REVIEW: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN – SEASON 1-2

CAST (VOICES)

Josh Keaton (Green Lantern:TAS)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)
Grey Delisle (The Replacements)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars Rebels)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters 2)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Alan Rachins (LA Law)
Kath soucie (Rugrats)
Crispin Freeman (Digimon)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Elisa Gabrielli (Mulan)
Kelly Hu (Arrow)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Courtney B. Vance (Flashforward)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Nikki Cox (Las Vegas)

It would be hard to argue that any comic book superhero has enjoyed a more sustained popularity over the last five decades than Spider-Man. The Marvel Comics character, the mainstay of that company’s flagship publication The Amazing Spider-Man, has been spun off  into numerous other venues, from cartoon and live action television shows to a rock album, a series of wildly popular theatrical movies, and even a recurring part in the old PBS series The Electric Company.

The Spectacular Spider-Man is a current incarnation of this comics legend that takes its name from a now-defunct spin-off comic book title. It’s a half-hour cartoon series, aimed primarily at kids but with some postmodern nods to adults, and basically offers an early 21st century update of the original Spider-Man comic books. Here, Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton) attends high school with Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacey. Bully Flash Thompson is also around, and Parker’s future wife Mary Jane Watson transfers to his school midway in the series. Parker lives at home with his Aunt May, and moonlights as the crimefighting Spider-Man whenever he can. As he battles colorful super-villains, he’s taking snapshots of himself for the newspaper Daily Bugle. Several of the classic characters from that fictional periodical are here, including Betty Brant and the obnoxious J. Jonah Jameson (voiced hilariously by Daran Norris).spidey_wp-01

The series is light and fun, with a nice sense of humor. As such, it captures the essence of Spider-Man fairly well. Each episode is relatively self-contained, although certain plot points connect the episodes into a larger whole. The animation strikes me as bright and colorful – and certainly competent for a weekly television program. The characters are presented with some awkward angularity at times, but at least it’s consistent and uniform in presentation. As an old comics fan, I enjoyed this updating of the Spider-Man mythos, and I certainly imagine that it will entertain its core audience: adolescents.ranking-the-spider-man-animated-series_cgbj

In season 2 Peter Parker’s life becomes significantly more complicated as he finds himself torn between Gwen Stacy and Liz Allan, both of whom have confessed their feelings for him; he eventually chooses Liz. Norman Osborn takes on the role of Peter’s mentor, pulling strings to re-establish his job as Dr. Connors’ lab assistant, as well as overseeing the installment of the conniving Dr. Miles Warren into the ESU Labs. Meanwhile, as Spider-Man, Peter encounters new villains Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter, leading him to investigate the activities of a mysterious new crime lord known as the “Master Planner”.fe109-spiderman-animatedWhen the Master Planner’s first scheme fails, Spider-Man is faced with a three-way gang war between the Planner’s super-villain forces, the Big Man’s established order, and the old guard of Silvio “Silvermane” Manfredi’s family. Peter’s search for Eddie Brock also leads to the return of Venom, who attempts to expose Spider-Man’s secret identity and remove his powers. Finally, when the three major crime lords are arrested, Spider-Man once again goes up against the Green Goblin, who is once again bent on eliminating the wall-crawler once and for all.

ranking-the-spider-man-animated-series_cgbjOther new characters introduced in the second season include Calypso, Sha Shan Nguyen, Silver Sable, Roderick Kingsley and Molten Man. Quentin Beck and Phineas Mason return as Mysterio and the Tinkerer respectively.fe109-spiderman-animatedIt appears that the episodes in this eighth volume of The Spectacular Spider-Man are the swan song of the series. That’s a shame as this was a fun and energetic cartoon take on the classic Marvel superhero. Based upon content, The show was cancelled to make way for the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon which as we all know is just a train wreck.spidey_wp-01

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REVIEW: 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN – SEASON 5

MAIN CAST

John Lithgow (Rise of the Planet of The Apes)
Kristen Johnston (Ugly Betty)
French Stewart (Mom)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises)
Jane Curtin (The Heat)
Elmarie Wendel (Rumpelstiltskin)
Simbi Khali (Plump Fiction)
Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ian Lithgow (Rice Girl)
David DeLuise (Stargate SG.1)
Chris Hogan (Grounded For Life)
Danielle Nicolet (The Flash 2014)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad(
Jan Hooks (Batman Returns)
Larisa Oleynik (Mike & Molly)
Kim Johnston Ulrich (Highlander: The Series)
Richard McGonagle (500 Days of Summer)
Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad)
Billy Connolly (The Man Who Sued God)
David Hasselhoff (Baywatch)
Emily Osment (Mom)
Ileen Getz (That 70s Show)
Ron West (Anger Management)
Genie Francis (Roswell)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Heidi Mark  (Rock Star)
Ana Gasteyer (Mean Girls)
Lindsey McKeon (Supernatural)
William Shatner (Star Trek)
Chyna (Sabrina: TTW)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Lane Davies (Lois & Clark)
Alan Cumming (Tin Man)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)

3rd Rock From the Sun is one of the richest and hilarious television comedies to air. The series first aired in 1996 and lasted for a total of six seasons. The show molds science fiction into a sitcom and the results are a blast. A team of aliens from Mars take on human form in Rutherford, Ohio and integrate themselves into the local populace. Their goal is to learn everything they can about humans in a couple of days. Of course, it turns out humans are much more complex than expected and the team of aliens decide to stay a while longer. The strongest aspect of this show is its cast. They are remarkable together. Within minutes of any episode, it is apparent how well they interact and play off of each other. The show’s writing is also top notch and delivers one great joke after another. Season five is the second to last season of 3rd Rock From the Sun. In this season, some crazy things happen with the cast. First off, there are several storylines about Vicki, the Big Giant Head, and their baby.  The story makes for some great jokes and has Shatner giving an admirable performance as the Big Giant Head. There are also several stories scattered throughout the season dealing with Tommy and his relationship with Alissa. The heat between Don and Sally continues, especially when he becomes Rutherford’s lone motorcycle cop. And Harry lands himself a lady, Janice, who is Rutherford’s toughest (and hottest) female cop. The season also includes plenty of more tales with the family blowing nearly everything out of proportion. It is a fun season and should make any fan of the series laugh until it hurts.The fifth season picks up where the fourth season ended, with the final part “The Baby Menace)” in a three-part episode. If you recall in the season four finale “Dick’s Big Giant Headache (1)” and “Dick’s Big Giant Headache (2)”, William Shatner guest starred as the Big Giant Head. He came to Earth to check up on Dick, Sally, Tommy, and Harry due to their poor mission performance evaluations. While on Earth, Shatner as the Big Giant Head spiced things up for the Solomons and their Earth friends by getting drunk, revoking Dick’s command (and giving it to Sally), and impregnating Vicki. In the conclusion to this three-part story, Vicki is in labor and the Solomon’s are desperate to prevent the public from seeing the baby. They fear the baby, having an alien as the father, will not be entirely human. Fortunately for our favorite Ohioan aliens, there is nothing wrong with the baby to indicate it is of alien lineage. Unfortunately, Vicki wants to sell her story about being impregnated by aliens to the tabloids. What is great about this episode is how over-the-top the Solomon’s reaction is to something most people wouldn’t believe even if they read it in a tabloid.“Dick For Tat” is one of my favorite episodes this season. It is a great story about misconceptions and adulterous affairs. While drinking heavily and playing an adult-oriented board game, Mary reveals her last “fling” was with Strudwick, who is the professor that Dick despises. The two just don’t get along. And when he finds out he had a thing with Mary, Dick goes over-the-top with jealousy and tries to fix the matter by sleeping with Strudwick’s wife. The situation is blown out of proportion and even includes Strudwick’s daughter Alissa and Tommy. Sally also becomes enchanted by the sight of Don, who is now Rutherford’s lone motorcycle cop. Both situations turn out to be a riot. The next episode “The Fifth Solomon” is a silly episode about car accidents and insurance. It is an important life lesson Dick never had the chance to get before. The story has two interesting angles, one with Dick getting adjusted to life with a modern car with all the features and Harry and his journey into acquiring all kinds of insurance. “Dial M For Dick” is a story with a situation that I suppose anyone who did not know what was going on might react in a similar manner to the Solomon’s. When Mary invites Dick to a murder mystery weekend, he insists the entire family join them. All five gear up and head off for a weekend of fun. When they get their, Mary starts to feel under the weather and stays in the room. While Dick and the gang are in the mansion, someone gets killed. What they don’t realize is that the death was scripted and part of the murder mystery weekend. The Solomon’s get a little too serious about the killings and their overreaction to the situation turns out to be worth a few chuckles. In “Charitable Dick”, Dick goes head to head with Strudwick again. While at a charity auction, Dick bids on an ugly piece of artwork he does not want Strudwick to win. In the end, Dick ends up with a seventeen hundred dollar painter he can’t stand. It is not the season’s strongest episode, but it has a few fun moments with Dick’s ego getting the best of him.In the episode “The Loud Solomon Family: A Dickumentary”, Mary receives funding to make a documentary about the typical American family, a.k.a. the Solomon’s. As an anthropologist she has been studying the family for the last four years. Since the family does not want the truth about their alien heritage coming out, they make up all kinds of things about each other to misdirect suspicion, which include Sally is a lesbian, Harry is an alcoholic, and other antics. “Gwen, Larry, Dick & Mary” is an episode with Dick and Mary trying to branch out their social circle. Mary is tired of always spending time with Dick’s family. So, they double date with Mary’s tennis partner Gwen and her husband Larry. They all have a swell time, or at least Dick and Mary think they did. Their new friends ignore them; Mary believes it is Dick’s odd behavior keeping them away, but she’s shocked to learn it is really her. The other plotline has Tommy, Harry, and Sally doing laundry at the laundromat since their washer and dryer broke. Tommy and Harry find out the public laundry facilities are a great place to meet women and Sally becomes the laundry police!.“Dick Puts the ‘Id’ In Cupid” is an episode about teenage sex and the first time. Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and Tommy believes it would be the perfect time to consummate his relationship with Alissa. She agrees and he say he will get a nice hotel room for their first time. Tommy, however, finds out it is not her first time. Tommy becomes intimidated that he won’t be good enough. Fortunately for him, Mary’s niece Tiffany is more than willing. After losing his virginity to Tiffany, Tommy tells Alissa about it and believes everything is okay. What he didn’t realize is how she would react to his affair with Tiffany. And while the issue is fairly serious, the cast does a fine job putting in bits of humor. “The Big Giant Head Returns” sees Shatner returning to Earth as the Big Giant Head in human form Stone Philips and Vicki coming back into the Solomon’s lives. Stone wants both Vicki and the baby. Vicki, however, has no desire to be with Stone or give him the baby. To that end, Stone commands Dick to make Vicki love him or else. It is a silly story with Shatner making a royal ass of himself once again and finding true love, or so it would seem.In “Frankie Goes To Rutherford”, Dick has a lesson about homosexuality and the misconceptions of being an “alien”. Frank, a former student of Mary’s, shows up to say hello and Dick becomes insanely jealous. Dick believes there is something between the two. Frank assures Dick he is not like other guys and he tries to reveal something about himself. Dick mistaken his hints and he falls under the impression Frank is an alien. Matters are complicated when Dick tells him he is one too. The fun part is watching Frank and Dick go to a gay bar, which Dick thinks is an alien hideout. The season finale is the two-part episode “The Big Giant Head Returns Again”. Hopefully not a surprise, but Shatner makes another appearance as the Big Giant Head. He returns to Earth with his marriage to Vicki on the rocks, as the two are not getting along very well. He confides in Dick (which includes a heart-to-heart moment and some song and dance) and reveals a big secret to him. Later he demands Dick ends it with Mary after getting to know her better. Sally also comes to believe Alissa is going to break it off with Tommy and does it for him, which obviously complicates their relationship. Tommy is also selected as valedictorian and gives a speech you will probably never hear at a high school. It is a riot! Harry and Vicki resume their relationship, sort of. There are some complications like Vicki’s spouse and Harry’s new girlfriend Janice. The story is pretty fun way to close out the season, with a lot of things going on for the cast.Overall, season five sees has some big events for the cast and situations dealing with the Big Giant Head, Vicki, and their newborn baby, as well as the cast just getting mixed up into some good old fashion situations that can only happen when you have a cast of aliens pretending to be humans. As far as the quality, it is still quite good. Fans of the series should enjoy getting another twenty-two episodes of Dick, Tommy, Harry, Sally, Mary, Nina, Don, and all of the other supporting roles getting into one mixed up situation after the next.

REVIEW: TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT

CAST (VOICES)

Stuart Allan (Rise of the Guardians)
Taissa Farmiga (The Nun)
Brandon Soo Hoo (Ender’s Game)
Jake T. Austin (The Fosters)
Kari Wahlgren (Wolverine & The X-Men)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Gregg Henry (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Meg Foster (Masters of The Universe)
Maria Canals-Barrera (Justice League Unlimited)
Crispin Freeman (Young Justice)
Masasa Moyo (Paris)
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
Jason Spisak (Piranha 3D)
David Zayas (Gotham)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)

Five years ago, the original Teen Titans (consisting of Dick Grayson as Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, Beast Boy and Bumblebee) rescue Princess Starfire of planet Tamaran from her captors sent by her evil older sister Blackfire who had staged a coup and forcibly took the throne. As she is no longer able to return to her world, the Titans offer her a home on Earth as one of them.In the present, Dick Grayson (now called Nightwing) rejoins the Teen Titans to track down a terrorist cult led by Brother Blood who plans on capturing the team to absorb each of their unique abilities with a machine that he has tested on Jericho (whom his assistant and lover Mother Mayhem quickly shoots afterwards). Brother Blood hires the mercenary Deathstroke to deliver the Titans to him, which he obliges to do for both the money and get revenge on Damian Wayne for foiling his evil plans a few years ago and replacing him as Ra’s al Ghul’s heir before Damian turned against the League of Assassins. Deathstroke monitors the Titans through his double agent that joined the team a year prior named Terra whom he rescued after her parents turned their whole village against her and tortured her. When Damian grows suspicious of Terra’s behavior and starts tracking her, he is captured by her and Deathstroke, thus revealing herself as a spy to Damian.Terra acts cold and distant towards the other Titans despite their welcoming attitude, but eventually warms up to them over time. During the night celebrating her one year anniversary with the Titans, she shares a tender moment with Beast Boy and kisses him. The next day, Deathstroke kidnaps Blue Beetle at the soup kitchen he works at, Beast Boy at a convention where he thought he would do a podcast with filmmaker Kevin Smith, and Starfire at the apartment shared by her and Nightwing. Dick discovers what happened to the other Titans and is attacked by Deathstroke at his apartment. He manages to escape by faking his own death, while Terra captures Raven in Titans’ Tower.Deathstroke and Terra bring the Titans to Brother Blood, but since the machine cannot operate properly without a sixth Titan (as Slade had failed to capture Nightwing), Slade hesitantly offers him Terra instead. Brother Blood starts draining the Titans of their powers and ascends to godlike status, but they are rescued by Nightwing. Nightwing and Robin fight Deathstroke while the rest take on Brother Blood, who has absorbed all of their powers. The two villains are stopped by the intervention of Terra, who is thoroughly hurt and enraged at Slade for his betrayal. Brother Blood is depowered by Raven unleashing her inner fury as a demon, and killed by Mother Mayhem while Deathstroke is buried underneath multiple rocks thrown by Terra. Too ashamed to face her former allies after betraying their trust, Terra decides to bring down the entire area. Beast Boy attempts to assist Terra in escaping the crumbling fortress, but Terra pushes him back and is buried underneath multiple layers of rubble. Beast Boy digs her up and she dies in his arms.In the epilogue, Beast Boy goes on Kevin Smith’s podcast and talks about the Titans with the host. He mentions that the team has a “wonderful new member” and that he will always miss Terra. In a post-credits scene, Jericho is shown to have survived the bullet Mother Mayhem shot at him earlier.The action is exciting, the screenplay is very well written and the animation keeps a solid level; but what I liked the most was to feel the Teen Titans as an authentic team, well balanced and united despite their differences with each other. To sum up, I enjoyed Teen Titans: The Judas Contract very much, and I will now be expecting their next movie with enthusiasm.

 

REVIEW: HOT SHOTS! PART DEUX

CAST
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
Valeria Golino (Year of The Gun)
Brenda Bakke (Under Siege 2)
Richard Crenna (Marooned)
Miguel Ferrer(Iron Man 3)
Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English)
David Wohl (Terms of Endearment)
Mitchell Ryan (Halloween 6)
Ryan Stiles (Whose Line Is It Anyway?)
Clyde Kusatsu (Shopgirl)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)

One night, an American special forces team invades Saddam Hussein’s (Haleva) palace and a nearby prison camp to rescue captured soldiers from Operation Desert Storm and to eliminate Saddam, but they find the Iraqis prepared for them, and the entire rescue team is captured. This failed operation turns out to be the latest in a series of rescue attempts which were foiled by the Iraqis, and consequently the advisors of President Benson (Admiral Benson in the previous film, played by Bridges) suspect sabotage in their own ranks. Colonel Denton Walters (Crenna) suggests to gain the aid of war hero Topper Harley (Sheen) for the next mission, but Topper has retired from the Navy and become a Buddhist in a small Thai village. Walters and Michelle Huddleston (Bakke), CIA, arrive and try to persuade him to come out of retirement in order to rescue the imprisoned soldiers and the previous rescue parties.Topper initially refuses, but when yet another rescue mission (this one, in turn, led by Walters) goes awry, he agrees to lead a small group of soldiers into Iraq. He is joined by Williams (Colyar), Rabinowitz (Stiles) and Harbinger (Ferrer), the sole escapee of the prior rescue mission and whom Topper suspects to be the wanted saboteur. They parachute into an Iraqi jungle close to the heavily guarded hostage camp and set off to meet their contact, who turns out to be Topper’s former love, Ramada (Golino). Ramada guides them to a fishing boat that she prepared for their transportation. As they move towards the camp, she and Topper reminisce, and she explains that she was married before she met him. When she was informed that her husband, Dexter (Atkinson), was still alive and a prisoner in Iraq, she volunteered to participate in his liberation, but was instructed to keep this strictly confidential, forcing her to break up with Topper just as they were ready to start a new life together; this also led to Topper’s decision to retire.Topper’s team proceeds to the prison camp disguised as river fishermen, but a confrontation with an Iraqi patrol boat thwarts them. When President Benson hears of the apparent failure of another mission, he takes matters into his own hands and joins additional forces in Iraq. However, Topper and his teammates have survived, and soon reach the Iraqi hostage camp. In the course of the operation, the alarm is raised and a gunfight ensues, during which Topper finds out that Harbinger is not the saboteur, but has merely lost faith in fighting, and manages to motivate him. After the prisoners are freed, Topper decides to rescue Dexter, who has been brought to Saddam’s palace.While the squad evacuates the hostages, Topper enters Saddam’s palace and runs into the dictator himself, who pulls out his machine pistol and commands Topper to surrender. Topper disarms Saddam, and they engage in a sword fight. President Benson arrives and orders Topper to rescue Dexter while Benson and Saddam continue the duel. Benson defeats Saddam by spraying him with a fire extinguisher, upon which he and his dog solidify and crack into pieces, only to subsequently liquify, combine and reform as Saddam with his dog’s head fur, nose, and ears. In the meantime, Topper manages to find and liberate Dexter, but is forced to carry him out on his shoulder as the Iraqis have tied Dexter’s shoelaces together.The squad heads back to the army helicopter, where Ramada, after a complicated revelation involving unfounded jealousy, reveals and arrests Michelle as the saboteur who betrayed the previous rescue attempts to the Iraqis. Dexter arrives with Topper and insists on taking a picture of him and Ramada, but backs away too far and topples over a cliff. President Benson joins the escapees, and the evacuation team lifts off; Saddam is about to shoot down the chopper when Topper and Ramada get rid of extra weight in it by pushing a piano out the open door, which crushes him. Topper and Ramada kiss as they ride off into the sunset.In the end this is an absurd comedy and parody on many kinds of movies. If you like this kind of humor and know most of the other movies, then you’ll probably have a great time with it. I sure liked it .

REVIEW: AMERICAN DAD – VOLUME 1-3

Image result for american dad logo

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)
Wendy Schaal (Small Soldiers)
Scott Grimes (Robin Hood)
Rachael MacFarlane (The Batman)
Dee Bradley Baker (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Curtis Armstrong (New Girl)
Carmen Electra (Scary Movie)
Mike Henry (The Cleveland Show)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
Busy Philipps (The Smokers)
Daisuke Suzuki (I Am Gangster)
Stephen Root (King of The Hill)
Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Nat Faxon (Weeds)
Jeff Fischer (Happy Feet)
Sarah Silverman (Evolution)
Tori Spelling (Smallville)
Patrick Stewart (X-Men)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)
Abraham Benrubi (Dark Angel)
William Fichtner (Mom)
Gina Gershon (Bound)
Seth Green (Austin Powers)
Richard Kind (Gotham)
Elias Koteas (Fallen)
Matthew Lillard (Scream)
Ron Livingston (The Conjuring)
Megyn Price (Rules of Engagement)
Molly Shannon (Bad Teacher)
Marley Shelton (Planet Terror)
Stephen Colbert (The Venture Bros.)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Oded Fehr (V)
Forest Whitaker (Panic Room)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Grant Heslov (True Lies)
Jill Talley (Little Miss Sunshine)
Beau Bridges (My Name Is Earl)
Bryan Cranston (Total Recall)
Leslie Jordan (Ugly Betty)
Sandra Oh (Sideways)
Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror)
Jason Lee (Dogma)
Andy Richter (Chuck)
David Herman (Angel)
Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Jeremy Sisto (Wrong Turn)
Peter Facinelli (Supergirl)
Jennie Garth (Beverly Hills, 90210)
Alex Borstein (Family Guy)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
John Cho (Star Trek)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Alexandra Breckenridge (She’s The Man)
Chris Klein (American Pie)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5)
Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels)
Romany Malco (No Ordinary Family)
Thandie Newton (Westworld)
Seth Rogen (Bad Neighbours)
Christine Taylor (Zoolander)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Azura Skye (28 Days)
Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Stark Sands (Minority Report TV)
Elijah Wood (Lord of The Rings)
Ivana Milicevic (Banshee)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
John Krasinski (License To Wed)
Rusty Schwimmer (Highlander II)
Lisa Kudrow (Easy A)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Peter Graves (Airplane)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Eleven)
Becki Newton (Ugly Betty)
Harve Presnell (Lois & Clark)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Richard Gant (Godzilla)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Eartha Kitt (60s Batman)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men)

A worthy successor to parent show Family Guy, this show tells the misadventures of an ultra right wing CIA Agent and his long suffering family.The characters are great. Stan Smith, the dad of the title is more capable than Family Guy’s Peter Griffin, but just as blinkered. He calls “French toast” smelly and ungrateful and prefers it to be known as “American toast”, has a questionable attraction to his gun and a fear of liberals.Wife Francine is a housewife who lacks ambition but every so often strikes out on her own. Their children are the geeky Steve and ultra left wing Hayley. Completing teh family are a German athlete who’s mind has been put in a fish Klaus (watch the pilot for the back story) and needy, TV and celebrity obsessed gender bending alien Roger. There are some great set ups e.g. Stan having Francine’s memory erased when he forgets a wedding anniversary, Roger apparently dying and the CIA hunting him as the area 51 alien who previously escaped and Stan being sent to Arabia as a punishment and finding it’s to his taste.The jokes fly thick and fast e.g. Roger telling Stan “Oh by the way your skin cream did wonders for my ‘roids, well if you won’t let me out of the house to buy my own I guess we’re ointment buddies!”, Stan saying “Should, well we don’t live in Shouldland. Ah Shouldland, what a wonderful place!” and Roger’s retort “yes I’m an alien and I have claws. You’re awfully fat. See? Kitty can scratch!”There are also some great turns from Patrick Stewart voicing CIA Deputy Director Bullock. Great commentaries and featurettes make a superb package!

The “Laugh Alert” level is elevated with the release of this second volume of episodes that chronologically span seasons 1 and 2. You know the “there” that people talk about when they say, “Don’t go ‘there’?” Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad leaves “there” in the dust.Take the holiday–excuse me, Christmas–episode, “The Best Christmas Story Never,” which somehow melds Charles Dickens with a Ray Bradbury-esque cautionary tale of tampering with the past.CIA Agent and true patriot act Stan Smith (voiced by MacFarlane) loses the spirit of the season in a blizzard of PC secularism in which even the fugitive “Christmas rapist” must be referred to as “the holiday rapist.” In the “is nothing sacred” world of American Dad, Christmas can only be saved by Stan accompanying the Ghost of Christmas Past (Lisa Kudrow) back in time to (don’t ask) kill Jane Fonda (or Donald Sutherland), take over the direction of Taxi Driver from a drug-free Martin Scorsese, and shoot Ronald Reagan.

The Smith family–wife Francine, geeky son Steve, and “peace-pusher” daughter Hayley–is still not as vividly drawn as the Griffins on MacFarlane’s Family Guy (even Klaus, the talking German-accented goldfish admits in one episode that his “fish shtick” is getting thin), but one can’t help salute the audacity of the oft-inspired writing. In “Stannie, Get Your Gun,” Stan becomes a National Gun Association spokesperson after being accidentally paralyzed by his anti-gun daughter. “The American Dad After School Special” has an A Brilliant Mind-like twist as Stan battles an eating disorder brought about by Steve’s new overweight girlfriend. In “Helping Handis,” Steve becomes the big man on campus after he develops steroid-enhanced breasts.Two episodes are standouts for their animation. “Dungeons and Wagons,” as did South Park with “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” creates a video game universe in which Steve rules. Near the end of “Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option,” the screen adjusts to widescreen format, and the saga of the golden turd, begun in the first season episode, “Homeland Insecurity” compellingly continues with the jewel-encrusted oddity becoming the last temptation of an honest cop (Beau Bridges). American Dad is, as should be apparent, not for all tastes (or more sensitive viewers–the episode “Tears of a Clooney” drops some unbleeped F-bombs), but fans of the series are rewarded with this three disc-set’s prodigious extra features, including rowdy, chaotic commentaries for all the episodes, a wealth of hit and miss deleted scenes, and a segment devoted to the production of “Dungeons and Wagons.”

“I’m not beloved,” CIA Agent Stan Smith is shocked to discover after eavesdropping on his mocking neighbours in the episode, “I Can’t Stan You”. With all the resolve this “pig-headed” Red State poster boy and George “The Dub” Bush devotee can muster, he vows, “I will make these people like me.” For those still on the fence about American Dad, this collection of 18 episodes ought to do the trick.These characters may not be as indelible as the Family Guy clan, but these episodes rarely flag. If the outrageous storylines don’t grab you, the rapid-fire random gags will. Like King of the Hill’s Hank Hill , Stan (voiced by series co-creator Seth McFarlane) is oft confounded by a world seemingly gone mad. Unlike Hank, he is the voice of un-reason. In “Surro-Gate,” Stan’s dizzy wife, Francine (Wendy Schaal) agrees to be the surrogate for the Smith’s gay neighbors, prompting the disapproving Stan to kidnap the infant, as well as the brood of a lesbian couple.In “Black Mystery Month,” Stan reveals a Da Vinci Code-like conspiracy involving George Washington Carver that’s plain nuts. In another episode, “Bush Comes to Dinner” for a night of drunken debauchery; some easy-target Bush-bashing is redeemed when the President makes peace between Stan and his “lost cause” liberal daughter, Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane). Some of the best episodes focus more on the Smith family than politics. In “The Vacation Goo”, Francine demands a real family getaway after discovering that all previous vacations were artificially created memories. In “Haylias,” it is revealed that the unwitting Hayley is a brainwashed sleeper agent, who is activated by Stan to stop her from moving to France. “The 42-Year-Old Virgin” reveals another shocker: trigger-happy Stan has never actually killed anyone!American Dad revels in guy humour. As Stan tells an unamused Hayley at one point, “You don’t get a willy, you don’t get the silly.” American Dad brings the silly, but while the series is not above (or beneath) moth fart jokes, it is also smart enough to reference, say, “Equus” or the touching “When Somebody Loved Me” number from Toy Story 2. Stan’s geeky son, Steve (Scott Grimes), bitchy alien Roger (MacFarlane), and talking fish Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker) are no Chris, Brian, or Stewie, but this set contains some of their more memorable outings. In “Frannie 911,” it turns out that it actually would kill Roger to be nice. In “Surro-Gate,” Klaus vows revenge on Roger and Stan following a waterslide prank. American Dad fans will salute this three-disc set’s generous features, including a riotous Comic-Con cast table read of the episode, “The 42 Year-Old Virgin,” nearly a half hour of deleted scenes (deleted jokes would be more accurate), unrated versions (with unbleeped profanities) of certain episodes, and freewheeling audio commentaries (“Hey, aren’t we supposed to talk about the episode?” one participant tries to steer one digressive conversation

REVIEW: STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK

CAST

William Shatner (TJ Hooker)
Leonard  Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
DeForest Kelley (Canon City)
James Doohan (Some Things Never Die)
George Takei (Heroes)
Walter Koenig (Babylon 5)
Nichelle Nichols (Scooby-Doo 4)
Robin Curtis (General Hospital)
Merritt Butrick (Fright Night – Part 2)
Mark Lenard (Planet of The Apes TV)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Grace Lee Whitney (60s Batman)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
John Larroquette (Chuck)
Branscombe Richmond (Commando)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)

The Federation Starship Enterprise returns to Earth following a battle with the superhuman Khan Noonien Singh, who tried to destroy the Enterprise by detonating an experimental terraforming device known as Genesis. The casualties of the fight include Admiral James T. Kirk’s Vulcan friend, Spock, whose casket was launched into space and eventually landed on the planet created by the Genesis Device. On arriving at Earth Spacedock, Doctor Leonard McCoy begins to act strangely and is detained. Starfleet Admiral Morrow visits the Enterprise and informs the crew the ship is to be decommissioned; the crew is ordered not to speak about Genesis due to political fallout over the device.

David Marcus (Merritt Butrick)—Kirk’s son, a key scientist in Genesis’s development—and Lieutenant Saavik (Robin Curtis) are investigating the Genesis planet on board the science vessel Grissom. Discovering an unexpected life form on the surface, Marcus and Saavik transport to the planet. They find that the Genesis Device has resurrected Spock in the form of a child, although his mind is not present. Marcus admits that he used unstable “protomatter” in the development of the Genesis Device, causing Spock to age rapidly and meaning the planet will be destroyed within hours. Meanwhile, Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), the commander of a Klingon vessel, intercepts information about Genesis. Believing the device to be potentially useful as a weapon, he takes his cloaked ship to the Genesis planet, destroys the Grissom.

Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard), confronts Kirk about his son’s death. The pair learn that before he died, Spock transferred his katra, or living spirit, to McCoy. Spock’s katra and body are needed to lay him to rest on his homeworld, Vulcan, and without help, McCoy will die from carrying the katra. Disobeying orders, Kirk and his officers spring McCoy from detention, disable the USS Excelsior, and steal the Enterprise from Spacedock to return to the Genesis planet to retrieve Spock’s body.

On Genesis, the Klingons capture Marcus, Saavik and Spock and before Kruge can interrogate them their ship signals that the Enterprise has arrived and Kruge immediately beams back to the Bird of Prey. In orbit, the undermanned Enterprise is attacked and disabled by Kruge. In the standoff that follows, Kruge orders that one of the hostages on the surface be executed. David is killed defending Saavik and Spock. Kirk and company feign surrender and activate the Enterprise’s self-destruct sequence, killing the Klingon boarding party while the Enterprise crew transports to the planet’s surface. Promising the secret of Genesis, Kirk lures Kruge to the planet and has him beam his crew to the Klingon vessel. As the Genesis planet disintegrates, Kirk and Kruge engage in a fistfight; Kirk emerges victorious after kicking Kruge off a cliff into a lava flow. Kirk and his officers take control of the Klingon ship and head to Vulcan.

There, Spock’s katra is reunited with his body in a dangerous procedure called fal-tor-pan. The ceremony is successful and Spock is resurrected, alive and well, though his memories are fragmented. At Kirk’s prompting, Spock remembers he called Kirk “Jim” and recognizes the crew.

Often derided as one of the poorer Trek films due to its chance place in the broad “odd-numbered film curse,” Star Trek III is one of my very favourites. It continues successfully in the vein of “Wrath of Khan”. The special features are extensive and interesting, for the most part. Klingon language creator and teacher Marc Okrand gives insight into how the language was developed for this film, and altered according to the great Christopher Lloyd’s pronunciations, while Industrial Light and Magic effects crew explain how they developed the designs for the U.S.S. Excelsior, Spacedock and Klingon Bird-of-Prey – all of which would be used again and again in the Next Generation. The director’s commentary from Leonard Nimoy is also one of the best commentaries I’ve heard for a couple of reasons: firstly, it is informative and gives insight to how Leonard directed scenes, and secondly it’s Spock.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER

CAST
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Neil Patrick Harris (The Smurfs)
John Heard (Home Alone)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Kyle MacLachlan (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Lex Lang (Constantine TV)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)
Brooke Shields (The Blue Lagoon)
Jeremy Sisto (Wrong turn)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Joe Mantegna (The Simpsons)
Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014)

Darwyn Cooke entered the comic book world via an animation career that included a stint on the staff of Batman: The Animated Series. He quickly impressed fans with his clean, classic illustration style, using old ideas as fodder for fresh visions. It’s kind of fitting, then, that things have come full circle, and now his old animation cohorts are adapting one of his comic books into a movie. Justice League: The New Frontier is directed by frequent Cooke collaborator David Bullock, and it is based on the 2004 comic book miniseries The New Frontier. In that drawn adventure novel, the writer/artist used his love of 1950s comics and culture to weave a complex tapestry using a host of genres, characters, and real world political touchstones. It is a gorgeous book, and for the most part, massively entertaining.

A 75-minute film is actually a far more compact means of expression than a sprawling comic book miniseries. Bullock, working with Cooke as a creative consultant, has dropped a lot of the backstory, relegating subplots on Monster Island with the Losers and the original Suicide Squad to quick mentions. This leaves the full running time devoted to the superhero mission and the rise of two new heroes.

Justice League: The New Frontier starts just at the end of the Korean War, putting America in the middle of the space race and the Red Scare. Superheroes have been swept up in the xenophobic hysteria, with the public being convinced that men hiding their identities behind masks are no better than the communists who plan revolutions behind closed doors. Superman (voiced by Kyle MacLachlan) is still functioning above board, having signed a loyalty oath to America. So does Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless), though she is less enamored with the American Way the more paranoid and oppressive it gets. Other heroes, like Batman (Jeremy Sisto) and the Flash (Neil Patrick Harris), are still serving the public, but they risk arrest with every good deed they do. In the midst of all this fear and loathing, a primordial psychic force that has watched from the shadows as mankind has grown more dangerous and self-destructive over the centuries has begun shoring up its power to put an end to the human scourge. Calling itself “the Center” (as in “of all things”), this creature has become the stuff of cults and legends, controlling the minds of men and monsters alike.

Also coming to the fore at this time are two new super beings, and they are ostensibly the leads of the ensemble cast. Hal Jordan (David Boreanaz) is a veteran and a test pilot who many believe to be a coward due to his refusal to fire his guns in battle. His nobility will eventually lead to him being chosen as the Green Lantern, a cosmic defender assigned to protect Earth. The other hero is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter (Miguel Ferrer), who through a quirk of science was teleported to and stranded on our planet. He is the most representative of the “other,” the things we fear because they are different. Jordan’s political ideas make him like the communists, whereas J’onzz’ green skin gives the storytellers room to tie his plight into race.

Justice League: The New Frontier is an entertaining animated adventure. Based on a multi-leveled comic book by Darwyn Cooke, it features the greatest heroes of the DC Comics universe banding together in the 1950s to fight a villain who is feeding on the hatred and paranoia of the times to rid the Earth of the human scourge. The movie is more streamlined and has a solid story that fits well into the new Warner Bros. effort to bring slightly more adult cartoons directly to DVD. The animation is mostly clean and dynamic, and as a whole, it’s an impressive two-disc release filled with lots of extras.