REVIEW: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3: SECRET OF THE TOMB

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Robin Williams (Hook)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder)
Ricky Gervais (Muppets Most Wanted)
Jake Cherry (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Rachael Harris (Barley Lethal)
Dan Stevens (The Guest)
Rebel Wilson (Grimsby)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Rami Malek (Battleship)
Patrick Gallagher (Sideways)
Mizuo Peck (A Case of You)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins)
Percy Hynes White (The Gifted)
Mickey Rooney (Revenge of The Red Baron)
Bill Cobbs (Oz The Great and Powerful)
Andrea Martin (Black Christmas)
Brennan Elliott (Curse of Chucky)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Anjali Jay (Izombie)
Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Hugh Jackman (Logan)
Brad Garrett (Finding Dory)
Matthew Harrison (Thirteen Ghosts)
Jody Racicot (Flash Gordon)

In 1938 Egypt, a team of archaeologists discover the tomb of pharaoh Ahkmenrah, including a young Cecil Fredericks, finding the magical Tablet of Ahkmenrah. The locals warn the group that removing the tablet will end its magic. In present day New York City, Larry Daley remains the night guard of the American Museum of Natural History. He, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedediah, Octavius and Dexter the capuchin monkey help re-open the Hayden Planetarium. A new wax Neanderthal resembling Larry named Laaa is introduced, identifying Larry as his father. Ahkmenrah shows Larry that the tablet is corroding, which later causes the exhibits to act erratically, causing mayhem at the planetarium’s reopening. Afterwards, Larry catches his son Nick throwing a house party, who plans on taking a gap year to sort out his life.Larry reunites with Cecil, now in retirement, who realises the end of the tablet’s magic will cause the exhibits to become lifeless. Cecil explains Ahkmenrah’s parents, Merenkahre and Shepseheret, may be able to restore the tablet’s power, but are located in the British Museum. Larry convinces the museum’s curator, Dr. McPhee, to let him ship Ahkmenrah to London to restore the tablet, convinced that McPhee knows its secrets. Larry and Nick travel to the British Museum, bypassing the night guard Tilly. To Larry’s surprise, Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila, Jed, Octavius, Dexter, and Laaa have come as well. Laaa is left to stand guard while the others search the museum, the tablet bringing its own exhibits to life.They are joined by a wax Sir Lancelot who helps them fight off the aggressive museum exhibits like a Xiangliu statue and a Triceratops skeleton. Jedediah and Octavius fall through a ventilation shaft, but are rescued from an erupting Pompeii model by Dexter. The group find Ahkmenrah’s parents, learning the tablet’s power can be regenerated by moonlight, since it is empowered with the magic of Khonsu. Lancelot mistakes the tablet for the Holy Grail and steals it, leaving to find Camelot. Larry and Laaa are locked in the employee break room by Tilly but escape, Laaa remaining behind to distract Tilly, but they become attracted to each other.Lancelot crashes a performance of the musical Camelot, starring Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve as King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, but Larry and the others chase him to the theatre roof, where the New York exhibits begin to die. Lancelot then sees that the quest was about them and gives the tablet back. The moonlight restores the tablet’s power, saving the exhibits. They decide that Ahkmenrah and the tablet should stay with his parents, even if it means the New York exhibits will no longer come to life. Back in New York, Larry spends some final moments with his friends before sunrise. Three years later, Larry now works as a teacher, and a travelling British Museum exhibit comes to New York. Tilly becomes the new night guard, and gives the tablet to Dr. McPhee, showing him its power, and allowing the exhibits to awaken again. Outside, Larry watches them party inside.Fans of the franchise will be pleasantly surprised by the heartfelt and sentimental Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. The thoughtfulness and homages to ancient history are present and the jokes have a wide enough range to make any age giggle.

REVIEW: WATCHMEN – THE DIRECTORS CUT

CAST

Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Crudup (Almost Famous)
Matthew Goode (Match Point)
Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Rob Labelle (Jack Frost)
Garry Chalk (Dark angel)
Chris Gauthier (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Laura Mennell (Van Helsing)
Kurt Evans (Izombie)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Body)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Michael Eklund (Arrow)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Colin Lawrence (Virgin River)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson in Watchmen (2009)In the latter half of the 1980s, three illustrated novels challenged the mainstream perception of comic books. While the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman introduced emotionally complex subject matter and established the genre as a viable literary format, Frank Miller’s ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’ scaled national bestseller lists and demonstrated that superheroes struggle with the conditions of the world they feel destined to protect. When the 12-issue limited series of ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons was published as a novel-length comic, it stunned audiences with its commercial success and its innovative structure layout. The book’s narrative also took a radical approach, scrutinizing the concept of superheros and offering a sort of “deconstruction” of their being, one which has pervaded the comic book world, including film adaptations, ever since. Over twenty years later, director Zack Snyder finally brings to the screen what so many once thought could never be filmed.Matthew Goode in Watchmen (2009)Taking place in an alternate reality of America, where Richard Nixon is serving his fourth term as president after winning the Vietnam War. The Keene Act of 1977 has outlawed all acts of masked vigilantism, forcing many into retirement. One October night, the murder of Edward Blake interests Rorschach, a masked avenger seen by the public as more a psychotic criminal than a hero. His investigation leads him to discover that Blake was the man behind The Comedian, a fellow crime fighter turned government operative. Fearing a conspiracy against costumed adventurers, he sets out to warn his former comrades: the Batman-esque Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl, the successful businessman Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, an angst-ridden Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre, and the only true superhero of the bunch Dr. Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan. As the investigation progresses, the band of superhero outcasts uncovers a plot more sinister and gruesome than they initially expected, revealing an enemy no one would’ve anticipated.Matthew Goode and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen (2009)At the time of its theatrical release, the film version of the popular graphic novel was seen as a mild success, never coming close to expected box office figures. It was also heavily criticized by fans on internet boards around the globe for failing to truly capture the spirit of the series. Being one of those critics (yes, I am that kind of a nerd), the 162-minute adaptation felt rushed and heavily cluttered, as a wealth of information was quickly thrown at the audience with little time to digest it all. Those unfamiliar with the novel were alienated by the onscreen events, while the core fans saw a large amount of exposition skimmed over for the sake of time. Ultimately, what is now considered the theatrical cut seemed more concerned with reverence for its source, rather than a commitment to acting as a legitimate film that stood on its own. Much of the novel’s power and depth was lost in the translation.Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen (2009)Now, in this Director’s Cut, Snyder is allowed to thicken the plot and create a better flow within the already-trimmed narrative. Arguably, Snyder shows more style over substance, seemingly imitating the original look of the comic rather than offering his own interpretation. But with 24 minutes of footage now added to the story, the film captures the comic’s dark, gritty appeal nicely, giving it more of a realistic feel and creating more human fascination. These masked vigilantes are confronted with contemporary real-world events, where they are frequently made aware of the Cold War reaching the breaking point and the fact that nuclear holocaust is imminent. As gloomy and pessimistic as that may sound, the idea posits these would-be superheroes against issues of power and the failure of salvation. They must cope with the world as it truly is: a dark and unpredictable existence, driven by fear and uncertainty of the future.This band of costumed avengers challenges what normally typifies the superheroics of their peers. They are flawed humans and deeply haunted by their pasts, primarily a shared experience of feeling unwanted from The Keene Act. Their interactions with one another and society at large expose questions about the limitations inherent to the superhero archetype trying to save humanity from itself. It’s the reason why fans are attracted to the two most complex characters in the series: Rorschach and The Comedian. While one idealizes his fight against injustice as a battle that must be won, the other possesses a harshly cynical worldview of civilization doomed beyond repair. The narrative also opens doors to discussions on power relations and politics, issues of certainty and doubt, metaphysics and existential nihilism, moral ambiguity, and Ozymandias’s actions bring to mind Nietzsche’s central theme of the “Master-slave morality”.Coming in at 186 minutes, ‘Watchmen: Director’s Cut’ may be daunting to some viewers, but for fans, this will be the closest we’ll ever come to seeing a faithful adaptation of the ragtag group of outcasts. Some of its drawbacks, I feel, are quickly outweighed by the overall sense that the comic book’s central conceit is maintained and clearly expressed with a genuine approach. Granted, certain aspects are still missing, but I admit they are necessary alterations to make the transition into film a success. As a long time fan of the illustrated novel, this director’s cut of ‘Watchmen’ easily bests the theatrical version, making it worthy of multiple viewings to take in its dense and complex implications.
After twenty years of hardcore fans hearing that the ‘Watchmen’ comics are “unfilmable”, Zack Snyder defies logic and gives audiences the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing the novel on film. In the ‘Watchmen: Director’s Cut’, Snyder is allowed to flesh out the details better and create a smoother narrative flow, offering an improved vision of this alternate reality.

REVIEW: WATCHMEN: TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER / UNDER THE HOOD

 

 

 

TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER

CAST (VOICES)

Gerard Butler (300)
Cam Clarke (He-Man 2003)
Jared Harris (Lincoln)

Rider-Time-Ryuki-Another-RyukiWatchmen was a great movie, and a great comic-book adaptation . It’s true that the metafictitious Tales Of The Black Freighter comic story was a marvellous little additional plot device which nicely mirrored The Watchmen’s main story and was allegorical of many of the main characters’ – specifically Ozymandias’ – bloody paths to becoming what they most hated, all paved with good intentions. It fitted nicely within the pages of the comic books and all was well-and-good. Tales Of The black Freighter was never likely to make it into the movie-proper though and – as much as those purist geeks may disagree – it is far from an essential part of the story, however much I may personally have liked to see it on celluloid. I was delighted, therefore, when I heard that, so dedicated were Zack Snyder and Co. to providing the closest possible rendering to the source text/art, that they would be releasing a near-coinciding straight-to-DVD animation of Black Freighter.MV5BODc2MmM2N2EtZGY1Yi00ZjdiLWI1MmMtODU5MTU2MTc2MTVjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,748_AL_Tales Of The Black Freighter is, like Watchmen, a painstakingly accurate re-telling of the meta-comic on which it is based, but I’m sure that this time the complaint will be that, when no longer juxtaposed in context to the principal narrative, the once well-timed symbolism somewhat loses it’s impact. They may well be right, of course, and maybe releasing this separately sold DVD – which also includes a well-conceived 1985 period-themed Under The Hood author’s spotlight feature – could be construed as a little cynical when the Black Freighter itself is a mere 20 minutes long, but then if it weren’t made available until bundled with the Watchmen’s DVD release then it couldn’t be viewed as a companion piece until long after the film had left the cinemas.MV5BYTNjM2I0YzMtMjU1NS00MjM4LTlmZjEtNzQzOGJlZTlhNDUwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_As an addendum to The Watchmen movie, Tales Of The Black Freighter entirely succeeds.

CAST

Ted Friend (Elf)
Stephen McHattie (300)
William S. Taylor (Scary Movie 3)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Texas Killing Fields)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)

UNDER THE HOOD

 

DC put together this short documentary as a companion piece extra to the “source” of the film, which itself is a take-off on the in-between chapters of the Watchmen book. Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl in Watchmen, writes an autobiography chronicling the history of the costumed heroes that are a big deal in the 40s, then becoming less of a “fad” in the 1950s and then being outlawed, all with the prose of who was originally a NYC police officer. It’s a series of interviews done in faux 1970 style TV (even includes a few “vintage” commercials, one of the three actually quite funny), with an interviewer who gets the actors playing the characters to improvise (or maybe it’s all written, I can see that very well being the case as well) on the subjects posed and raised. It’s fun to watch and a little clever. It’s a nice companion to the film.

REVIEW: WATCHMEN

 

CAST

Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Crudup (Almost Famous)
Matthew Goode (Match Point)
Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Rob Labelle (Jack Frost)
Garry Chalk (Dark angel)
Chris Gauthier (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Kurt Evans (Izombie)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Laura Mennell (Van Helsing)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Body)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Michael Eklund (Arrow)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Colin Lawrence (Virgin River)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

66262-ycoiuhbnkq-1503295178Watchmen was easily the most hotly awaited picture of the first half of 2009, and I’ll readily admit that the dynamic yellow-and-red poster billboards around town generated a charge of anticipation that Savant hasn’t felt in years. That the film was not considered a runaway success doesn’t surprise me. A movie about superheroes that is neither consistently feel-good nor entertainingly funny is a hard sell. Other writers have noted that the Watchmen are relative unknowns in comparison to icons like Spiderman and Superman; there’s less of a built-in audience for them. Describing the Watchmen movie also suggests expressions like “intellectual puzzle” and “non-linear”. Large segments of the audience have little use for narrative complexities and historical irony.

What movie audiences do care about is action, and to compensate Watchmen ratchets up the graphic novel’s considerable violence. Bloody content limited to a single comic panel or two, looks like gore porn when turned into a film sequence.  Even with a few subplots deleted, Watchmen is so complicated that it bears comparison with David Lynch’s noble 1984 attempt to film Dune. Lynch got lost in wall-to-wall exposition and characters reduced to walk-ons. Watchmen avoids the same fate by closely following the original’s highly cinematic structure. Moore and Gibbons’ comic book panels made heavy use of devices familiar to moviegoers — parallel cutting, associative transitions.Watchmen is a multi-generational story of costumed superhero crime fighters. They got their start in the 1940s as “The Minutemen”, later formed another association called “The Watchmen” and then were outlawed in the early 1980s. Most have kept their anonymity in retirement. Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman), Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) and The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have no super-powers. The one Watchman who does is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), an “atomic man” who glows a soft blue color. A research scientist transformed into a near demigod by an experiment gone wrong, Dr. Manhattan wins the Vietnam War for Richard Nixon, allowing the President to run for a third term by popular demand. Most of Watchmen plays out as a science fiction alternate history tale, although the film drops a major Sci-Fi element from the final act.In 1985 an unknown assailant murders The Comedian. Defying the ban on costumed vigilantes, Rorschach warns the other Watchmen and puts pressure on the underworld to find out who is responsible. Dr. Manhattan breaks up with Laurie Jupiter (secretly the Silk Spectre) and abandons humanity to meditate on Mars. The Cold War goes into panic mode, as the U.S. and the Soviets are already at the brink of nuclear war, and Dr. Manhattan was America’s defense insurance policy. Laurie and Dan Dreiburg (secretly the Nite Owl) become an item. Frustrated by all the bad news, they ignore the ban and reassume their roles as crime fighters. Laurie and Dan spring Rorschach from prison and begin an investigation that leads to the activities of the millionaire technocrat Adrian Veidt, formerly Ozymandias.That synopsis doesn’t begin to touch the intricacies of Watchmen or its pleasing assortment of superheroes, that collectively flesh out a pantheon of comic book traditions. The Nite Owl is a kinder Batman type, a quiet millionaire who has engineered a flying vehicle and other crime-fighting gadgets. He’s actually following in the footsteps of the original Nite Owl, a two-fisted hero from the 1940s. The Silk Spectre is a Wonder Woman- like beauty with identity issues. She was pushed into her role by her flamboyant mother, the Silk Spectre of the Minuteman years. The corrupt Comedian lost sight of his crimefighting ethics and became a murderer, war criminal, rapist and dirty ops agent for Dick Nixon. The highly intelligent Ozymandias is also a fabulously wealthy international businessman under the name Adrian Veidt; he’s put his crime-fighting past on the public record and even sells Ozymandias toy action figures. Veidt considers himself a modern Alexander the Great.The most interesting Watchman is Rorschach, a seedy misanthrope who wears a strange mask that forms mysterious symmetrical patterns identical to a psychologist’s inkblot test. Now considered an outlaw vigilante, Rorschach keeps a bitter Travis Bickle-like diary and refuses to compromise on his mission to slay criminals. Between them the Watchmen cover numerous approaches to the concept of “masked crusaders” trying to function in a complex world. Director Zack Snyder  epitomizes the modern director who prepares computerized pre-visualization sequences, directs the live action, and waits for his technician-artisans to deliver test composites to critique. Elements that the director once had to make “come together” before a real camera on a real set can now be added, subtracted or altered almost indefinitely; the director of an effects-heavy film now functions as a creative manager. Snyder openly admits that his goal is to faithfully replicate the visions of other artists, which has prompted some to question exactly what he contributes artistically to the show. To the extent that Snyder still casts and directs the actors and decides when and when not to follow the graphic novel, he is actually much more “involved” than were many old-school studio directors. Even the biggest Hollywood names sometimes worked from locked scripts and often had little contact with projects before or after the actual filming. Considering how little opportunity for personal expression the Watchmen assignment afford, Snyder’s done a fine job.In this case, closely following the original was Snyder’s only choice. CGI allows the presentation of almost any visual, and the leagues of Watchmen fans wouldn’t have tolerated detours from their story. Most of Snyder’s adjustments are good ones. The strange sidebar tangent involving a “Black Freighter” horror comic has wisely been spun off into a separate direct-to-video production. To get out from under a mountain of plot complications, Snyder drops Adrian Veidt’s elaborate hoax on humanity that involves murdering an army of technicians that mock up the corpse of a gigantic space alien.Watchmen was somewhat overpowering in the movie theater, precisely because it is so close to the original. Instead of being taken in a new direction, I felt like Snyder was holding the book in front of my eyes and turning the pages for me. But movies of this kind are no longer made to be seen only once, and on a second viewing it was easier to simply watch what was happening, admire the classy designs and marvel at the excellent casting.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 2

Starring

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Bob Hastings (General Hospital)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)

MV5BMTA1NzAyMzUyOTFeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDk3MzM2NzI@._V1_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Julie Brown (Clueless)
Paddi Edwards (The Little Mermaid)
Diane Pershing (Defenders of The Earth)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Bud Cort (Coyote Ugly)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Eugene Roche (Soap)
Thomas F. Wilson (Legends of Tomorrow)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Mark Hamill (Star wars)
Arleen Sorkin (Gotham Girls)
Mari Devon (Digimon)
Buster Jones (Transformers: The Movie)
Robert Ito (Midway)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Brock Peters (Star trek IV)
Ingrid Oliu (Real Women Have Curves)
Mary McDonald-Lewis (G.I. Joe)
Treat Williams (The Phantom)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Ray Buktenica (Heat)
Melissa Gilbert (Little House on The Prairie)
William Sanderson (Blade Runner)
Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo)
Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
John Glover (Smallville)
Ernie Hudsdon (Ghostbusters)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Marc Singer (V)
Jim Cummings (Christopher Robbin)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Meredith MacRae (Bikini Beach)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Aron Kincaid (Transformers)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Neil Ross (An American Tail)
Marilu Henner (Taxi)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Sal Viscuso (Spaceballs)
Barry Dennen (The Dark Crystal)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Michael York (Cabaret)
Matt Frewer (The Order)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Marcia Wallace (The Simpsons)
Joseph Campanella (Mannix)
Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)

MV5BODY3Mjk5ZWYtMWE5MC00MjdmLTkxZWItZTdhYWI0ZTkzNmRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Having starred in radio shows, serials, a succession of movies, live action television shows and cartoons, Batman remained a consistently hot property since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. One of my favorite incarnations of the Dark Knight Detective was the 1992 cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. Though that initial run has spawned over a dozen other series, it remains my favorite. Though it was positioned as a cartoon for kids, it was easily something that adult fans of the Caped Crusader could enjoy too. The cinematic staging and gothic designs gave it an undeniable visual appeal while the smart writing and first-rate voice acting made the whole show sophisticated and believable. To the great joy of longtime fans and those who missed the show in its initial run, Warner Brothers has just released Volume Two, a four-disc collection of 28 episodes.MV5BMDk1MjFmYjItYjkxNC00NTM1LWIzNWEtYWNlNTVjMWVjMmM1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_You’ll notice that these DVD sets are labeled “volume” rather than “season.” That’s because Batman: The Animated Series had a very unbalanced production schedule. Though the first season consisted of 60 episodes, the second through fourth seasons had less than half that number taken altogether.  The episodes on Volume Two are taken primarily from the second half of the show’s first season but it still leaves some gaps here and there. MV5BMmU5YjM4ZjEtODkzMC00OGIyLTgxYTktYjRmOWFjYjBjOTU2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_This volume has my all-time favorite episode, “The Man Who Killed Batman,” in which a small-time hood finds himself the hero and target of Gotham’s underworld after he apparently kills Batman. In “Almost Got ‘Im” some of Batman’s main enemies reminisce over poker about the times each of them almost killed the Caped Crusader. “The Mechanic” has the Penguin targeting the man who designed and built the Batmobile. “Harley and Ivy” is a great team-up story between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. In “I Am the Knight,” Batman begins to question his effectiveness after Commissioner Gordon is shot.MV5BNmZlODI1ODktMzU2ZC00MTI5LThlNGItNjcxM2IwMTAzZWZkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_You also get the first Riddler episode with “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” and the first Ra’s Al Ghul episode, “Off Balance.” This volume also includes two great two-part episodes. “Robin’s Reckoning” delves into the origin of Robin’s character and “Heart of Steel” introduces us to HARDAC, a computer that’s been replacing key figures in Gotham with look-alikes.MV5BMmQ2MjM3ZGUtNjg1MC00ZTQ2LWFlYTktNDBlZjIyMzFiNjk0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Since Warner has decided to release the episodes without regard to their production or airdate order, it would at least be nice to have more thematic continuity within this volume. HARDAC is introduced here but the final HARDAC episode, “His Silicon Soul,” isn’t included in this volume. Ditto for the introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul; his story won’t be wrapped up until the two-part “The Demon’s Quest.”MV5BZDc1NDM0MDItODEzZC00NDcwLTgwZTUtODc4MmU3YWNlZDc2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Dr. Langstrom is here in “Tyger, Tyger” and “Terror in the Sky” but his first episode, “On Leather Wings,” is on Volume One. You do get a few story arcs started and wrapped up on this disc, as with the story of Bruce’s old nemesis, Kyodai Ken, but you’ll still have to wait for the resolution of some of the more important story threads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: THE ORDER – SEASON 1

Sarah Grey in The Order (2019)

Starring

Jake Manley (Heroes Reborn)
Sarah Grey (Power Rangers)
Sam Trammell (Imperium)
Matt Frewer (The BFG)
Max Martini (The Town)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal)
Jewel Staite (Firefly)
Kawennahere Devery Jacobs (American Gods)
Louriza Tronco (Make It Pop)
Ty Wood (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Adam DiMarco (The Magicians)
Aaron Hale (Miss Sloane)
Jedidiah Goodacre (The Originals)
Dylan Playfair (Descendants 2)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
Emily Holmes (Snakes on a Plane)
Julia Benson (Stargate Universe)
Kayla Heller (Snowcoming)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Françoise Yip (Aliens vs Predator 2)

a4763c55-70a8-4acf-a9c2-4b41593fd64d-screen-shot-2019-03-06-at-31130-pmNetflix shows like The Order have an advantage that series that release episodes a week apart don’t have. Potential audiences can give a new show a quick opening binge right away rather than only viewing the always tricky pilot to prove that it’s worthy of being added to their viewing schedule. The Order is definitely a supernatural show that stands alongside The Magicians or The Vampire Diaries, but the true twist to the witches versus werewolves premise doesn’t show up until third episode. College campus drama tropes bog down the first episode a bit, but the central conflict is wholly unique with plenty of humor and well-written dialogue to smooth out the rough edges.MV5BZjZmYjQ2ZTktY2NjOS00NTg5LWJlYWMtNDE5ZDhhNjg5ODYzXkEyXkFqcGdeQW1yb3NzZXI@._V1_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_On the one hand, The Order should be commended for not holding the viewer’s hand during key parts of the opening narrative. Jack Morton (Jake Manley of iZombie) and his grandfather (Matt Frewer of Orphan Black) clearly have some sort of ulterior motive for getting him into Belgrave University as a freshman, but the audience has to figure out why on its own, and the details that unfold go from simple to complex pretty quickly. On the other hand, the manner in which Jack is admitted and his almost immediate encounters with frat boys and townie-hating rich kids is meant to be accepted with a hand wave and does feel a bit rushed.the-order-netflix-season-2-4-1551991441704Given the hurry to establish the campus atmosphere, it’s remarkable how quickly chemistry forms between Jake and sophomore college tour guide Alyssa Drake (Sarah Grey of Legends of Tomorrow). Despite moments of overt flirtation on Jake’s part and even briefer flickers of mutual attraction, The Order is not in any rush to bring these two together or create any weird love triangles. A level of respect is built between them based on intelligence and an understanding that some of those around them, both magic users and regular students, are jerks with poor judgment.ty5y54yIt’s interesting that The Order pokes fun at ritualistic fraternity initiations immediately before bringing us into the pledge process for the titular Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, which includes — you guessed it — the presentation of a magically appearing blue rose to the potential Neophytes. Even those established in the Order, such as college chancellor Vera Stone (Katharine Isabelle of The Arrangement) and the higher level students like Alyssa, indulge in the use of robes and masks, but somehow the secret society comes across as neither haughty nor ridiculous. It’s just Hogwarts or Brakebills with a dash of alumni politics, and it works.the-order-e1551988902714The question is how many viewers will stay tuned in long enough to realize that the initial conflict that’s presented in which Neophytes are supposedly being killed by werewolves is not nearly as Saturday B-movie as it may sound nor is it in fact a true representation of the nature of the animosity between witches and werewolves at all? Jake’s place in the Order may have a lot to do with the mission imposed upon him by Grandpa Pete, but by episode three, it becomes so much more than that. And again, the friendships that Jake makes along the way (some of which lie in direct opposition to each other) are a bit rushed, but the humor that comes from the Neophytes playing with magic way beyond their understanding or Jack’s R.A. (Adam DiMarco of The Magicians, oddly enough) trying to figure out what to do with his new resident is definitely worth overlooking the artificially acclerated bonding. Fellow Neophyte Gabrielle (Louriza Tronco of Spiral) is especially delightful and will quickly remind The Magicians fans of an early Margo, and she and Brandon (Aaron Hale of Pure) importantly add some much needed diversity to the lily white cast.the-order-season-1-on-netflix-ofSo ignore the loglines and stick around until The Order shows you what it’s really all about. With engaging characters and with several compelling paths set before its protagonist, this show has legs if it plays its cards right. Characters whom you assume are good might not be so honest, and those portrayed as evil aren’t necessarily so. Achieving that level of complexity so quickly is worth the sacrifice of a little exposition. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have seven more episodes to binge.

REVIEW: TAKEN (2002)

CAST

Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Eric Close (American Sniper)
Catherine Dent (Terminator: TSCC)
Joel Gretsch (V)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Tine Holmes (Half Nelson)
Steve Burton (Cyber Tracker)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Stacy Grant (Shanghai Noon)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Michael Moriarty (Courage Under Fire)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
James McDaniel (Sleepy Hollow)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Willie Garson (Stargate SG.1)
Ryan Hurst (Bates Motel)
James Kirk (X-Men 2)
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek)
Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins)
Brenda James (Slither)
Chad Morgan (The Purge: Anarchy)
Jonathan Young (Sanctuary)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Emily Holmes (The Wicker Man)
Erin Karpluk (Being Erica)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Desmond Harrington (Ghost Ship)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Emily Bergl (Carrie 2)
Britt Irvin (V)
Camille Sullivan (The Birdwatcher)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Gabrielle Rose (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (Arrow)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Colleen Winton (Van Helsing)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Justin Chatwin (Taking Lives)
Gwynyth Walsh (Van Helsing)
Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Connor Widdows (Battlestar Galactica)
Laurie Murdoch (Spotlight)
Enid-Raye Adams (Good Boys)
Andrew Jackson (Sea Wolf)
Mark Hildreth (V)
Patrick Gallagher (Glee)
Aaron Pearl (Lost In Space)
Nolan Gerard Funk (Truth or Dare)
Kurt Evans (Izombie)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Frederick Koehler (Death Race)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Series)
Devin Douglas Drewitz ( I Love You, Beth Cooper)
Kendall Cross (Caprica)
Bill Marchant (Stargate SG.1)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Don Thompson (Watchmen)

From none other than visionary Steven Spielberg comes TAKEN (2002), which I first saw during it’s initial run on the BBC. I admire the scope, ambition, and emotion attached to this entertaining mini series.It starts off in 1944, with Russell Keys, along with his bomber crew, being ‘taken’ by an alien spacecraft during their WWII mission. The crew is experimented on, but Keys is essentially the lone survivor. Keys returns home with PTSD, not due to war, but due to the alien experience. This compels him to leave his wife and child to solve the mystery. Eventually, the aliens take Russell’s teen son Jesse Keys. The aliens obviously see an internal resolve in the Keys’ men that distinguishes them from the rest of the human race.
A second parallel story starts around 1947, and involves the lone survivor of a downed alien spacecraft that manages to take human form as “John” , who seeks refuge on a Texas farm owned by Sally Clarke, a hard-working waitress and single mother of two. John and Sally bond and she is impregnated, leading to a human-alien hybrid Jacob Clarke (superbly played by then-newcomer Anton Yelchin, now known for being the new Chekhov in the re-booted Star Trek franchise).The final parallel story also starts in 1947 in the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, where the local Air Force has found John’s downed ship and his 4 alien compadres who did not survive. Backed by the government, the military takes over the super-secret project, which starts off being briefly led by Colonel Campbell and is soon taken over by his ambitious son-in-law Captain Owen Crawford (brilliantly played by Joel Gretsch), military intelligence officer. Gretsch perfectly essays the role of megalomaniacal Crawford, who runs the project with unapologetic brio. I really felt that Gretsch’s character carried the first few episodes (spanning 1947 to 1962) with strong support from the other actors.
Taken’s first half  storytelling is strong, a perfect balance of science fiction, politics, speculation, and drama. One really buys into the premise that these goings-on could have actually happened. It’s definitely not fiction that many an American have reported UFO sightings and alien experiences over the years, and this miniseries is one of the better attempts at relaying this message to the viewer.
With the second half of the mini series the puzzle pieces finally start to come together to an interesting conclusion. Emily Burgl (as Lisa Clarke) and Andy Kaufman (as Charlie Keys) were commendable as the adult versions of the last respective offspring of the Clarke-Keys clans, the main highlight of the second half was  was the performance of newcomer Dakota Fanning (who plays Allie) whose wonderful narration is a key to the series overall success. She stole the show from all of her adult counterparts. I would definitely recommend the miniseries based on ambition and overall scope and the tightly woven storytellingthe show demonstrates. It’s an epic Sci-Fi story that is intriguing and at times touching. It wasthe series that made Dakota Fanning a star.