REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 3

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Danielle Judovits (Toy Story)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Piera Coppola (Phineas and Ferb)
Jeffrey Combs (Fortress)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Adam West (Family Guy)
Frank Gorshin (60’s Batman)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Charles Napier (The Silence ofThe Lambs)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Gina Gershon (Red Heat)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)

Kevin Michael Richardson in The Batman (2004)The Batman” went through plenty of growing pains for its third season. Dropped without explanation from the story was Detective Ellen Yin, who had been working toward becoming a new sidekick of sorts to the Dark Knight (actress Ming-Na had become unavailable to return to the series); in her place, we have the arrival of Batgirl, whose presence takes the series in a whole new direction.The Batman (2004)It’s something of a mini-almost-sorta reboot as a result. There’s a new opening sequence, with The Edge’s twangy theme song replaced by a crunchy surf-rock tune from Andy Sturmer, who also wrote the “Teen Titans” theme. That series’ popularity obviously had an influence on this new season, as Batgirl’s wide-eyed character design is similar to the heroes of the Cartoon Network series. In addition, the Gotham landscape is now slightly more abstract, most notably in the swirling red and purple skies above. An entire episode is designed to showcase an all-new Batmobile. Finally, season-long story arcs have been toned down, delivered on a smaller scale, with Dr. Hugo Strange’s ongoing manipulations from behind the walls of Arkham Asylum not carrying the full weight of, say, the Clayface and Ellen Yin storylines of previous seasons. Even Batman’s gradual acceptance of a sidekick is something of a restrained arc.The Batman (2004)The most obvious adjustment is that Batgirl is introduced before Robin (who would not appear in the series until season four). This comes with its share of awkwardness, not because the deviation from Batman mythology (the retooling plays quite well, actually), but because Commissioner Gordon was just introduced in the series two finale. We never get a chance to settle in with him before he’s thrown into the thick of things, and now here he is with a teenage daughter – a daughter whose co-star status means the Gordons now become a key part of nearly every episode. Yet the series plows ahead with the Gordons at the center and never looks back, allowing for a rather quick adjustment to the change.Kevin Michael Richardson in The Batman (2004)The season opens on a very high note, with the excellent two-part saga, “Batgirl Begins,” introducing not only our new heroine, but also Poison Ivy, revamped to be a high school pal of Barbara’s; she’s a young eco-terrorist who gets slimed with nasty plant-growth chemicals. Early episodes that follow manage to revisit old villains – the Penguin, Scarface, Catwoman – while offering new spins, thus keeping stories quite fresh. New baddies are also introduced, most memorably the cybernetic Gearhead (voiced by “Batman Beyond” himself, Will Friedle), whose race car exploits allow the show to provide some thrilling chase sequences, and Cosmo Krank (Patton Oswalt in a deliciously over-the-top turn), a flashy toymaker.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Rino Romano (Spaceballs: TAS)
Alastair Duncan (Providence)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Neil Ross (Transformers: The Movie)
Victor Brandt (Neon Maniacs)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
Joaquim de Almeida (24)
Michael Bell (G.I. Joe)
Gina Gershon (Red Heat)
Keone Young (Crank)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Adam West (Family Guy)
Glenn Shadix (Beatlejuice)
Udo Kier (Iron Sky)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Kath Soucie (Space Jam)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Jennifer Hale (The Powerpuff Girls)
Henry Gibson (Sabrina: TTW)

The Batman (2004)

It would be an impossible task to live up to “Batman: The Animated Series” and its various later incarnations. Not only has the series, which ran throughout the 1990s, been hailed by fans as the definitive representation of the Dark Knight, but it also ranks among the very best television series ever aired.

The Batman (2004)

So when the folks at Warner Bros. Animation decided to put together an all-new Batman series to tie in with the impending release of “Batman Begins,” they made the daring but ultimately wise choice of completely revamping the world of Bruce Wayne, at least in terms of style and presentation. “The Batman,” which debuted in September 2004 on the Kids WB!, played out as something of a “Young Batman Adventures,” with the episodes focusing on the Dark Knight’s earliest years as a superhero. The deep, raspy voice of Kevin Conroy (who took the lead role in the 1990s series, and who still voices Batman on Cartoon Network’s “Justice League”) was replaced with Rino Romano, a thirtysomething voiceover veteran who sounds like he’s in his early twenties. Commissioner Gordon is nowhere to be seen; instead, we get two young detectives who are always on Batman’s trail – and in a nifty twist, one of them is Bruce Wayne’s best friend. Robin is also absent, Bruce has yet to get a handle on how to be Batman and run Wayne Industries, and the Rogues Gallery of villains are only beginning to emerge.

The Batman (2004)

The most notable change is the stylistic choice to loosen up the storytelling, with a far heavier focus here on action and fantasy. “The Batman” is above all else a series that skews younger than its predecessors; taking a cue from the success of anime in grade schools across the nation, the series’ producers push the action sequences above all else. In some episodes, fight scenes and chases take up an entire third, or more, of the running time.

The Batman (2004)

Time is also placed on gadgets (Batman’s “Bat Wave” is a pre-Bat Signal pager-like device that flashes when crime’s afoot), alternate costumes (Batman faces off against Mr. Freeze in a souped-up arctic gear Batsuit), and anything else that might translate well into toy sales. Which is neat for the kids, but it takes up screen time, forcing into the background the character development and intelligent drama that made the older series such a hit with fans of all ages. Since all this tinkering was taking place, the producers felt that now would be a perfect time to also revamp the famous villains. The Joker is now a big guy, far more athletic than we’ve ever seen him before, his bare feet allowing him to climb and kick with ease. The Penguin is still short, birdlike, and obnoxious, but this time, he’s a kung fu expert with two silent female assassins (with scissor-like blades on their fingers) at his side. Mr. Freeze, not a scientist but a petty thief, now shoots ice from his hands – no ice gun is necessary.

The Batman (2004)

These changes work for the tone of the series, I’ve come to like the series. Now knowing what to expect has helped with the adjustment. Yes, it still has its many problems – mainly, most of the villain revamps come off as too silly (and the writers rely on the Joker and Penguin way too much in the early episodes) – but it also has so much going for it. For starters, the animation is breathtaking, the combination of influences (the series borrows as much from the sleek 1990s cartoons as it does from recent anime) resulting in a eye-popping visual style that’s a true joy to watch. And as with its predecessor, “The Batman” relies on a healthy dose of impressive guest stars, including Tom Kenny, Gina Gershon, Peter MacNicol, Clancy Brown, Jason Marsden, Udo Kier, Edie McClurg, Glenn Shadix, Fred Willard, Dan Castellaneta, John Di Maggio, and yes, even Adam West, who stars here as the mayor of Gotham City. Combine this with a top notch regular cast and you’ve got a series that matches Warner Brothers’ usual high level of quality.

REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE

CAST (VOICES)

Peter Cullen (Dungeons and Dragons)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Orson Welles (Citizen Kane)
Eric Idle (Monty Python)
Judd Nelson (New Jack City)
Robert Stack (Caddyshack II)
Roger C. Carmel (Star Trek)
Neil Ross (G.I. Joe)
Susan Blu (Jem)
Lionel Stander (Hart To Hart)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
John Moschitta Jr. (Dick Tracy)
Buster Jones (Super Friends)
Paul Eiding (Ben 10)
Gregg Berger (The Jetsons)
Michael Bell (Rugrats)
Chris Latta (G.I. Joe)
Casey Kasem (Battle of The Planets)
Scatman Crothers (The Shining)
Dan Gilvezan (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends)
Corey Burton (Aladdin)
Stan Jones (Challenge of The Super Friends)
Arthur Burghardt (Star Kid)
Don Messick (The Last Unicorn)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Ed Gilbert (The little Mermaid)
Clive Revill (Return To Neverland)
Hal Yale (Ewok Adventures)
Norman Alden (Super Friends)

In 2005, the war between the Autobots and Decepticons has culminated in the Decepticons conquering their home planet Cybertron, while the Autobots operate from its two moons preparing a counter-offensive. Optimus Prime sends an Autobot shuttle to Earth’s Autobot City for Energon supplies, but the Decepticons, led by Megatron, commandeer the ship and kill the crew, consisting of Ironhide, Ratchet, Prowl and Brawn. Travelling to Earth, the Decepticons attack Autobot City, slaughtering many Autobots and leaving only a small group alive including Hot Rod, Kup, Ultra Magnus, Arcee, Springer, Blurr, Perceptor, Blaster, and the human Daniel Witwicky. The next day, Optimus and the Dinobots arrive as reinforcements. Optimus single-handedly defeats the Decepticons and engages Megatron in a climactic battle that leaves both of them mortally wounded. On his death bed, Optimus passes the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus, informing him that its power will light the Autobots’ darkest hour, and dies.Elsewhere, the Decepticons jettison their wounded from Astrotrain, including Megatron at the hands of his treacherous second-in-command Starscream. The wounded are found by Unicron, a gigantic sentient cyber-planet who consumes other planets. Unicron offers Megatron a new body in exchange for destroying the Matrix, which has the ability to destroy him. Megatron agrees and is converted into Galvatron, gaining new troops from the other Decepticons present. Going to Cybertron, Galvatron crashes Starscream’s coronation as Decepticon commander and destroys him, before travelling to Autobot City to eliminate Ultra Magnus. The surviving Autobots escape in separate shuttles which are damaged by the Decepticons and crash land on different planets.transformers-movie-bluray-screenshot-2Hot Rod and Kup are taken prisoner by the Quintessons, multi-faced tyrants who hold kangaroo courts and execute prisoners by feeding them to the Sharkticons. Hot Rod and Kup learn of Unicron from Kranix, a survivor of Lithone – a planet devoured by Unicron. After Kranix is executed, Hot Rod and Kup escape their own trial, aided by the arrival of the Dinobots and the small Autobot Wheelie, who helps them find a ship to leave the planet. The other Autobots land on the Junk Planet, where Galvatron kills Ultra Magnus and seizes the Matrix, intending on using it to control Unicron. The Autobots reunite and befriend the local Junkions, led by Wreck-Gar, who then rebuild Magnus. Learning Galvatron has the Matrix, the Autobots and Junkions fly to Cybertron, which Unicron, discovered to be a gigantic Transformer also now in robot form, begins to destroy.14041_1The Autobots crash their spaceship through Unicron’s eye, but they end up separated. Daniel rescues his father Spike and Jazz, Bumblebee, and Cliffjumper from being devoured. Hot Rod confronts Galvatron, who tries to form an alliance, but is forced into attacking Hot Rod by Unicron. Hot Rod obtains the Matrix, which converts him into Rodimus Prime, the Autobot that Optimus said would light their darkest hour. Rodimus tosses Galvatron into space and uses the Matrix’s power to destroy Unicron from the inside. The Autobots celebrate the end of the war and the retaking of Cybertron, while Unicron’s severed head continues to orbit the planet.vlcsnap-2011-12-12-17h24m21s199_758_426_81_s_c1Transformers the movie is a retro 80’s cult classic that not only took the original series forward in the animation department but also took the story forward in to the future with the next generation of Transformers. All the fan favourites are here with new ones to be cherishing, and the soundtrack to this movie is probably one of the best sounding albums to come out of the 80’s. This movie still holds up as one of the best TV to Movie translations of all time, and it still kicks major league butt as well. The only drawback that it has that they did not make a sequel to this classic in animation.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE – SEASON 1

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

Gary Cole (Fam)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Susan Sullivan (Castle)
Corey Burton (Transformers)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Kurtwood Smith (Robocop)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Garrett Morris (2 Broke Girls)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Kristin Bauer van Straten (50 First Dates)
Xander Berkeley (Terminator 2)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Eric Roberts (The Finder)
William Smith (Laredo)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girls)
Cathy Cavadini (THe Powerpuff Girls)
Bill Duke (Black Lightning)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Keone Young (Crank)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Stephen McHattie (300)
David Naughton (The Gathering)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Ted McGinley (No Good Nick)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
Udo Kier (Iron Sky)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
William Katt (Carrie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha)
Grant Heslov (THe Scorpion King)
Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender)
Pam Grier (Jackie Brown)
William Morgan Sheppard (Transformers)
Dave Thomas (Coneheads)
Cam Clarke (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Tom Sizemore (Red Planet)
Patrick Duffy (Dallas)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)

secret-origins-pan-01They’re the rockstars of the DC universe and they’re a heck of a lot of fun to be around. Giant robot rampaging through the city and Superman alone can’t stop it? Insidious villain plotting to invade the world with an army of zombies and the task is too much for Wonder Woman? Puzzling crime-spree that Batman can’t – er, wait. Strike that last one. Given enough time, Batman can do just about anything. Even so, when the world is in dire need of saving, it’s a job for the Justice League. MV5BMDMyN2UzOWQtZjg4OS00MmFiLTk0MzItNTlkZTk3NTRjZWRmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_This series is the culmination of nearly ten years of animation continuity headed up by animation producer Bruce Timm and friends. It’s very rare for a consistent creative team to play around in what is essentially the same sandbox for so long. From the writers to the directors to the voice actors – Kevin Conroy has been voicing Batman for over ten years now – Justice League is the spiritual conclusion to the DC animated universe that Batman: The Animated Series helped kick off way back in 1992.MV5BM2Y5M2JmYTEtNWRiMy00OTgwLTkwOGMtMzI2ZWIxZmM3ODAwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_The creative team has taken everything they’ve learned in their previous shows (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond) and brought it to the next level. Justice League features seven main heroes and a host of villains. If that wasn’t enough, in its later seasons the series would expand its roster to include virtually the entire DC comic book universe. MV5BOTUyYzZlMDUtOTk2ZC00NGQxLTkxNzMtZmVmMjNjNWNhNGYzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Obviously, since the show features the world’s greatest superheroes, you’ve got to come up with some pretty challenging foes for them to face. At the same time you’ve got to ensure that the characters maintain unique personas and don’t step over each other’s ground. This is not an easy task, especially when confined to the constraints of a kids’ show. The greatest weakness of the first season is the show’s inability to keep its characters distinct and interesting at the same time. Sure, it’s easy making Batman cool – and it never gets old – but its somewhat more difficult peeling the other characters apart. For example, Superman and Hawkgirl seem to be identical characters in terms of functionality. They both fly, are very strong, and can tear things apart. The only difference is that Hawkgirl uses a mace.MV5BMTYzMjA5NzEyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEwOTM2MjE@._V1_The best way to keep characters with overlapping powers interesting is to develop them as individuals. Sadly, the show’s first season seems more interested in flashy action than character development. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and J’onn J’onzz get some great moments, but The Flash, Superman, and Hawkgirl are left out in the cold. My personal pet peeve this season is that Superman gets dumbed down to the point of uselessness. Bruce Timm admits in the extras that they thought having Superman get beaten up so often would make their villains look even scarier. After all, if something can take down Superman it’s got to be tough. However, after a while Superman gets beat up so often that the “Super” is sapped out of him. If you see anything electrical it’s a guarantee that it will shock ol’ Supes and put him out of action. If you’re willing to forgive a few missteps (I certainly was) then you’ve got a real treat in store for yourself.MV5BODQ1Nzk0OGQtYWNmYy00N2M0LWFmYTgtZjA4MDhjYmVjNjUzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_In a wise move by the show’s producers, the first season (along with the second) is divided into a series of two-part episodes. This gives the show forty-four minute episodes in which to tell more complicated stories than would be possible in the standard twenty-two minutes. The result is a four disc set packed with high-flying superhero fun. From Injustice For All, where our heroes battle an evil society headed-up by a terminally diagnosed Lex Luthor, to The Enemy Below, where the League team up with Aquaman, this entire boxed set is full of great action and enjoyable comic book storytelling.MV5BYjQ4NmY2NzEtMTM1Yi00YzY2LWEyMjItZjlkODE3M2E1N2JmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_If you’re willing to forgive some unbalanced character development then you’ll have a great time with this first season. Justice League is a very entertaining show that any fan of superhero animation should not be without. These guys were the world’s first superhero team and they set the template for everyone that came after. They were the best then, and thanks to this show, they’re the still the best today.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

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

MV5BYjkxZjgzYmItMGIwMC00NjBkLTk5MzUtN2IzNmYzMjgwMWVmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1368,1000_AL_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Mari Devon (Digimon)
Melissa GIlbert (House on The Prairie)
John Vernon (Animal House)
Richard Moll (Scrry Movie 2)
Tim Matheson (The West Wing)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Paul Williams (Battle For TPOTA)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Manu Tupou (Payback)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
David Warner (The Lost world)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
George DiCenzo (She-Ra)
William Sanderson (Blade Runner)
Pat Fraley (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Steve Susskind (Star Trek V)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang Theory)
Bess Armstrong (Jaws 3D)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Neil Ross (Back To The Future – Part II)
Marilu Henner (Taxi)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Aron Kincaid (Transformers)
Brad Garrett (Ratatouille)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Stephanie Zimbalist (A Timeless Love)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Megan Mullally (Will & Grace)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Alan Rachins (Dharma & Greg)
Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Roscoe Lee Browne (Logun’s Run)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Diane Michelle (Robotech: The Movie)
Alison La Placa (Fletch)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Jason Marsden (A Goofy Movie)
Robbie Rist (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Alan Young (The Time Machine)
Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween 2007)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched)
Bill McKinney (First Blood)
John Glover (Smallville)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday The 13th 8)
William Katt (Carrie)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Nicholas Guest (Trading Places)
Henry Polic II (Mighty Max)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Andrea Martin (SCTV Network)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Dan O’Herlihy (Robocop)
Edward Asner (Elf)

MV5BYzBmZjM1MzItNzU2Ny00MzcxLTg2YWYtZmM1NWQ4NzExMmE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_One of the things Batman: The Animated Series does particularly well is infuse its villains with personality. They’re not a rotation of thugs with a different gimmick and costume each week — the writers go to great lengths to humanize these characters, and although they’re still unambiguously the bad guys, they still manage to be sympathetic at times. “His Silicon Soul”, following up on the two-part “Heart of Steel” from the previous collection, features a robotic duplicate of Batman unable to come to grips with the realization that he’s a machine. It’s surprisingly moving.MV5BYTFiODEyZDQtNmRmZi00ZjlhLWE1NDQtOTY3OWE2ODM0OWQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_The title character of “Baby-Doll” was created especially for the series. Think Webster with the race and gender reversed; Mary Louise Dahl was in her twenties but looked like a three-year-old, and she cashed in on that rare disability with a successful and hopelessly bland sitcom. An ill-advised career move derailed her as an actress, and a decade later, she’s systematically kidnapped all of her former co-stars in an attempt to reclaim those happy years. Again, as outlandish as the premise might sound, it really does work. You might smirk at reading about a teary-eyed Baby Doll attempting to fire an already-emptied doll-shaped pistol into a funhouse mirror, but the immeasurably talented writers are gifted enough to eke more pathos than I ever would have thought possible out of that.MV5BOTEwMmFhM2MtN2NmOC00ZGQ2LThmMGMtYTc4YWFjOTllOTY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1344,1000_AL_Redemption, whether seized or tossed aside, is also frequently touched upon. “Sideshow” opens with a grueling chase between Batman and an escaped Killer Croc, who manages to stumble upon a remote farm that’s home to a group of former sideshow acts. They offer Croc a chance at an honest life, but old habits die hard. Another example is “House and Garden”. When a poisonous plant-creature starts a reign of terror in Gotham, Batman naturally turns his sights towards the recently-released Poison Ivy. She insists that she’s rehabilitated, and by all accounts, Ivy is happily married and living the mundane suburban life. The investigation continues to point back to her, and the final revelation involves some of the creepiest imagery ever seen in the series.MV5BY2U0ZTAwZDYtNjZjNC00YzVhLWJjMGItZDg5MTMzYTM1MjhjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1334,1000_AL_Harley Quinn is also featured in a couple of episodes centered around her attempts to stick with the straight ‘n narrow. She’s a fan favorite for a reason, and these appearances are some of the most memorable episodes in this collection. “Harlequinade” is a chaotic team-up with Batman in an attempt to track down The Joker, who’s managed to get his hands on a bomb that’ll turn Gotham into a smoldering mushroom cloud. “Harley’s Holiday” documents her release from Arkham Asylum, and even though she’s determined to leave that life of crime behind her, an attempt to legitimately buy a pretty pink dress at a store spirals into a bad day…a really, really bad day, culminating in being chased by Batman, an underground gambling kingpin, Detective Bullock, and…gulp!…the military.MV5BMWNjYWJmNjQtNzQ3Ny00ZGQ2LTkzNjEtNmQ5OTcyM2EwYzBkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_It’s particularly great to see the villains interact with one another. That’s part of the fun of “Trial”, which has a reluctant prosecutor attempting to defend Batman in an insane trial when the inmates take over the asylum. The flipside of that coin is seen in “Lock-Up”, when a cruel jailer’s overzealousness gets him fired from Arkham and compels him to hunt down the left-leaning scum he blames for the state of the world. Another stand-out is “A Bullet for Bullock”, an episode in which the slovenly detective is rattled by death threats and reluctantly teams with Batman, and the ending is just one example of how clever the show’s writers can be. “Clever” is also the first word that instantly springs to mind for “Make ‘Em Laugh”, an episode where The Joker co-opts a fellow criminal’s technology to create a small army of fumbling costumed criminals with inane gimmicks.MV5BMmIzZTQ4NmItMjRlMS00ZDBiLTllNzktNDUwZTAyNjI3MWI3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_These episodes introduce a couple of recurring villains ripped from the pages of the comics. Most notable among them is Ra’s al Ghul, who makes his first appearance in a two-parter penned by Len Wein and Denny O’Neil, familiar names to longtime readers of Batman’s four-color incarnation. The centuries-old Ra’s has virtually unlimited resources at his disposal, equally intrigued by Batman’s boundless skills as a detective as he is frustrated by his foe’s determination to disrupt his machinations. Ra’s often lends a Saturday morning serial flavor to the show, from the globe-trotting in his first few appearances to the flared pants of “Avatar”. The charismatic character has such a presence that he’s able to carry “Showdown” largely by himself in an episode that barely features Batman or Robin in any capacity. “Showdown” is set during the westward expansion of the mid-1800’s as Ra’s’ opposition to the sprawling railroads is pitted against scarred bounty hunter Jonah Hex (one of the few DC characters not connected with the Batman mythos to appear on the show). The other noteworthy recurring villain is The Ventriloquist, a fairly timid-looking middle-aged man who seems more likely to be a CPA than a ruthless crimelord. Taken by himself, that seems to be the right impression, but when he has his puppet Scarface on the end of his arm… The Ventriloquist’s first appearance, “Read My Lips”, is one of my favorites of the season, and he returns twice after that.MV5BMjI2OTQ0NTMwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM4MTg3MjE@._V1_Several other characters from the comics briefly appear, including Maxie Zeus, the back-breaking, Venom-fueled Bane, and the fairly obscure masked criminals of The Terrible Trio. The majority of Batman’s rogue’s gallery is present and accounted for, with The Penguin, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, The Mad Hatter, The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Clock King, Catwoman, The Riddler, The Scarecrow (though only as a supporting character; no “fear!” episodes this time around), Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze all wreaking havoc throughout Gotham City at some point or another. Even with the opening titles shifting on disc three from Batman: The Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin, there’s no discernable drop in quality.MV5BNGI1YTBiYzYtODI2ZS00NzUzLThkMjktMDhkMzI3Yzk5ODAxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Batman: The Animated Series does everything right. It doesn’t dumb itself down or resort to hyperkinetic editing to try to appeal to a younger crowd. The retro-styled art design and dark visuals contribute immeasurably to the overall tone of the show, as does the award-winning music. The writing’s consistently impressive, avoiding falling into some formulaic “villain of the week” trap, and the casting choices for its voice actors is incredibly inspired. Henry Silva, LeVar Burton, Dick Miller, Megan Mullally, Brad Garrett, Bill Mumy, David Warner, Elizabeth Montgomery, Jeffrey Jones, Adam Ant, William Katt, and Robert Pastorelli are just a few of the familiar voices contributing to the series for the first time, joining the usual favorites like Paul Williams, Mark Hamill, and Roddy McDowall. These three collections are required viewing for anyone with an interest in Batman, and fans who have picked up the first two collections should certainly consider buying this third set as well.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1

Starring

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

MV5BNjBiNTE1YzEtOGMyZi00NmE1LWE2YTYtZjVkOWQ4MjM1NmVhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg4NjY5OTQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Beak)
Clive Revill (Transformers: The Movie)
Marc Singer (Arrow)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Meredith MacRae (The Rockford Files)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Mari Devon (Digimon)
Henry Polic II (Mork & Mindy)
Pat Fraley (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Ingrid Oliu (Real Women Have Curves)
Michael Pataki (Halloween 4)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Dorian Harewood (Space Jam)
George Murdock (Star Trek V)
Jim Cummings (Aladdin)
Justin Shenkarow (Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse)
Robert DoQui (Robocop)
Murphy Cross (Taxi)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Townsend Coleman (The Tick)
Jeff Doucette (Bedazzled)
Peter Jason (They Live)
Josh Keaton (Voltron)
Eugene Roche (Soap)
Lndsay Crouse (Buffy: TVS)
Paul Williams (Adventure Time)
Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Adrienne Barbeau (Argo)
Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)
Mary McDonald-Lewis (Grimm)
Neil Ross (An Americal Tail)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Michael Gross (Tremors)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Jean Smart (Garden State)
Brock Peters (Star Trek IV)
Adam West (60’s Batman)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Ed Begley Jr. (Better Call Saul)
Dick Gautier (Get Smart)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Aron Kincaid (Transformers)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Kimmy Robertson (Speed 2)
Loretta Swit (M*A*S*H)
Takayo Fischer (Moneyball)

MV5BYTcwYzdlOTctNmRmMS00ODkxLThjZDgtNDRiMzMwNTgzZWFhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_In 1992, Warner decided to revive Batman for TV as an animated series. Luckily, they had a couple of talented individuals already working on Tiny Toons – animator Bruce Timm and background artist Eric Radomski, who were keen to take a stab at the character. They created a pilot film involving Batman and a Gotham City that was at the same time modern and a throwback to the pre-50’s styleMV5BNGQzNzZmNTgtYmJkZS00MzFlLTk0Y2YtOWUxZTg5M2FiMWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_It’s fitting that this set is called ‘Volume One’ and not ‘Season One,’ as the episodes were aired completely out of order, with a few episodes of this set not reaching airwaves until the second year. However, you get the first 28 shows to see production, which arguably contain the best of the series’ four-year run as well. As this series is a reinterpretation of the world created in the comics, most of the episodes here are origins of the villains, and for the most part the episodes work very well. What allowed this series to age so well (in fact, I think I can appreciate it even more now than when I was twelve) is that the writing is top notch. Each episode feels like a self-contained short film, and the writers have at once managed to give every character a great deal of humanity and individuality to underscore the directness of the visuals.MV5BODY0MmZlYmEtOWExMC00ZGFhLWEyZmEtZjFlZGE1ZjBjZTY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Paul Dini had been writing for television a decade prior to this, but Batman was where he finally got his chance to shine, and the episodes he crafted, particularly Heart of Ice are some of the most effective of the series. Timm, Dini and Radomski were able to create a world that was iconic without being one-sided or silly. The idea of a guy who runs around in a cape essentially beating enemies into submission can’t be presented effectively at face value, and the creators of this series were more than willing to delve into the psychological aspects of their characters. Batman is never entirely good, nor are most of his enemies entirely evil. Rather the show focuses on people who have been emotionally scarred in life, and deal with those scars by either seeking to help other people, or harm them. What drives Batman isn’t too different from what drives his villains. It’s not uncommon to feel more sympathy for one of the show’s villains than the hero himself, because more often than not the villain isn’t even entirely sure what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.MV5BNjBlMjNmMWUtMjczYy00YWU5LTg5MzEtNzIwM2I3MDQwMWMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_The Two-Face episodes are a prime example of the quality of storytelling in the series, because the character, who is such a silly concept (a two-faced man flipping a two-headed coin to decide evil deeds) is handled very subtly, with the emphasis placed on childhood trauma and emotional repression. Not every episode shines, however. The two part introduction to Catwoman, The Cat and the Claw, is plagued with generic characters and situations, and plays too heavily on the environmental card. And there are a few other stinkers, although you can generally tell which episodes are going to be good by who’s writing each. MV5BN2MxNWJkZDktN2U5YS00OTc5LWI2NjMtODI5YjViYTJjMmEzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Casting is absolutely perfect. As vocal director Andrea Romano discusses in the extras, rather than hire trained vocal artists to develop new characters, the producers instead sought out actors with specific character already in their voices. Mark Hamill has the performance of his career as the Joker, with just the right mix of menace and hilarity. Hellboy’s Ron Perlman shows up as Clayface for a few episodes, ’70s bombshell Adrienne Barbeau is sultry as Catwoman and Edward Asner features as a prominent crime boss. The cast list is an absolute who’s-who for any film buff.MV5BNTIxOTc5MDQtMGIxMi00ODgzLWFlMmMtOWI4ZmExMDc0NDAwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_But it’s episodes like “Beware of the Gray Ghost” where the casting really shines. Batman teams up with a former television hero who’s down on his luck. In an inspired decision the producers cast former Batman Adam West for the role, who brings such humanity and poignancy to the part that it ends up one of the best episodes in the series.MV5BOWIyOTg5ZTYtMjM4NC00MzMxLWFiMmItOGEzYTA3ZTNlYzQ5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_All minor quibbling aside however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another collection with writing, acting and visuals this stellar from the early 90’s. The impact of “Batman: The Animated Series” was overwhelming to television, with a noticeable shift from the slapstick “Animaniacs / Tiny Toons” style to markedly darker action fare, many of the shows still being overseen today by Timm, Radomski and Dini themselves. “Batman: The Animated Series” changed what American TV animation could be, and this set is a fantastic glimpse into the origin of that.

 

REVIEW: MANHUNTER

 

CAST

William Petersen (CSI)
Kim Greist (Brazil)
Tom Noonan (Robocop 2)
Dennis Farina (Romeo is Bleeding)
Brian Cox (X-Men 2)
Joan Allen (Pleasantville)
Stephen Lang (Avatar)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Chris Elliott (Scary Movie 2)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted 1 & 2)
Marshall Bell (Total Recall)

Thomas Harris’ extremely popular “Hannibal Lector” character has appeared in 80% of the author’s novels and five separate feature-length films. Most would find Lector synonymous with 1991’s landmark The Silence of the Lambs, in which Anthony Hopkins turned the soft-spoken cannibal into a cultural icon. The character’s subsequent film appearances are all more exaggerated than the last, so it makes sense that 1986’s Manhunter shows Hannibal at his most…normal? It also serves as director Michael Mann’s third film, but it flopped at the box office and still stands in the shadow of its more popular young brother. Based on Harris’ second novel Red Dragon (and remade in 2002 by Brett Ratner), Manhunter deserved a bigger audience then and still deserves a bigger one today.

Part thriller, part character study and part horror film, this tale of FBI profile expert Will Graham (William Petersen) often crackles with suspense. Having retired to his peaceful family life due to exhaustion, Graham is approached by his former boss Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) after an unknown killer’s quiet rampage has already left two families dead. Hannibal isn’t the culprit, of course: he’s safely behind bars due to Graham’s tireless efforts with the FBI, but he might be personally linked to the killer at large. Fearing another series of murders may be only weeks away, the intensely dedicated Graham decides to pursue the case, using his behavioral knowledge to carve away at the killer’s unknown location.

As in Silence of the Lambs, the character of Hannibal Lector (here spelled “Lecktor”, and portrayed by Brian Cox) only pops up occasionally to offer twisted guidance, but his presence looms heavily over the entire film. Silence’s menacing Buffalo Bill is one-upped, though, by the more sympathetic, layered and quietly intimidating Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), a lab worker whose dark personal life fuels violent impulses. Working on a lunar cycle, Dollarhyde’s third slaughter grows closer as Graham and Crawford attempt to track him down. Manhunter’s approach to Dollarhyde is extremely effective: the film’s almost half-over before we even catch a glimpse of him, and the slow reveal works wonderfully.Tom Noonan and William Petersen in Manhunter (1986)Manhunter is arguably the least-known of the “Hannibal Lector” films…and that’s a shame, because it’s easily second best behind Silence of the Lambs. Michael Mann’s solid direction anchors this cat-and-mouse thriller quite well.