REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE DOOM

CAST (VOICES)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Tim Daly (Superman: TAS)
Susan Eisenber (Justice League)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Bumper Robinson (Marvel’s Avengers Assemble)
Carlos Alazraqui (Happy Feet)
Claudia Black (The Originals)
Paul Blackthorne (Arrow)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Phil Morris (Bottoms Up)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Grey Griffin (Justice League: Cosmic Clash)
Robin Atins Downes (Babylon 5)
Juliet Landau (Buffy)

Assembled by Vandal Savage, the elite members of the Legion of Doom—Bane, Cheetah, Mirror Master, Star Sapphire, Ma’alefa’ak and Metallo—are shown how to beat each and every member of the Justice League of America. Using the specific weaknesses of each hero, the Legion heads out to destroy their counterparts and bring them to their knees so Vandal Savage could implement the next phase of his plan: annihilating the majority of the human race so he can bring about a new world order from its ashes. To make things worse, Vandal Savage didn’t discover how to destroy the Justice League on his own, and when the answer as to who was responsible is revealed, the JLA is rocked to its core with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Man, I love this movie. It features an all-star cast of all-star superheroes going up against an all-star roster of evil supervillains. Finally, we get to see the villains stick it to the heroes in a big way and not let up until the JLA is down. And I mean really down. It’s not often you see Superman on the brink of death, Batman humiliated and defeated, Flash completely screwed, Green Lantern a broken man, Martian Manhunter totally incapacitated, and Wonder Woman so messed up she doesn’t know what to do or which way to turn.

This flick is based on the “Tower of Babel” Justice League story arc by Mark Waid, who is arguably one of the best comic book writers on the planet. I can’t comment on this flick’s faithfulness to that storyline because it’s been over ten years since I last read it, but I do remember the overall premise and this movie delivered on that.

The heroes and villains look great in this movie, and it does well in showcasing their various powers and abilities. It’s also an exciting movie that is fast-paced, has a sense of atmosphere, a sense of taking place in the overall DC Universe—thanks to other heroes and villains not mentioned above showing up—and gives the JLA a threat that even they might not be able to handle. And that’s the thing with a JLA movie: the threat needs to be so huge and so dangerous that it takes them as a team to solve the issue, and considering each one of them is extremely powerful in their own right, that threat needs to be mega huge, not just physically but psychologically as well. Justice League: Doom has that and delivers it in spades. Also features the voice talent from the Justice League animated series so that totally adds to it as well, giving it a sense of familiarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 1-2

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CAST (VOICES)

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Killing Joke)
George Newbern (Superman/Shazam)
Susan Eisenberg (Justice League: Doom)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals Barrera (Camp Rock)

Image result for justice league unlimitedRECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives)
Mike Farrell (Vanishing Act)
Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Dakota Fanning (Taken)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Patrick Bauchau (Panic Room)
Michael York (Logans Run)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Robert Foxworth (Syriana)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Billy West (Futurama)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
John C. McGinley (Highlander II)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Grey DeLisle (The Replacements)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Michael Beach (The Abyss)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Ben Browder (Farscape)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters 2)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Nestor Carbonell (The Dark Knight)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Denis Farina (Get Shorty)
Virginia Maden (Sideways)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clark)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: DS9)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: DS9)
Juliet Landau (Buffy)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Jason Bateman (The Ex)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Nathan Fillion (Slither)
Elizabeth Pena (The Incredibles)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Robert Forster (Dragon Wars)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Powers Boothe (Agents of SHIELD)
Seymour Cassel (Rushmore)
James Remar (Flashforward)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Malcolm McDowell (Heroes)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Alexis Denisof (Dollhouse)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)

The first two seasons of Justice League were fantastic. Packed with action, humor and great storytelling the world of DC’s heroes came to life thanks to the collaborative efforts of the folks behind the rest of Warner Brothers’ successful cartoons. The show focused on the adventures of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, Hawkgirl and J’onn (the Martian Manhunter). They spent most of their time fighting established villains and trying to save the world from impending doom as you’d expect. When Justice League Unlimited (the show’s sequel series) was released it shook up the formula a bit and quite frankly, really felt like a new show.


The reason behind this different atmosphere was the change in the cast. The main seven characters were still kicking around but their ranks had swelled since the end of the original series. The basic premise was that the Justice League felt they could do better with more members. Many hands make light work and all that. Therefore anyone with superpowers that could do some good was offered a spot on the team.

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Not every character gets their chance in the spotlight but it certainly fleshed out the show with some of DC’s more obscure characters. Most of these episodes focus on the original characters though many of the rookies become involved in the storytelling. Being a longtime comic book fan, seeing more of these characters was definitely a thrill. Getting Green Arrow added to the ranks was probably the best addition to the show in my opinion, but Supergirl, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Black Canary and The Question definitely helped round things out. In all more characters were added to the series than the show actually featured so you can imagine the insanity that ensues. Many of these characters do get washed out thanks to the lack of coverage, but it’s not handled to the point that they become obscure or disrupt the quality of the show.

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There  are several episodes that made an impression on me. “Fearful Symmetry” was a very solid story that told a tale about Supergirl and really fleshed out her character. In it she is basically cloned and begins to have dreams that mirror the actions of her sinister clone. Green Arrow and Question get involved in order to help her out and we got to see some interesting facets of the DC Universe.


For my money “The Greatest Story Never Told” was probably my favorite episode. It doesn’t have a lot to do with anything and it’s a fairly weak story but it features Booster Gold as its main character. In case you are unfamiliar with Booster he’s basically a smartass guy from the 25th century who travels back in time for fame and fortune. He’s accompanied by a wisecracking robot named Skeets and finds himself not feeling the love from his other JLU teammates. In this episode he’s given the noble duty of crowd control while the League fights to save the world. There’s nothing particularly great about the story it’s just that I love Booster’s character and quite honestly, this episode was hilarious all around.
“Kid Stuff” was another fun episode that featured Morgan la Fey’s son getting his prissy little hands on a powerful amulet. The item makes him more powerful than his mother and he casts a spell that sends all adults to another dimension. In order to set things right Morgan turns Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern into kids so they can once again enter the world. As their younger selves the heroes start to let their juvenile side out and it’s funny to see Batman and Wonder Woman banter as if they were childhood sweethearts.

Overall Justice League Unlimited was a great show.  Any comic book fan, or viewer who enjoyed Timm’s other series, definitely owes it to themselves to check this set out. This release offers 26 episodes.


Unfortunately, as with all good things, Justice League Unlimited came to end. The show was cancelled before its time but luckily the crew was able to eek out another thirteen episodes before it went off the air. This season’s collection of superhero antics follows an episodic pattern but keeps an ongoing plot bubbling beneath the surface. The two-part adventures from the earlier sessions of Justice League went away with this season but the fact that characters reference previous episodes helps to keep everything connected.

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In the first episode of the final season of Unlimited Lex Luthor is on the run from the law after breaking out of jail. The affects of being joined with Brainiac are still being felt by him and throughout the episode you’ll often see Luthor talk to himself because he sees Brainiac standing next to him. When Gorilla Grodd offers Luthor a piece of Brainiac old baldy finds it hard to resist. He agrees to join Grodd’s Legion of Doom and work together with fellow supervillains to take down the Justice League. This set up continues throughout the season and you’ll find bits and pieces of it in each of the thirteen episodes.

In the second episode of this season the shadow of the Thanagarian conflict lingers as an archaeologist discovers something an Egypt. Shayera (Hawkgirl) is lured there by Carter Hall who tries to convince her that he is Hawkman. This was a nice throwback to the prior season and early Hawkman comic books but was certainly not the best episode in the set.

One of my favorite episodes from his collection easily has to be “Flash and Substance”. Four villains from Flash’s past team up to take down the red blur and they plan on doing it on the opening night of his new museum. Batman and Orion tag along with Flash in order to ensure that he’s ok. The writing in this particular episode was easily the funniest that Justice League ever produced. I particularly enjoyed the villains all sitting around the table at a dive bar talking about making their mortgage payments and whatnot.


Anyone who has ever considered themselves to be a comic book fan at some point in their lives will find something to love about Justice League Unlimited. From the very first season through the last of Unlimited the series offered quality unlike any other. This is a definitive comic book cartoon and stands shoulder to shoulder with WB’s Superman and Batman animated adventures. If you have been collecting the show to date then you’ll be pleased to know that the thirteen episodes featured here are as good, if not better in some cases, as what came before it.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD – SEASON 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Diedrich Bader (Vampires Suck)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Marc Worden (Ultimate Avengers)
Grey DeLisle (The Replacements)
John Dimaggio (Futurama)
Tom Kenny (Super hero Squad)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Corey Burton (Critters)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Vyvan Pham (Generator Rex)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Mikey Kelley (TMNT)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Will Wheaton (Powers)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Loren Lester (Batman: TAS)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Jeff Bennett (James Bond Jr.)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Ellen Greene (Pushing Daisies)
Armin Shimmerman (Star Trek: DS9)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Tom Everett Scott (Scream: The Series)
Billy West (Futurama)
Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover)
Paul Reubens (Gotham)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers II)
Peter Woodward (Crusade)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
James Remar (Flashforward)
Jeffrey Combs (Gothman)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
William Katt (Carrie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mark Hamill (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Adam West (BAtman 60s)
Julie Newmar (Batman 60s)
Dana Delany (Body of Proof)
Tony Todd (Chuck)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and Thje X-Men)
John Wesley Shipp (The Flash)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Mae Whitman (Independence Day)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars: Revels)
John Michael Higgins (Still Waiting)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Ted McGinley (Highlander 2)
Henry Winkler (Happy Days)

There’s a gloriously meta moment in the back half of this season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold where the show’s producers are raked over the coals at Comic-Con. One of the twentysomethings in the crowd grouses and groans about how the Caped Crusader in the cartoon isn’t his Batman, and…well, he’s not wrong. DC’s comics anymore are joylessly grim and gritty…22 monthly pages of misery and scowling and torture and dismemberment and death and high collars and way too much crosshatching. Batman: The Brave and the Bold, meanwhile, is defined by its vivid colors and clean, thick linework. It’s a series whose boundless imagination and thirst for high adventure make you feel like a six year old again, all wide-eyed and grinning ear to ear.


You know all about The Dark Knight’s war on crime, and in The Brave and the Bold , he’ll duke it out against any badnik, anywhere. He doesn’t go it alone, either, with every episode pairing Batman up with at least one other DC superhero. Heck, to keep it interesting, The Brave and the Bold shies away from the obvious choices like Superman and Wonder Woman. Instead, you get more interesting team-ups like Blue Beetle (more than one, even!), Elongated Man, Wildcat, Mister Miracle, Kamandi, and B’wana Beast.
Other animated incarnations of Batman have been rooted in something close enough to reality. Sure, you might have androids and the occasional Man-Bat, but they tried to veer away from anything too fantastic. The Brave and tbe Bold has free reign to do just about whatever it wants. One week, maybe you’ll get an adventure in the far-flung reaches of space with a bunch of blobby alien amoebas who mistake Batman for Blue Beetle’s sidekick. The next might offer up Tolkien-esque high fantasy with dragons and dark sorcery. Later on, Aquaman and The Atom could play Fantastic Voyage inside Batman’s bloodstream, all while the Caped Crusader is swimming around in a thirty-story walking pile of toxic waste. He could be in a Western or a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a capes-and-cowls musical or even investigate a series of grisly something-or-anothers alongside Sherlock Holmes in Victorian England.

Batman has markedly different relationships with every one of those masked heroes. There’s the gadget geekery with an earlier incarnation of the Blue Beetle. With the younger, greener-but-still-blue Beetle, Batman takes on more of a mentor role.

More of a stern paternal figure for Plastic Man, and a rival for Green Arrow. Sometime it might not even be the most pleasant dynamic, such as a decidedly adult Robin who doesn’t feel like he can fully step outside the long shadow that Batman casts.

There are some really unique takes on iconic (and not so iconic!) DC superheroes here, and far and away the standout is Aquaman. This barrel-chested, adventure-loving braggart is my favorite incarnation of the king of the seven seas, and if Aquaman ever scores a cartoon of his own, I hope he looks and acts a lot like this. Oh, and The Brave and the Bold does a spectacular job mining DC’s longboxes for villains too, and along with some of the familiar favorites, you get a chance to boo and hiss at the likes of Kanjar Ro, The Sportsmaster, Kite Man, Gentleman Ghost, Chemo, Calendar ManKing, Crazy Quilt, and Shrapnel. The Brave and the Bold delivers its own versions of Toyman, Vandal Savage, and Libra while it’s at it, the latter of whom has the closest thing to a season arc that the series inches towards.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is every bit as fun and thrilling as you’d expect from a series where every episode’s title ends with an exclamation point. Each installment is fat-packed with action, and the series has a knack for piling it on in ways I never saw coming. Even with as imaginative and off-the-walls as The Brave and the Bold can get, it still sticks to its own internal logic, so the numerous twists, turns, and surprises are all very much earned.

The majority of the episodes have a cold open not related to the remainder of the episode. Despite its episodic nature, if you’re expecting a big storyline in these 26 episodes, you’re going to be pretty disappointed as the extent of an overarching story in the season is the occasional villain that appears more than once, like Starro, but that’s really the only connecting bridge between episodes.

Season 2 contains one of my favorite episodes of not only this particular season, but probably in the entire series, “Chill of the Night!”, which goes back to Batman’s origins as Bruce Wayne learns more about the man who murdered his parents, turning him into the crime-fighter he would become, it’s one of the most well known origin stories in media, ever, but it’s done so well here. Another reason I love this episode is my blinding nostalgia for the voice cast.

The original 1960’s Batman, Adam West, guest stars as Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, while Julie Newmar, who starred opposite of West as Catwoman from the original Batman TV show, plays Batman’s mother, Martha Wayne. My favorite Batman of all time, theatrical or not, Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman from Batman: The Animated Series and various other series/movies/games, voices the Phantom Stranger. Lastly, the baddie of the episode, The Spectre, is voiced by none other than Mark Hamill, the definitive voice of the Joker.

The Episodes in season 3 are wildly imaginative; so much so that purists will probably be put off, at least initially. They range from “Night of the Batmen”, where batman is incapacitated and it is up to Aquaman, Green Arrow, Captain Marvel, and Plastic Man to don the cowl, and keep gotham safe. As weird as that may sound, this episode is pure fun, and a joy to watch. Other stand outs are the never before seen in the states “The Mask of Matches Malone”, “Shadow of the Bat”, “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”, and “Powerless”.

Special mention has to be made of the final episode of the series however, “Mitefall”. In this meta episode, Batmite does a fantastic job breaking down why the series is ending, and the disconnect of the so-called “purists”, whose baseless, closed minded, ignorance eventually doomed this excellent series.

When all is said and done, we received three outstanding, and criminally underrated, seasons and it is a joy to see.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 1-5

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 MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Rino Romano (Get Him To The Greek)
Alastair Duncan (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Danielle Judovits (Naruto)
Evan Sabara (The Polar Express)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Jesse Corti (Bringing Down The House)
Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files)
Adam West (Batman 60s)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Joaquim de Almeida (Fast & Furious 5)
Amanda Anka (Lost Highway)
Diedrich Bader (Batman: TBATB)
Jeff Bennett (Porco Rosso)
Victor Brandt (The Head Mistress)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Piera Coppola (Phineas and Ferb)
Jim Cummings (Ben 10)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Jack DeSena (JLA Adventures)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Greg Ellis (Dr. Dolittle 5)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Dave Foley (Monkeybone)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Gina Gershon (Bound)
Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty)
Frank Gorshin (Batman 60s)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Enemy Mine)
Kevin Grevioux (Cradle 2 The Grave)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Chris Hardwick (Halloween II)
Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket)
Tom Kenny (The Powerpuff Girls)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Lex Lang (Power Rangers Turbo)
Wallace Langham (Daddy Day Care)
John Larroquette (Chuck)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Ian Abercromdie (Birds of Prey)
Kellie Martin (Army Wives)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Michael Massee (Flashforward)
Dermot Mulroney (New Girl)
George Newbern (Justice League)
Jerry O’ Connell (Superman/Shazam)
Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
James Remar (The Vampire Diaries)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Allison Mack (Smallville)
Charlie Schlatter (Batman Unlimited)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Hynden Walch (Teen Titans)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Gwendoline Yeo (Vacancy 2)

 

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.

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 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.

Accent 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.

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.

With this season, the producers opted to play mix-and-match with baddies: Catwoman and Ragdoll, Catwoman and Penguin, Penguin and Man-Bat, Penguin and Joker, Penguin and Joker and Riddler, Mr. Freeze and Firefly.  The Catwoman episodes work much better; the series’ take on the Selina Kyle character is as refreshing as has ever been in the decades of Batman tales. She’s one of the few multifaceted characters in this uncomplicated series, working somewhere between heroine and villainess, assisted by clever writing and a commendable vocal performance from Gina Gershon.

Other episodes manage to shake the series’ problems and find a sturdy balance between fast-paced action and inventive plotting. The introductory adventure with the Riddler (here designed as some sort of Marilyn Manson wannabe) makes for a rollicking quest; an episode that takes Batman literally into the mind of the Joker allows for a fresh take on some overly well-worn cartoon material; a sinister Halloween tale about “swamp zombie” Solomon Grundy’s mythic return makes for ripping holiday viewing. These episodes all show the grand potential of this series. Consider the season’s best episode, “Meltdown,” which provides a return for Clay Face, last seen in season one’s finale. There’s a lot that happens in this episode character-wise, all of it both thrilling and quite emotionally touching.

In order to make the show more friendly to the notion of reruns, the producers avoid any serious episode-to-episode continuity. Instead, we see ideas that slowly grow – Detective Bennett’s evolution as a character in season one (and slightly in season two), Detective Yin’s secret partnership with Batman in season two – in tiny chunks over the course of a dozen or so episodes. The good news is that these seemingly unimportant arcs do get a payoff in the season finales. In its favor, the series does showcase some incredible animation; “The Batman” remains a genuine treat for the eyes.

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.

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 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.
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.

Few animated TV shows have improved as greatly and as rapidly as much as “The Batman.” When the program debuted on the Kids WB! network in 2004, it was a reboot of the franchise, and while repeat viewings did help the show’s more radical changes become acceptable to lifelong fans of the character, it still never quite hit the heights of the 1990s’ “Batman: The Animated Series,” deemed by most as the definitive presentation of the hero.

The season opens with the introduction of Robin, the Boy Wonder. Series producers took a brave risk the season prior by breaking from the continuity of the Batman mythology and bringing in Batgirl as a sidekick first; the official reason given is that Robin was tied up on the “Teen Titans” cartoon, but the switcheroo seems to go beyond that, as it led to a shakeup that helped breathe new life into the franchise.

Perhaps to counterbalance such changes, the season premiere strays very little from the established Robin backstory: young Dick Grayson (seen here at around age 10 or 11, unlike several other incarnations that aged him slightly) is the son of a successful circus act. Here, Dick’s father also runs the circus, so he’s directly responsible for shooing away the thugs that show up one night for a little extortion. Batman arrives to thwart the baddies, but they return to sabotage the trapeze. The Graysons are killed mid-performance, and Bruce Wayne, seeing a parallel with his own history, takes Dick in as a foster son. Dick later discovers the Batcave, dons his old circus outfit, and sets out to capture the mobsters; by episode’s end, he’s properly christened as Robin.

It’s interesting to note that every time this legend is retold, its writers find new ways of infusing some modern day logic into the proceedings. Like Dick’s circus costume, which now comes right off the bat with the familiar “R” crest, only for “Richard,” not “Robin.” He later decides to use “Robin” as his superhero alter ego not in tribute to Robin Hood, or because of the goofy motorcycle helmet design from “Batman Forever,” but simply because Dick’s mom liked that nickname. It adds a bittersweet human touch to the myth that feels so natural, I’m surprised it’s never been used before. (In a nice touch, Kevin Conroy, the voice actor who played Batman in the 1990s, appears as Dick’s father. It’s a wonderful passing-the-torch moment that reminds me of when Adam West showed up on “Batman: The Animated Series” as the Grey Ghost. Also providing guest star voice work this season are Mark Hamill, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ron Perlman, James Remar, Wallace Langham, and Brandon Routh.)

Batgirl is absent from this episode (wisely so – although it’s an excellent story, it’s also pretty cluttered with characters and events). She returns in the follow-up, and there we set the stage for the rest of the season’s tone. The sidekicks spend their time bickering and trying to one-up each other, in pure brother-sister mode. It’s a fun dynamic to the show that allows Batman to remain  his moody self without forcing the series to become overly brooding. A peculiar moment regarding the sidekicks comes late in the season, when Robin pauses in the middle of a dangerous mission to ask Batgirl if she’s afraid. After some fudging between the two, she admits that she is. Not only is this a deeper, more thoughtful character moment than the series would have ever attempted a few years earlier, but it’s a startling moment of character honesty that you rarely get in a children’s adventure.

Over time the show has definitely grown and it’s safe to say that it’s come into its own. Though this may be the final season it’s definitely one of the stronger ones and in the end this is a ride any fan of the character should take. In the previous seasons of The Batman all sorts of things happened that continue to have an impact upon Gotham in this fifth outing. Batgirl was added to the roster during the third season with Dick Grayson as Robin in the fourth. Several familiar villains were brought into the fold as well but most notably the finale of the fourth season featured an alien invasion and the introduction of The Justice League. That’s right where we pick up this time around with Gotham reeling in the aftermath of the alien attack.


Destruction is everywhere and the people are in need of support. Lucky for them Superman comes to town with a massive check from Metropolis but unluckily for Superman Metallo is waiting for his chance to strike. What transpires is a team up between Batman and Superman to take down Lex Luthor who has his eyes set on Gotham. In the meantime Superman falls under Lex’s control thanks to some help from Poison Ivy and kryptonite. Naturally it’s up to Batman and Robin to stop the man of steel and there’s plenty of fighting between the DC legends.

If you have been following the series this marks Superman’s first appearance on the show and you’ll notice a trend that follows throughout this year. The previous season’s introduction of characters such as Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, and Green Lantern fleshes out The Batman’s roster somewhat and really gives is a Justice League feel.

This season is very entertaining even though the focus shifts from Batman and his universe. At this point in The Batman’s run the creative cast definitely had it going on but you can tell that even in the final moments they were experimenting. I see what the producers were aiming to do with this season and for all intents and purposes it is successful.

REVIEW: SUPER FRIENDS: THE LEGENDARY SUPER POWERS SHOW

CAST (VOICES)

Adam West (Batman)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek:DS9)
Michael Bell (Star Trek: TNG)
Gregg Berger (Transformers
Arthur Burghardt (Conan)
Stan Jones (Tranformers)
William Callaway (Darkwing Duck)
Casey Kasem(Transformes)
Mark Taylor (Melrose Place)
Danny Dark (Melvin and Howard)
Buster Jones (Transformers)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Stanley Ralph Ross (Babe)
Olan Soule (Batman 60s)

Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show! as announced in the opening main title by veteran voice artist Dick Tufeld was the second-to-last incarnation of the long-running Super Friends series. Based on the Super Powers Collection toy line of the time featuring select DC Comics heroes including hero Firestorm , Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984) is most revered as the Super Friends series that first introduced Firestorm the Nuclear Man in animated form, along with evil Apokolips lord Darkseid. Not to mention Adam West reprising his caped crusader role as the voice of this show’s animated Batman.

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Firestorm’s transformation scene looks cool . Plus the tone of the show is *slightly* more intense (for Super Friends) than the previous versions thanks to the presence of Darkseid. Comprised of 16 episodes totaling almost 8 half hours, this “Super Powers” collection also may seem limited, especially to SF fans who were hoping that the follow-up series The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians episodes would be included on the set. However, unlike the previous collections, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show – The Complete Series is properly titled and contains exactly what the title says.

Episodes:
1. The Bride of Darkseid (Part 1)
2. The Bride of Darkseid (Part 2)
3. The Wrath of Brainiac
4. Reflections in Crime
5. No Honor Among Super Thieves
6. Mr. Mxyzptlk and the Magic Lamp
7. Case of the Shrinking Super Friends
8. The Mask of Mystery
9. Darkseid’s Golden Trap (Part 1)
10. Darkseid’s Golden Trap (Part 2)
11. Island of the Dinosoids
12. Uncle Mxyzptlk (Super Brat)
13. The Case of the Dreadful Dolls
14. The Royal Ruse
15. The Village of Lost Souls

Hearing Adam Wests voice once more as batman was awesome and Darkseid seeking Wonder Woman as his bride was just brilliant. With these stories seeming to me a little more mature it was a nice change, though sadly being the second to last season you know the end is coming.

REVIEW: THE FLASH (1990)

CAST

John Wesley Shipp (Dawsons Creek)
Amanda Pays (The Knife)
Alex Desert (Swingers)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Paula Marshall (Veronica Mars)
Michael Nader (All My Children)
Tim Thomerson (Trancers)
Priscilla Pointer (Carrie)
Lycia Naff (Total Recall)
Richard Belzer (Law & Order)
M. Emmet Walsh (Blade Runner)
Vito D’Ambrosio (Arrow)
Biff Manard (Zone Troopers)
Mike Genovese (Point Break)
Sven-Ole throsen (Mallrats)
Joyce Hyser (This Is Spinal Tap)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Elizabeth Gracen (Highlander: The Series)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Jonathan Brandis (Seaquest)
Remy Ryan (Robocop 3)
Adam West (60s Batman)
Mark Dacascos (Crying Freeman)
Ian Abercrombie (Birds of Prey)
Gloria Reuben (Timecop)
Robert Shayne (Adventures of Superman)
Angela Bassett (Green Lantern)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Timothy Stack (My Name is Earl)
Yvette Nipar (Robocop: The Series)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop)
Robert O’Reilly (Star Trek: DS9)
Richard Burgi (Firefly)
Michael Champion (Toy Soldiers)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Francois Chau (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2)
David Cassidy (Instant Karma)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Claire Stansfield (Xena)
 The series is a mash-up of the Barry Allen and Wally West eras of the comics. The show’s producers, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, wisely chose to use the Barry Allen version of the character (played by John Wesley Shipp). This was probably due to the greater story possibilities that Allen’s job as a police forensic scientist could offer. It didn’t matter that Barry had been killed off in the comics five years prior to the show. The character of Dr. Tina McGee (played by the savoury Amanda Pays) comes from the Wally West comics. She is a scientist who helps Barry understand and cope with his new powers of super speed.  The solid performances of the core cast make this show work despite its cartoony conventions. Barry Allen is an easy character to like because we can appreciate and empathize with his underdog-makes-good nature. Barry has always been inferior to his Dad and his overachieving older brother Jay. When he gains his extraordinary powers we can’t help but think that it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.

Also noteworthy is the impish chemistry between Shipp and Pays. Their characters have an intimate, yet platonic relationship that is almost as charming as Pays’ accent. Alex Désert is underused as Barry’s friend and coworker, Julio Mendez. Désert’s easy-going, friendly presence provides a necessary counterpoint to Barry’s no-nonsense ‘get-the-job-done’ attitude. It’s too bad that he didn’t have more to do than set Barry up on blind dates and make wisecracks. The show was produced in the wake of the massive success of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film. The mood and tone of that movie is a huge influence on the first few episodes of The Flash, especially the Pilot episode, “The Origin of a Super Hero.” That episode begins with an establishing shot of Central City that is a blatant copy of the opening scene in Batman where we first see Gotham. We also see the same ‘evil steam’ shooting up from the sewers and citizens scurrying to get indoors, away from all the immoral activity that abounds on the mean streets of Gotham . . .er. . . Central City. Later on, the confrontation between Flash and the bad guy is also an obvious lift from Batman, complete with the “You made me!” line.As the series progresses, it stops trying to ape the manner and feel of Batman and takes on more of a 1940s film-noir motif – only a lot more colourful. The ‘Tim Burton Effect’ still lingers though. One such pastiche, which ironically is not in the Pilot episode, is the use of period props such as 1950s automobiles. Burton can get away with such an aesthetic because his films often take place in an ambiguous timeline where stylistically, anything goes. In The Flash, the out-of-time props are an unnecessary distraction. They’re especially irrelevant during the episode titled “Ghost in the Machine” where The Ghost, a villain from the 1950s, comes out of a deep freeze to again wreak havoc on Central City in 1990. It’s hard to buy into The Ghost’s future shock when people are still wearing trilbies and driving around in Ford Fairlanes.
The show didn’t have great villains but like most genre entertainment, thinking is the real enemy. The Trickster, played by Mark Hamill, is definitely the show’s greatest and most memorable antagonist, even if he is just a check-in-the-box inclusion of a Joker-like homicidal clown. Hamill is great, playing the character as an obsessed, erotomaniacal master-of-disguise while the script, unfortunately, wants him to be a poor man’s Joker. Ironically, he would later go on to recycle his Trickster performance as the voice of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. Even Captain Cold works reasonably well within the context of the series, reinvented here as an albino mercenary with an ice gun. Actor Michael Champion plays the role relatively straight and plausible, as if shooting people up with frost is an everyday occurrence. He even gets to deliver the line, ‘The Iceman Cometh,’ six years before Arnold Schwarzenegger would as Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin.

Michael Nader’s stone-faced overacting as outlaw motorcycle gang leader, Nicholas Pike is way too over-the-top to be taken seriously. Casting soap opera or sitcom actors as villains is always a bad idea. The difference between Hamill and Nader’s performances is that Hamill is trying to be humourous, Nader isn’t. David Cassidy and his widow’s peak are unfortunately a non-presence as Mirror Master in “Done with Mirrors.” He comes off as more of a Bizarro-Keith Partridge than a threatening adversary. One of the highlights of the series is “Fast Forward” where Flash is accidentally propelled 10 years into a bleak future where his powers are unstable. He’s got to find a way to get back to his own time and set things right. Every super hero / sci-fi show has to have its ‘evil parallel universe’ or ‘undesirable future’ story and The Flash is no exception. This episode reminds me of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon where Spidey would be sucked into some twisted alternate dimension that he would have to fight his way out of. The scene where Flash is “falling” into the psychedelic void is a direct homage to that show. It really is an entertaining story if you can plow through the painful first act of Nader’s scenery chewing and hamming it up.One episode that is way more endearing than it probably has any right to be is “Twin Streaks” where an obligatory mad scientist type tries to clone Flash and ends up creating a sort of Bizarro-Flash in a story that vaguely resembles Bride of Frankenstein. The laughs, intentional or not, are effortless. Bizarro-Flash or Pollux as he’s called, wears a blue Flash costume. It would have been a nice wink-nudge to the fans if they had given him a yellow suit as a reference to Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. Zoom was mentioned in another episode, after all. One of the show’s major clunkers is “Be My Baby” where Barry has to care for an infant that was left on his doorstep. It’s nothing but recycled humour from 3 Men and a Baby and countless sitcoms. This episode reads like an attempt to inject some feel-good, warm fuzzy moments into the show. I actually felt sorry for the then-unknown Bryan Cranston, who had the thankless job of playing the bad guy on this one. If the show’s producers truly wanted to feature more heartwarming stories they could have done an episode or episodes that focused on the heroic endeavors that Flash has performed for the medical community. There was one story from Mike Baron’s run on the comic where Wally West was charged with transporting a human heart across the US to a transplant patient. Story lines such as these could have been an untapped goldmine of drama and suspense as long as they didn’t get too sappy with it. It also would have been a welcome break from the hit-or-miss villain of the week.

Shirley Walker’s score music is tailor made to suit the flavour of each individual episode. “Beat the Clock”, a story about a jazz musician falsely accused of killing his wife, appropriately has a lonely sounding Chicago jazz score while “Watching the Detectives” features music that evokes old private-eye films of the 1940s to compliment that episode’s subject matter. The Flash’s opening theme song is composed by Danny Elfman and sounds like a recycled version of his Batman theme. The Flash is a keen show that had the potential to be much greater than it was. Its adherence to the original source material and the earnest portrayal of the characters by the core cast give the series its irresistible allure. This is essential viewing for comic book and sci-fi fans and it definitely deserves a spot on your DVD shelf.