REVIEW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987) – SEASON 3

MAIN CAST

Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Roy Dotrice (Game of Thrones)
Jay Acovone (Stargate SG.1)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Jo Anderson (Roswell)

2

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Mitchell Laurance (Cop Rock)
Kenneth Kimmins (Lois & Clark)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
Bill Calvert (Spider-Man)
David Greenlee (Fame)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Patrick St. Esprit (Green Zone)
Lance Henriksen (The Terminator)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Suzie Plakson (Disclosure)
Tony Plana (Ugly Betty)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Fionnula Flanagan (Lost)
Jeff Corey (Little Big man)
John Pleshette (Rocky II)

26aefdfe75e396171a91adf55d86b177The 3rd season of Beauty and the Beast definitely takes the series in a very different direction. As the new opening reveals, once Vincent gets past Catherine’s murder he will dedicate his life to avenging injustice – in other words, he has been recast here as a sort of beastly Batman, searching the skies for the Beast Signal which will let him know that his services are needed. Much of the first five or six episodes are focused more on the gritty world Above than on Vincent’s world in the tunnels – the photography is very different, with a sharper, darker overcast (much of the warmth associated with the tunnel worlds is lost). Additionally, character inconsistencies (especially with Roy Dotrice’s “Father”) undermine the overall fabric of the story for those of us who followed it closely the first two seasons. This is a much more violent show now, and it’s much more “black and white.” The new villain, Gabriel, who dominates many of the episodes, is simply evil personified – there is no development of his character, no understanding of his motivations. He is simply evil, and Vincent becomes the force of good which will win in the end. Gabriel is Paracelsus without the poetry, without the history that made his demonic persona work. There was always a hint with Paracelsus that what he really wanted was to be part of the tunnel community again, but he just couldn’t figure out a way to do it. The only thing we know about Gabriel is that he’s a monster.screen-shot-2011-12-30-at-7-38-41-pm.pngCatherine’s death itself is not what changed this series – actually, Diana’s character could very easily have become a new “Beauty” for Vincent, had the relationship been given a chance to develop. The problem is the new tone, the darker perspective, the shift away from the tunnel community that had dominated the second season, and the fans’ resistance to anything that even suggested that Vincent could move beyond his bond with Catherine and love another woman. The message of the first two seasons is clearly the power of love to conquer hate and fear; this would imply that Catherine’s love for Vincent should enable him to love again – after all, that’s what he always told her about the nature of love. Here, in Season Three, Vincent’s grief is palpable, and Ron Perlman does an amazing job demonstrating what it is to feel loss. But there are subtle moments between him and Diana that are hopeful and beautiful – and I, as a fan of the series, find solace in such hope.1202175761_1While watching the first episode (Though Lovers be Lost) is not easy, know that there are things beyond it of great value. Elliot Burch’s character, especially, is given both a chance to redeem himself and chance to give Catherine a beautiful gift. Diana becomes a fascinating and original character whose own connection to Vincent is believable and real – she is not Catherine, but rather an independent and introspective woman who may have much more in common with Vincent spiritually than Catherine ever did. It would be so easy to see Diana becoming a part of Vincent’s world. So, suffer through the difficult death and grieving scenes, be prepared for the shift in focus, but enjoy the new stories being told here about Vincent and the two worlds in which he lives. Yes, it’s flawed – but there is still enough beauty to justify a return visit.

REVIEW: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987) – SEASON 2

MAIN CAST

Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Roy Dotrice (Game of Thrones)
Jay Acovone (Stargate SG.1)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

David Greenlee (Fame)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Joseph Campanella (Hangar 18)
Adrian Paul (Highlander: The Series)
Katy Boyer (The Island)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Bill Calvert (Spider-Man)
Cyd Strittmatter (Gone Girl)
Bruce Abbott (The Net)
Remy Ryan (Robocop 3)
Don Stark (That 70s Show)
Piper Laurie (Carrie)
John McMartin (No Reservations)
Elyssa Davalos (MacGyver)
Kelli Williams (Lie To Me)
Rosemary Dunsmore (Orphan Black)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Dean Norris (Breaking Bad)
Gary Hudson (Road House)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)

26aefdfe75e396171a91adf55d86b177Though set in the late-1980s, Beauty and the Beast plays like something from another era. There’s no irony, cynicism, or hip quips to break the spell of the fantasy (though a little humor would’ve been nice). Catherine (Linda Hamilton) loves the beastly, if beneficent Vincent (Ron Perlman) with all her heart–and vice versa. Together, they’re TV’s most soft-hearted crime fighters. To the show’s credit, however, they aren’t infallible, and there are a few problems they’re unable to solve, whether the issue is drug addiction (“Chamber Music”), infectious disease (“Ashes, Ashes” with Highlander‘s Adrian Paul), or murder (“The Hollow Men”).

2In retrospect, it’s clear that Beauty and the Beast was a reaction to the “greed is good” era. Vincent and his cave-dwelling compatriots represent a more compassionate alternative to “topsider” corruption. Yet all is not harmonious below either. Seriously injured the previous year, Paracelsus (Tony Jay) becomes a Phantom of the Opera-type figure, who aims to destroy Vincent’s candle-lit utopia. In addition, a less civilized group of outcasts arrives in “The Outsiders.” Fortunately, Vincent has Father (Roy Dotrice), Mary (Ellen Geer), Mouse (David Greenlee), and Pascal (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Armin Shimerman) on his side.maxresdefaultUnfortunately, they won’t be able to prevent the tragedy that occurs in “The Rest Is Silence.” Suffice to say, the season finale sets the scene for a new direction (more is revealed in the third-season opener). Consequently, Beauty and the Beast was canceled the following year, but still managed to rack up 18 Emmy nominations (winning six), spawning a soundtrack, and even inspiring some Saturday Night Live spoofing–a sure sign it had struck a chord. While the first season was devoid of extras, Perlman and Hamilton introduce six key episodes on this set..2Being a big B&B fan, I can find no wrong with this Season 2. Loved every episode. This entire series has so much soul, that you will dwell on each episode long after they are over. Can’t go wrong with this one.

 

REVIEW: BATMAN BEYOND – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Will Friedle (Batman Ninja)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Cree Summer (Bambi II)
Frank Welker (Transformers)

Terry_and_Bruce

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Teri Garr (After Hours)
Michael Gross (Tremors)
Sherman Howard (Sueprboy)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Ryan O’Donohue (Toy Story)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Shannon Kenny (7th Heaven)
Stockard Channing (Grease)
Mari Devon (Digimon)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Pauley Perrette (NCIS)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Robert Davi (The Goonies)
Kevin Dunn (Transformers)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
George Lazenby (Gettysburg)
Amanda Donohoe (Liar Liar)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Peter Jason (They Live)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Larry Drake (Darkman)
Jon Cypher (Masters of The Universe)
Vernee Watson (The Kid)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Kimmy Robertson (Speed 2)
Barry Dennen (The Dark Crystal)
Victor Raider-Wexler (Minority Report)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Cary Elwes (Saw)

MV5BZTIyYjQ5OWQtNjVjNC00ZGY2LWI4NmItNjRiOTZlMzA1NWJmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzExODYzNzc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_Fifty years after Batman: The Animated Series came to a close, Gotham City is without a protector. Failing health and a chilling act of desperation prompted Bruce Wayne to give up Batman’s cape and cowl, and the corporation that had stayed in his family for generations has been wrest from him by a corporate raider named Derek Powers. Never married and abandoned by his sidekicks, the elderly, embittered Wayne lurks inside a sprawling mansion that seems more like a mausoleum than the stately manor of old. Derek Powers is using the remnants of WayneCorp to illegally manufacture an endlessly destructive but extremely profitable nerve gas, a secret that Wayne/Powers employee Warren McGinnis stumbles upon and pays for with his life.DziRsC4XQAEU01AHis troubled son Terry blames himself for the murder, but a chance encounter with Bruce Wayne results in the theft of a Batman suit brimming with cutting-edge technology and the revelation of the man truly responsible for his father’s death. By the time the two-part episode “Rebirth” is over, Bruce Wayne has agreed to guide Terry as the new Batman, and an irradiated Derek Powers is a walking fusion reactor.batman-beyondBatman: The Animated Series, Superman, and Justice League all drew heavily from the established mythos, but Batman Beyond is a largely original creation. Sure, there are quite a few nods to the original series — it’s still set in Gotham City, Barbara Gordon has taken the mantle of police commissioner, and there are winks to fans like the Grey Ghost costume in the Batcave.MV5BMjI4Nzg0NTQ4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Terry McGinnis is a very different lead character than Bruce Wayne was in Batman: The Animated Series. In the previous series, it seemed more as if Batman was who this man really was and Bruce Wayne was just an occasionally convenient mask for him to wear. Terry is seen out of costume much more frequently than Bruce ever was and feels like more of a fleshed-out character. He has friends, he has family, and he has a life outside of the pointy-eared hood. Gotham City is still teeming with bad guys, but even though Batman has been transplanted to the future, he’s not squaring off against Joker II or The Riddler Redux. The rogue’s gallery of this futuristic Batman doesn’t lift much from the previous animated series or even from the comics. The only familiar faces are Mr. Freeze, The Royal Flush Gang, and, briefly and unrecognizably, Bane. The other villains are original creations with some striking character designs, such as the amorphous corporate saboteur Inque, sound-engineer-with-a-power-suit Shriek, and the hypnotic Spellbound. This season also doesn’t rehash the same villains over and over again, with Inque being the only baddie other than Derek Powers’ Blight to strike more than once.MV5BMTQ0ODcyNjYwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTU5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Several of the supervillains aren’t costumed-threats-of-the-week, but ordinary people in extraordinary situations: Willie Watt in “Golem” is a nerdy high schooler who seizes control of a two-story-tall construction robot to exact revenge on the bullies who torment him, and “The Winning Edge” is about high school athletes using steroids yet deftly avoids playing like ‘a very special episode of Batman Beyond’. One thing Batman’s adversaries, costumed and plainclothes alike, have in common is their origins. Nearly all of the villains in Batman Beyond are born of tragedy or greed, and that gives these episodes more of a resonance than something like The Joker pumping Gotham City with laughing gas for no reason in particular.AscensionAnother stand-out is “Shriek”, pitting Batman against an enemy whose technology enables him to manipulate sound. One of the most inventive sequences in the entire run of the series is set in a car factory where Batman starts setting off every piece of equipment in arm’s reach as a distraction. Shriek uses his technology to block out the noise and isolate Batman’s movements, resulting in an almost entirely silent battle with no dialogue, few sound effects, and a sparse, subtle score.126915This first season of Batman Beyond is remarkably consistent, offering perhaps the strongest debut of any DC animated series to date.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 4

Starring

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
Mathew Valencia (Lawnmower Man 2)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Bob Hastings (McHale’s Navy)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Marilu Henner (Taxi)
Liane Schirmer (Dark Wolf Gang)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Corey Burton (Transformers: The Movie)
Peter Jason (Mortal Kombat)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners)
Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Billy Barty (Masters of The Universe)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
George Dzundza (Basic Instinct)
Mel Winkler (Coach Carter)
Paul Williams (Battle for TPOTA)
Allan Rich (Serpico)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Barry Bostwick (Spy Hard)
Sela Ward (Gone Girl)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Dennis Haysbert (Heat)
Billy Zane (Titanic)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Henry Silva (Aove The Law)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Thomas F. Wilson (Legends of Tomorrow)
Brooks Gardner (Raw Deal)
Buster Jones (Transformers)
Laraine Newman (Coneheads)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
Jim Piddock (Mascots)
Ian Buchanan (Stargate SG.1)
Pamela Hayden (The Simpsons)
Neil Ross (Transformers: Ther Movie)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Michael Ironside (Highlander 2)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Tim Matheson (Animal House)
Malachi Throne (Star Trek)
John Glover (Smallville)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Billy West (Futurama)

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The  this fourth boxed set Batman: The Animated Series is finally available on DVD in its entirety. For anyone that grew up loving this ’90s legend, that’s a very good thing indeed. Technically the show “ended” with the third volume, but when the producers moved on to Superman: The Animated Series, they were asked to bring back a Batman cartoon, and they did – making a few changes in the process.MV5BMzIwOTM3ZDYtMWVhMi00NDhlLWI1ZmItM2JlODc1NTgyYmE4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1342,1000_AL_Any fan can tell you that the new series, dubbed Gotham Knights and airing as the part of the double-feature The New Batman/Superman Adventures, wasn’t as good as what had come before. Even so, if you’re a fan then it’s certainly worth checking out as it serves as a nice precursor to what we’d get with the Justice League series. Plus, there are some great episodes here that any Bat-fan shouldn’t miss. An animated segment from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns? Yes, please! While the show is essentially the same as the previous version, there are some differences. For one, the episodes here take place two years after the events in the original show. The Bat family has been expanded to include Batgirl and Nightwing, and the first thing you will notice is the abundance of new character designs.MV5BZTA4ZjYzNzAtM2FkYS00Y2E2LTgxYTYtNjA3ODkwOWMzM2QwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_When coming up with a fresh take on the aging series, producer Bruce Timm decided that sprucing up the characters would give the show more punch. For the most part, he was right. Some of the characters got slight touch-ups while others were totally redesigned. For example, the new Joker looks more menacing, but the lack of red lips to surround his wicked grin takes away from the impact of the character. On the other hand you’ve got the new Scarecrow, with demented eyes staring out at Batman through a terrifying burlap mask, which is far creepier than the old design.MV5BZjg2OGFkMmUtYmQwNC00ZjIyLWFkMGEtNjJkNzA3YWY2YjY4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1340,1000_AL_Batman himself suffered some changes too; the costume loses the yellow around the Bat-insignia and the chin is longer, giving Bats’ head a more rectangular shape. Overall, the changes are welcome and they add more than they take away. While the cosmetic upgrades are easy to spot, they are not the most important change; after a few episodes you’ll see exactly what it is. The show just isn’t as good as it used to be. That isn’t to say that it’s bad – it’s still one of the better animated series out there, but the atmosphere and maturity of the earlier episodes is missing. The greater reliance on secondary characters (Robin, Batgirl) and gadgets (glider jetpack) injects the show with a more playful tone than it had in the past. You’ve got less character, but more characters. At first I saw this as a shortcoming, but I quickly came to see it as something different – an opportunity.MV5BYTI0Nzg2MmQtNTBiNC00NzBjLWE5NDItZTFmODRjYzZiN2EzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_You’ve already got three boxes worth of classic, wonderfully moody Batman material. If the showrunners want to take the show to hipper, more action-oriented place, I say let them. After all, as far as experimentation goes, there’s some great stuff here. There are a number of gimmicky episodes, but don’t count that out as a bad thing. There’s still a lot of fun to be had. Meanwhile, other DC Universe characters are brought in, making the show feel more connected to what would follow (Superman, Justice League). The Demon Within brings in the mystic characters of Etrigan/Jason Blood and Klarion the Witch Boy (talk about timely). Girl’s Nite Out sees Batgirl and guest Supergirl team up to take down Live Wire (from the Superman show), Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.MV5BMTUwMzU0OTUzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE4OTQ1MjE@._V1_But, hand’s down, the standout episode of the box, and one of the coolest of the series, is Legends of the Dark Knight. A group of kids get together and swap stories of what they think Batman is “really” like. One kid tells the story of a campy, golden age interpretation of Batman… and we get to see it animated! It’s a classic story where Batman and Robin battle the Joker in a giant musical instrument museum (?!). The voices and music are hilarious and lovingly done in the ’50s Dick Sprang style; there is no sarcasm here. Seeing the Joker tie our heroes to giant piano strings and then jump on piano keys (in an attempt to squash them) is very amusing for its innocence and simplicity. Next, we have the second kid’s story: she thinks Batman is an old, stoic avenger. In other words, the interpretation that Frank Miller used to catapult Batman into the serious mainstream. We are then treated to a great segment from Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns book as it is brought to life.MV5BMjU3OWFhMWYtYzdlZS00NzRmLWFkMWMtZWZmMjYxMTk3YTg1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_Watching Batman take down the mutant leader in a mud-pit, set against grungy ’80s music, is a real treat. What you get with these two segments over the comics is the great voice acting and an additional storytelling layer by way of background music. The voices and music add a wonderful texture to these classic tales and the idea of juxtaposing bright and goofy with dark and serious makes for a very satisfying episode. While these action-focused and gimmicky episodes are not the show at its best, they are a great diversion and a fun reinterpretation of an aging show. It’s not as good as it used to be, but it’s still Batman: The Animated Series. And that makes it worth your time.