knew that her father had been killed by a metahuman, but here we discovered that metahuman was in fact the Weather Wizard. It’s slightly frustrating when there are two adjacent relationships going on – that between Barry and Patty and between The Flash and Patty, because while we know what’s going on, Patty has no clue that she’s opened up quite that far with her boyfriend yet. Her lack of Flash knowledge hasn’t been actively annoying yet, but it’s getting there. I’d like her to become a bigger part of the show and, to do that, she needs all the facts. We’re left on a cliffhanger that’s simultaneously very similar yet very different from last season’s – Wells is going to help Zoom take down Barry in exchange for his daughter. He doesn’t want to do it because, unlike Thawne, he’s fundamentally a good person, but it’s still his love for his child that drives him. I’ve been so impressed by how The Flash has slotted Wells back into things, all coming to a head in that scene between Barry and an unwitting Harry. It’s the equivalent of his through-glass talks with Henry while he’s off fishing , but it was done so beautifully. Barry has been struggling with what happened last season all year, and maybe this is his way of finally moving on.
All in all, the first half of season two has proven that the show is more than capable of measuring up to its first, with a inordinate amount of intricate pieces in place for an even better string of episodes once we come back.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE FLASH – THE MAN IN THE YELLOW SUIT

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THE MAN IN THE YELLOW SUIT
CAST
Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (Heroes)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order)
Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
GUEST CAST
Robbie Amell (The Duff)
Michelle Harrison (Tru Calling)
Amanda Pays (Nip/Tuck)
John Wesley Shipp (The Flash 90s)
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Barry races through the city chasing his mother’s killer; the man in the yellow suit. One Day Earlier. Barry is decorating a Christmas tree with Joe when Iris come in with eggnog. While Joe takes a call from the DA in the next room, Iris convinces Barry to exchange gifts early. Barry gives her a replica of her mother’s wedding ring; she lost the original in the fifth grade. Iris is touched. Eddie arrives and notices the exchange but says nothing.
Later Barry goes to Star Labs to give his new friends their gifts. Wells leaves abrubtly during the festivities and Cisco reminds Barry its now the anniversary of the explosion. Christmas was Well’s favorite holiday, but since the accident its now a bitter reminder of all he has lost. t Jitters, Eddie asks Iris if she believes Barry is in love with her. Iris denies it, despite the gift and allays his concerns. Eddie gives Iris a key to his apartment which she happily accepts. At the mall parking lot, Caitlin notices she is being watched from the shadows by a homeless man. Following the man when he tries to flee, she corners him and he sprouts flames from his hands and head. The metahuman turns and reveals himself to be Ronnie. Shocked to see him she runs off allowing him to escape. At Mercury Labs several guards are killed by a fast yellow blur. The yellow blur appears to be looking for something and ransacks much of the lab. Later Barry, Eddie and Joe investigate the scene. Eddie speaks with a surviving scientist who mentions a man in a yellow suit. In private Barry notes to Joe only something moving at impossible speeds could have killed the guards. After hearing Eddie’s description Barry realizes its his mother’s killer. Joe is forced to admit the other metahuman has been in town for a few weeks; he didn’t tell Barry since the man threatened Iris’ life.
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The next day Joe and Barry discuss the break in with Wells at S.T.A.R. Labs. Wells explains Mercury Labs and S.T.A.R. Labs were rivals until the accident crippled S.T.A.R. Labs. Mercury Labs has been working on a project involing Tachyon particles and the three deduce this is the Man in the Yellow suit’s target. Barry suggest they use this fact to create a trap for him. Caitlin goes to Jitters to speak with Iris about her blog on the various metahuman sightings. She asks about the “burning man” story; a metahuman Iris has not really kept much track of. Iris promises to send her all the information she has and asks if Barry has been keeping secrets; noticing his strange behavior in the past weeks. Caitlin responds that she should talk to him if she is concerned. Wells and Barry talk with the head scientist of Mercury Labs at the police station; trying to obtain the tachyon experiment as bait. The scientist refuses; believing Wells is looking for an advantage in the market again. At S.T.A.R. Labs Caitlin and Cisco work on the trap. Caitlin finally tells Cisco about Ronnie and she needs help to find him again. Cisco believed she imagined it since Ronnie was vaporized in the explosion. Barry reviews his mother’s case at his lab.
He remembers the night of his mother’s death; Nora tucks a young Barry in while checking his bruises. She assures him that he is not afraid of the dark; just afraid of being alone in it. However, once he realizes he is never alone the fear will have no power over him. Later Barry awakens to the sound of a commotion downstairs and runs to find his mother being attacked. Iris breaks him out of his memory and the talk about her relationship with Eddie. Barry defends his bizarre behavior as shock at the speed of their relationship. He assures her he is happy that she is happy. After Iris leaves Barry spots the Man in the Yellow suit watching him on the roof opposite to him. He chases the other speedster who finally stops in an alley. Barry demands answers for his mother’s murder but the metahuman taunts him, that he will have to catch him first and speeds off again.
The two end up in the stadium and start fighting. The man in the yellow suit taunts Barry; behaving as if they have met and battled before while outmatching him with speed and superior fighting. Before leaving he tells Barry it is his destiny to lose to him, just as it was also destiny for Barry’s mother to die that night. The next day Barry relates what happened to Joe and Wells. Joe dismisses the Man in the Yellow Suit’s claims to Barry as scare tactics in the heat of battle. Wells assures Barry the trap will hold but both voice their concern that Barry should stay out of the next stage of the plan; he is too close to this foe. Barry dismisses their concerns and heads off with Joe to get the Tachyon device. Thanks to a bluff they are able to get it with little trouble. Overhearing some of their conversation Eddie manages to get himself and his task force involved; believing it to be a chance to catch the Flash once and for all. Elsewhere Cisco and Caitlin use a device to track Ronnie from where he was last seen. Cisco believes they should have told Wells and Barry but Caitlin says they must try this alone first. Cisco is warned that Ronnie is not like they remembered him when the device reacts to him being close to them.
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Hiding further down the hallway they find Ronnie. Caitlin tries to coax him to come with them but he reacts with confusion and anger; claiming he isn’t Ronnie and warns them to stay away from him. He grabs Caitlin when she touches his burnt hands and whispers “Firestorm”, before erupting into flame and running off from the pair. Back at S.T.A.R. Labs the Tachyon prototype is set in the heart of the trap. Barry is told by Wells and Joe again that he needs to back off and he reluctantly agrees. Down in the pipeline Cisco finds a sobbing Caitlin and assures that they now know for certain Ronnie is alive, and they can find him again. Caitlin is not certain she wants to find him; certain that unlike Bette and Barry he has turned into a monster like the metahumans they have locked up. She laments it might have been better that he died in the explosion over being a metahuman. Cisco tries to console her as best he can.
Barry goes to visit his father. Barry confesses to his father that he finally found the man who murdered Nora but he got away. Distraught he tells his father it is now his fault that he is stuck behind bars. Henry tells him not to blame himself; that the murder has dominated Barry’s life for fourteen years and he hasn’t been able to truly lead his own life. Henry has also worked out Barry is in love with Iris but never told her. He tells his son not to let the killer take anymore of his life from him. Barry returns home and talks to Iris. He confesses his feelings to her; admitting he never acted on them because he feared losing her like he did his parents. Iris remains silent; crying silently. Barry apologises for upsetting her and leaves. At S.T.A.R. Labs, the group along with the task force wait for the Man in the Yellow suit. Cisco has been releasing pulses from the Tachyon device to draw his attention. Sure enough the speedster arrives and Cisco activates the trap; encasing him in a force field. Wells, Joe and the taskforce head down to inspect their captive while Caitlin and Cisco remain in the control room to keep the trap running. In the chamber Joe attempts to interrogate the villain over Nora Allan’s murder. The villain ignores him, but speaks to Wells; acting pleased they can meet face to face. The two trade barbs over knowledge of the other. When Wells point out they created the trap based on the villain’s similar nature to the Flash he laughs; claiming he is quite the reverse of the hero.
Cisco notes a fluctuation in the barrier and tries to warn Wells; just as the barrier drops for a second. The villain quickly grabs Wells; pulling him into the force field and proceeds to violently beat him. Joe has no option but to break the field generator to save Wells from the attack. Caitlin calls Barry for help and he speeds over. The Man in the Yellow suit takes out the Task force; but hesitates when facing Eddie and strangely spares him. The villain then speeds over to Joe and chokes him, reminding him that he was warned not to hunt him. Barry then comes in and takes The Man in the Yellow suit outside flying out of the building in a tornado of red and yellow electricity, Caitlin and Cisco run outside to watch the fight. The fight is not going well for Barry as the man in yellow continually beats on him. Before he can kill Barry however, he is taken down by a stream of fire, it is Ronnie who used his powers to stop the man in yellow. With this turn of events, the man in yellow tells Barry that “their race is not yet done” and that he will see him soon, he then speeds away.
As Cisco runs over to help Barry up Caitlin runs over to Ronnie who tells her to not look for him again, he then sprouts his flames, takes flight, soaring off into the sky while the 3 look up in awe, Barry is once again upset that the man in yellow escaped. Back at the station a shocked Eddie wonders why he wasn’t killed but Joe can offer no answer. Joe is forced to admit the existence of Metahumans to Eddie. He swears Eddie to secrecy; that public knowledge of Metahumans would lead to a panic. Eddie agrees but asks if Joe knows who the Flash is; Joe simply responds he is the man who saved their lives tonight; secretly casting a glance at Barry. At S.T.A.R. Labs Caitlin tends to Wells while Cisco wonders how the trap failed; apologizing for the danger they put their friend in. Wells assures them he is not upset about it; but he is annoyed they kept the fact Ronnie was alive from him. Caitlin covers for Cisco; she wanted a chance to bring him in herself; especially after seeing the state he was in. This defuses Wells anger and he promises Caitlin he will help in whatever he can to bring Ronnie home. Joe goes to see Barry in the police lab; Barry admits that the murder of his mother has kept him in the city for fourteen years. Joe admits that when he first brought Barry home he didn’t know if he could handle him; but in a week Barry had brought light and life into his and Iris’ lives. Joe does not want Barry to lose that light to fear.
The two return home to find all of Barry’s friends there, except for Wells. Joe admits he called everyone since Barry needed cheering up. Caitlin apologises for Wells absence; that he needed to recover from the beating. Barry congratulates Eddie and Iris moving in together but Iris does not meet his gaze. Cisco talks privately with Joe; during the brawl he noticed something that reminded him of Barry’s account of Nora’s murder. Red and yellow lightning merging; both realize there were two speedsters there that night; explaining how Barry ended up across the street. Iris calls them over and Joe puts the angel on the tree. At S.T.A.R. Labs, Harrison enters his hidden chamber, unlocking it with a ring with the Flash insignia on it. Inside is the Blur’s yellow suit, and Harrison attaches the stolen prototype to its chest. Smiling, he speaks in Reverse Flash’s distorted voice, saying “Merry Christmas”.
The Flash is ne of the best TV shows on television today, this Christmas episode shows you why it’s just so damn good. The Man in The Yellow Suit you finally get to know just who Reverse Flash is, they save the big reveal for the last few minutes of the episode to make sure viewers tune back in for the next episode. This is one of my all time Christmas episodes.

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)

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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 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)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Corey Burton (Transformers)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Mitchell Ryan (Halloween 6)
Rob Paulsen (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Tom Kenny (The Super Hero Squad Show)
William Atherton (Die Hard)
Fairuza Balk (The Craft)
Dana Delany (Tombstone)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
David Kaufman (Prom Night)
Dorie Barton (Down With Love)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Larry Drake (Darkman)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Kim Mai Guest (TMNT)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Bruce McGill (Lincoln)
Ted McGinley (No Good Nick)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Tracey Walter (batman)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Brian Doyle-Murray (JFK)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Kristin Bauer van Straten (Nocturnal Animals)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lamabs)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Brad Garrett (Tangled)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Khary Payton (The Walking Dead)
Greg Cipes (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans Go)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Hynden Walch (Groundhog Day)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Kimberly Brooks (Voltron)
Robert Ito (Midway)
Victor Rivers (The Mask of Zorro)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Elizabeth Peña (The Incredibles)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

MV5BMTkxOTY5NTY5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjEwOTM2MjE@._V1_Now this is more like it. Justice League’s second season takes all of the wrinkles found in the first year and smoothes them over. The action is bigger, the stories are more exciting, and Batman’s rating on the cool-o-meter reaches new highs – exactly how things should be. The result is a boxed set that offers perhaps the finest collection of superhero animation that your hard-earned dollars can buy. They don’t come any better then this, kids.MV5BODg3ODYzM2QtNTIwOS00YzhjLThmMDItZTY4MDc0NzU1NDhkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Much like the comic book universe from which these characters came, the Warner Bros. superhero shows headed by Bruce Timm and friends (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond) have created a continuity and universe all their own. Justice League is the latest (and, sadly, final) entry in this cartoon universe and it takes all of the best stuff from what has come before it and combines it into a near-perfect superhero animated series. While the first season was light on character development and solid storytelling, the second season gets the balance of action, story, and character just right. Again we’ve got great supporting characters and villains from the DC universe; Darkseid, John Dee, Despero, and even Doomsday all make appearances.MV5BMTQxNzgzNDg3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTAwOTM2MjE@._V1_The action is also a lot more exciting, with more imagination having gone into the writing of the fights. Furthermore, this season we’ve got some great CG effects (used for vehicles and ships) – the air dogfight in Maid of Honor between the Batwing and some jetfighters is especially cool to watch.  Another standout this season is the music. The series composers (Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, and Kristopher Carter) have created some amazing stuff here. In each episode you’ll find several musical cues that will really get your attention and at least one that will tug at the ol’ heartstrings. The music knows when to fade into the background and let the images do the work and when to take centre stage. With stuff this good you want the music to take centre stage as much as possible. There is a Princess Mononoke-esque “nature endures” moment in Hearts and Minds where the score was just wonderful. The music in these episodes is too good for a cartoon TV show.MV5BMTQ1MjM0MTMwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjc5ODM2MjE@._V1_So the action is awesome, Superman is fixed, and the music is one-of-a-kind. All that’s left is the writing… and it’s the best part. The writing here is really great, with story and character always being the focus of each episode. A Better World answers a simple question in an interesting way: what if Superman crossed the line? In an alternate universe, Superman realizes that Luthor really is an unredeemable villain and he kills him. We see that the murder – even the murder of a monster like Luthor – changes both Superman and the League. They become Big Brother-like sentries of the planet. When a cross-dimensional rift is opened, this “darker” league (known as the Justice Lords) has a showdown with our untainted heroes. The episode brings up some very interesting questions and is a blast to watch.MV5BMTYwOTU0OTUwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTk5ODM2MjE@._V1_We’ve also got some fantastic variety. The Paul Dini-penned Comfort and Joy is a very touching Christmas episode, while Hereafter transports Superman to a Planet of the Apes-ish future where he is the planet’s sole survivor (he even grows a Robinson Crusoe beard and fashions himself a jungle-machete!). The Terror Beyond makes for a very fun H.P. Lovecraft-inspired romp which sees Solomon Grundy fighting his way into the brain of the massive Ichthulhu (voiced by Rob Zombie) and wrestling a nightmare creature inside this thing’s head. Very bizarre, but very cool. Finally there’s the three-part season finale, Starcrossed. This is a balls-to-the-wall action spectacular which culminates in Batman piloting the League’s watchtower into the planet, while Green Lantern and Hawkgirl’s relationship is torn to shreds.MV5BMTkxMDQzODI2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDIwOTM2MjE@._V1_This is a fantastic collection of episodes, to be sure, but there are still a few nitpicks that keep the set from getting a perfect score. For one, while Superman is tougher, much of the new attitude doesn’t feel genuine – it seems that they wanted to make him “cooler” so they made him more badass. Problem is, Superman isn’t a badass character. Second, there are a few episodes (Maid of Honor and Eclipsed) that feel somewhat stale, and one episode, Wild Cards, that, sadly, let its driving gag get the better of the story. On TV you’ll find many cartoons, but you’ll only find one Justice League – its second season is a shining example of superhero animation done right in virtually every respect. Most importantly, the show’s creators have crafted a series that respects the intelligence, attention-span, and maturity of its audience. This isn’t just a kids show nor is it just a television show. It’s Justice League – and it’s great.

REVIEW: BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM

 

CAST

Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Matthew Gray Gubler (Excision)
Troy Baker (Ultimate Spider-Man)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Greg Ellis (Dexter)
Giancarlo Esposito (Alex Cross)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Jennifer Hale (Batman Beyond)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant NInja Turtles 2012)
Eric Bauza (Justice League: Gods and Monsters)
Chris Cox (Family Guy)

Assault on Arkham actually takes place a few years before the events of Arkham Asylum, making it a prequel with loose, flexible ties to the games’ Batman mythology. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t a whole lot more to the premise beyond what’s covered in the title: after a black-ops attempt to apprehend The Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler) goes sideways thanks to the Dark Knight’s (Kevin Conroy) nobler intervention, bigwig government agent Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder) — “The Wall” — assembles a crew of imprisoned villains to covertly raid his new place of residence, Arkham Asylum, to recover a sensitive device that was in his possession. Veterans to Waller’s “Task Force X” (both in-universe and on a meta level) including Deadshot (Neal McDonough), a Joker-less Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), and Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis) are brought together with newbies — Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), King Shark (John DiMaggio), and KGBeast (Nolan North) — for a calculated strike involving sleight of hand and usage of their individual strengths, all while evading Batman’s grasp both off and on the grounds.

Assault on Arkham soars past several of their recent offerings with its presentation of the villains and an unabashed, darkly-humorous attitude. Mostly, it’s because the concept doesn’t intrude on the characters’ varied demeanors: there’s plenty of breathing room for the loose-cannon leadership of Neal McDonough’s excellent Deadshot and the supercharged quirk of Hynden Walch’s jilted Harley Quinn, as well as Captain Boomerang’s roguish gristle and the unlikely bond between King Shark (basically a cross between Bane and Croc) and the saucy Killer Frost. Allegiances fluctuate within the group amid the moving parts of Waller’s plan, and the erratic rapport between their allowable one-note personas spices up the simplicity of casing Arkham.