REVIEW: BATMAN NINJA

CAST

Roger Craig Smith (Batman Unlimited)
Tony Hale (American Ultra)
Grey DeLisle (Bolt)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Adam Croasdell (Reign)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Yuri Lowenthal (Batman: Gotham By Gaslight)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Eric Bauza (Ultimate Spider-Man)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad)

Batman Ninja (2018)Batman Ninja is an impressive anime spectacle that sends some of DC Comics most iconic characters back in time to feudal Japan. Far from the technical comforts of his Batcave, this take on the Caped Crusader sees Batman trying to find a way to defeat the Joker (Tony Hale), Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), and other rogues gallery members without the use of his gadgets after Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine goes haywire in Arkham Asylum.Batman Ninja (2018)The first thing about Batman Ninja that stands out is the quality of the animation. The movie is simply gorgeous. All the details from the sky and foliage that covers the landscape, to the facial features and costume designs of the heroes and villains are meticulously crafted. It’s no surprise that Takashi Okazaki, the creator of the Afro Samurai manga series, is the lead character designer.Batman Ninja (2018)That same animated splendor is carried over to the action sequences. Because of the Japanese anime style, Batman and the Joker move in ways never seen before. When Batman confronts the Joker in a wooded area, the two combatants fly through the trees like something out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There’s a kind of magic to the fight choreography that’s surreal. Sure, there’s no way Bruce Wayne could ever move like this in the “real world,” but in this animated reality, anything is possible. The fact that Batman Ninja leans into that concept elevates this movie beyond even the best recent DC animated films.magnificent-seven-2016-0a1ea441-c1a9-4f91-8d60-53692cc0db36One of the many aspects about Batman that makes him so compelling is his ability to solve complex problems in stressful situations. Afro Samurai writer Leo Chu’s engaging script provides Batman with the difficult task of trying to defeat Joker and the other Arkham inmates without the gizmos he’s come to rely on over the years. This take on the Dark Knight has to get back to basics and adapt to this brand new environment, and he rises to the occasion. Batman doesn’t dismiss the old ways of combat, but instead embraces them in the hopes that he’ll find a way to save Japan from these 21st century criminals. And let’s face it: it’s just cool to see Batman as a samurai.Batman Ninja (2018)As for the Joker, turns out he’s also pretty good with a sword. Oh, and did we forget to mention that he has a giant mechanized castle? Yeah, Batman is definitely in over his head on this one, but after decades of seeing these two battle each other in different mediums, it’s refreshing and exciting to see something we haven’t witnessed before. Tony Hale (Arrested Development) voices the character for the English language version of Batman Ninja, giving one of the best performances of the crazed clown since Mark Hamill back in the Batman: The Animated Series days. His chilling, maniacal laugh is frightening, giving him a level of menace that makes him a formidable foe.Batman Ninja (2018)The other Arkham inmates that traveled back in time include Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, Penguin, Two-Face, and of course, Gorilla Grodd. Along with the Joker, their goal is to gain enough power to rule over the feuding Japanese states and change history for their own benefit. While it’s cool to see all of them wearing their new Samurai-inspired costumes, this lineup of Batman rogues serves mostly as a backdrop to the main attraction. Batman Ninja is a Batman and Joker movie through and through, and Chu’s script rightly keeps the focus on them. Even Harley Quinn feels like an afterthought, though Strong’s voice over work is always top-notch.Batman Ninja (2018)As for the way everything comes together, the final act of the film is breathtaking, making me wish I could pause every frame to take in all of the detail. We won’t go into spoilers here, but let’s just say that my inner 9-year-old self was blown away by what was happening on screen as the final battle took place.
Batman Ninja takes everything great about the masked vigilante and twists it in a way we’ve never seen, creating a visual marvel unlike any other Batman animated movie before it. DC tried something new by bringing in visionary Japanese animators to offer a refreshing take on one of the company’s most beloved characters, and the finished product not only built upon the great adaptations that have come before, but surpassed them.

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REVIEW: GOTHAM – SEASON 3

 

MAIN CAST

Ben McKenzie (Batman: Year One)
Donal Logue (Ghost Rider)
David Mazouz (New Girl)
Morena Baccarin (Homeland)
Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers)
Robin Lord Taylor (Cold Comes The Night)
Erin Richards (The Quiet Ones)
Camren Bicondova (Girl House)
Cory Michael Smith (Wonderstruck)
Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield)
Chris Chalk (12 Years A Slave)
Drew Powell (Straw Dogs)
Maggie Geha (Ted 2)
Benedict Samuel (The Walk)
Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Leslie Hendrix (Arthur)
James Carpinello (Gangster Squad)
Jamie Chung (The Gifted)
John Doman (Blue Valentine)
Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL)
B.D. Wong (Jurassic World)
Chelsea Spack (Blue Bloods)
Raymond J. Barry (Training Day)
Richard Kind (Stargate)
Naian Gonzalez Norvind (The Devil You Know)
Anthony Carrigan (The Flash)
Ivana Milicevic (Vanilla Sky)
Cameron Monaghan (Amityville: The Awakening)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Nathan Darrow (Preacher)
Camila Perez (Star)
Tonya Pinkins (The Book of Henry)
Paul Reubens (Batman Returns)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Clare Foley (Sinister)

Maggie Geha in Gotham (2014)Gotham is the crime drama series based on DC Comics’ Batman universe. Having premiered on Fox in the autumn of 2014, the show initially focused on young versions of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Over time, though, the series introduced younger iterations of well-known villains in the Batman franchise, as well as lesser-known characters to provide a wider representation of the Dark Knight’s universe. Additionally, with Season Two, the episodes were grouped into “Rise of the Villains” (Episodes 1-11) and “Wraith of the Villains” (Episode 12-22), and that concept was continued in Season Three, with Episodes 1-14 grouped into “Mad Love” and Episodes 15-22, under the subtitle of “Heroes Rise.”Benedict Samuel in Gotham (2014)Concepts deriving from the overarching themes were weaved throughout the various storylines. Betrayal is often associated with love, and this theme was well represented throughout the season. Between lovers, siblings, work colleagues, and enemies, betrayal was a symptom of the deterioration of Gotham. Gordon tried to take the high road with his ex-fiancé Lee (Morena Baccarin) who moved on to a relationship with Dr. Mario Falcone (James Carpinello) and fell into an uneasy sexual relationship with Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung) that included a number of lies and betrayals due to their goals arising from their respective jobs – bounty hunter and reporter. But, the downfall between Gordon and Vale came when he is forced by Jervis Tetch (Benedict Samuel) to choose between Vale or Lee in “Follow the White Rabbit” (Episode 6). Although he chooses Vale, all parties easily infer that Gordon is still in love with Lee. Later in the season, Bruce commits a deadly betrayal against Alfred (Sean Pertwee) in “Destiny Calling” (Episode 21) after being kidnapped by the Court of Owls to spend time with The Shaman (Raymond J. Barry) and meeting Ra’s al Ghul (Alexander Siddig). Surprisingly, one ray of light occurred between Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). Desperate to know why she didn’t kill him, Penguin was surprised and humbled that Fish saw in him her greatest creation (“Burn the Witch” Episode 2).Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith in Gotham (2014)

As often that a character was turning on another individual, sometimes the betrayal came from within. Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) seemed to be one of the most conflicted characters through the season, trying to answer the question, “Who am I?” His identity, publicly as Penguin’s Chief of Staff, and privately as Penguin’s mastermind, resulted in a vacuum of questions after Nygma shot Penguin, believing he had killed his best friend who overshadowed and defined him. As a result, Nygma tested a number of the city’s intelligent people for assistance in determining his own identity separate from Penguin. The Tetch virus enhanced and brought out certain traits of characters and finding themselves at odds with themselves. Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) received a drop of blood from Alice Tetch (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) which heightened his commitment to the concept of justice, becoming judge, jury, and executioner as well as embodying the law (“New Day Rising” Episode 4). Marios jealousy was amplified, and Lee became a bad girl looking for the bad boy in Gordon, who was forced to self-infect the virus on himself in “Pretty Hate Machine” (Episode 20). As one of the heroes, Gordon was the only one who could control his magnified emotional state.

Amongst chaos, the heroes rise; however, the idea of heroes is a double-edged sword, so the viewer’s traditional definition of hero will be challenged in Season Three. Executive Producer John Stephens said, “Everyone goes through a major character metamorphosis throughout the course of the yea,r” in an interview with Comicbook.com. What is the most dramatic event that a character could go through? Well, it seemed that death (or near-death) and rebirth was a common event for most of the characters. For instance, Ivy Pepper (Maggie Geha) was touched by one of Dr. Strange’s (B. E. Wong) monsters and not only did she age about 10 or so years, but it was the belief of Selina (Camren Bicondova) that Ivy had died. Fish Mooney, Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow), who became Mr. Freeze, and Bridgit Pike (Camila Perez), who became Firefly, actually died and were reborn. It should be noted that while some characters died, they did not embody their familiar mantle: Ivy isn’t known as Poison Ivy, Selena hasn’t become Catwoman, and Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) may have the iconic creepy wide smile, but nary a whisper of “Joker” has been heard – yet.David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova in Gotham (2014)The parallels amongst pairs of characters did deliver intriguing comparisons. For example, viewers witness the very public destruction of Penguin, each layer of his personae being taken away from him. The betrayal is deliberate, a conscious effort on the part of Nygma, Barbara Keen (Erin Richards), Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas), and Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell). Eventually, even Penguin’s life is taken from him; however, there is also a private betrayal occurring in Lee. She has internalized her loss and although she argues for justice and grabs for the preverbal straws, she finally realizes that she is the root cause of her own betrayal. She hits rock bottom and as a result, injects herself with the Tetch virus, embracing her ruin.Robin Lord Taylor in Gotham (2014)Due to the large ensemble cast of regular cast members, plus the recurring and special guests through the 22 episodes, one of the inherent issues is affording enough screen time to each character so that their origin story is fully explored, resulting in a well-developed character. While Gordon and Wayne/514A (David Mazouz, in a dual role) are central characters and will typically appear in each episode, some of the other regular characters, such as Selina Kyle, Lucius Fox (Chris Chalk), or Butch, seem to disappear from the storyline. For example, in the closing minutes of “How the Riddler Got His Name” (Episode 15), Edward Nygma/The Riddler reveals to Lucius that he is struggling with defining his identity separate and outside of the shadow of Penguin. After announcing to Lucius that he is the Riddler, Nygma knocks Lucius out in his car. Viewers next see Lucius in “Light the Wick” (Episode 18). Fish Mooney is another character that is missing for most of the season after appearing in the season’s opening episode, “Better to Reign in Hell…” Their disappearances do cause some gaps, such as where was Lucius for two episodes, 16 and 17 – one would assume that someone from the GCPD would notice Lucius sleeping off Nygma’s attack in the front seat of his car, parked across the street from the precinct.Drew Powell, Jessica Lucas, and Cory Michael Smith in Gotham (2014)The third season of Gotham provides intriguing complexities to the overarching denigration of the city into chaos and the telling of individual character origin stories. While the origin stories are fascinating, the fact that there is foreknowledge that most of the characters cannot die because they will one day face Bruce Wayne as Batman does cause a wrinkle with the audience’s engagement with the storylines. To compensate, spending more time on character development would alleviate some of the indifference inherent to the nature of prequel narratives. That said, Gotham is a binge-worthy show. The city is visually stunning, and the Steampunk feel captivating. Audiences unfamiliar with the origin stories will likely enjoy the show just as much or more so than those that come to the show with familiarity from reading the comics.

 

REVIEW: LEGO DC COMICS SUPER HEROES: THE FLASH

CAST (VOICES)

Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Troy Baker (Batman: Assault on Arkham)
Eric Bauza (Nerdland)
Grey DeLisle (Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen)
Tom Kenny (The Powerpuff Girls)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Vanessa Marshall (Batman: Bad Blood)
Kate Micucci (The Big Bang Theory)
Nolan North (teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
Khary Payton (Teen Titans)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Jason Spisak (Jla Adventures)
James Arnold Taylor (Justice League: The New Frontier)
Audrey Wasilewski (Terminal Error)

Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash (2018)The morning sun shines on the jewel of the Metropolis skyline, The Daily Planet building. But when The Joker decides this building needs a renovation, it’s time to sound the Trouble Alert because all bricks are about to break loose! The Justice League leaps into action but as the battle is brewing against The Joker something goes haywire with The Flash’s powers causing him to get caught in a repeating time loop and even stranger is the yellow clad Reverse Flash taunting him at every turn! It will take all of Flash’s speed, a little magic and the helping hands and paws of the Justice League’s new recruits The Atom, Krypto the Super Dog and Ace the Bat Hound to break the cycle and save Metropolis!legodcsuperheroestheflash600_size3Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash (2018) is a film that not alot of viewers will relate and it makes sense i guess but as a long life DC Fan and Lego Fan this film was a blast for me. With lot’s of cameos from heroes and villains of the DC universe like Joker, Killer Croc, Penguin, Cheetah, Trickster, Krypto, Bat Hound and even Aquaman. The jokes are clever and super funny and the plot as a whole although we have seen it all before it was interesting and smart too. Casual viewers won’t love this movie but fans of Lego and DC and those who know what to expect will have a hell of a blast. LEGO-Flash-3

REVIEW: BATMAN VS. TWO-FACE

CAST (VOICES)

Adam West (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (Futurama)
William Shatner (Star Trek: TOS)
Julie Newmar (Return To The Batcave)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Jim Ward (Ultimate Avengers)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Lynne Marie Stewart (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure)
Jeff Bergman (The Cleveland Show)
Wally Wingert (The Ant Bully)
William Salyers (Pandora’s Clock)
Sirena Irwin (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Lee Meriwether (The Munsters Today)

Batman and Robin are invited to a top-secret demonstration hosted by Professor Hugo Strange and his assistant Dr. Harleen Quinzel, that may eventually change the future of Gotham forever. Along the way, Batman takes a stop at Gotham State Penitentiary to visit Catwoman (whose suicide attempt from the first movie somehow failed) to give her a book on poetry by Elizabeth Barret Browning; something to keep her occupied for the next 36 months of her life until she is let out of prison for good. At the laboratory, they meet district attorney and Bruce Wayne’s ally in the war against crime, Harvey Dent, who is famous for having stopped a coin counterfeit, keeping a two faced quarter as a souvenir from the case.Batman-vs-Two-Face-previewHugo Strange believes that good and evil are all but one-sided and has created an “Evil Extractor” to which the volunteering criminals, Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Egghead and Mr. Freeze, will be purified of their corruption. Batman bluffs it off, saying that there are no easy fixes to the straight and narrow path, but Strange conducts his experiment anyway, despite the fact that it will make the jobs of Batman, Robin and Harvey obsolete. All goes well until the Joker entices his compadres to overload the machine. Noticing this, Professor Strange orders Dr. Quinzel to shut it down…but is too late, and Harvey (as opposed to acid from the comic book mythos) is horribly scarred by the explosion of the containment vat, with Batman being successful in saving the right side of his face.2Harvey, now re-christened Two Face, goes on a crime spree as seen in the opening credits, all of which his attempts are foiled by the Dynamic Duo. He is eventually whisked to a hospital where his face has been given reconstructive surgery. His sanity has apparently been restored as well. Now returning to his old job (as the assistant to the assistant district attorney), Harvey spends the next six months in charge of his own fate, but at the same time, King Tut and his henchmen have been robbing an biplane while at Wayne Manor, Aunt Harriet is getting ready for a soiree in Bruce and Dick’s place while they investigate the crime as Batman and Robin. After implying comparisons between King Tut and Two Face, Batman and Robin return to the Batcave where they realize that a double decker bus company are planning to hold the millionaires, including Alfred and Aunt Harriet, hostage. They arrive on the bus via Batmobile and fight Tut and the Tutlings while Alfred escorts the patrons to safety. Unfortunately, the Dynamic Duo are subdued by a pair of twin snakes with knockout venom.4In an urn trap as seen in King Tut’s debut episode, Batman and Robin are to be entombed in the foundations of the Pyramid Towers that are soon to be erected above the digging spot where they are trapped. Cement pours over them and when it appears as though they are doomed, they press the back of their soles against the sides of the jars, triggering the Batjets. They fly to confront King Tut in one final battle and a brick restores his memory. As they take him away, a pair of twins seize the jewels that were stolen by the Tutlings. Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara interrogate King Tut as Harvey waits in the shadows, with O’Hara constantly hitting Tut on the head with his baton. Lucille Diamond, the king’s defendant, intervenes and ushers them out of the room so that she can speak to him. At Tut’s trial, she implicates that the concussion is nothing more than a threat to a mild-mannered man. Chief O’Hara tearfully confesses to hitting Tut and Harvey calls Batman as his next witness, but Professor Mackel Roy himself admits his guilt, ready to suffer the minimum penalty of being rehabilitated in prison. After the sentencing, Harvey shares a highball with Bruce Wayne, much to Dick’s annoyance at bearing the hardships of a third wheel.3Harvey is then due to a attend a charity for underprivileged twins at the Winning Pair casino just as Bruce and Dick resume their identities as Batman and Robin once more. A package has arrived at Commissioner Gordon’s office, a World Atlas book marked for Batman…with its pages eaten away in three holes. Robin surmises the culprit to be Bookworm and the duo race off in the Batmobile to find him at the Gotham City Library where a fight ensues and the three priceless books that Bookworm had his eyes on have disappeared. Batman and Robin deduce that the stolen books were all about duality, but Two Face has already been reformed and try to find another way behind it. Regardless, they head to an abandoned sign factory with Two Face and the twins waiting for them. After defeating the twins, Two Face pins them with a large number two and the flip of his coin landing on the right side spares their lives. Once they have left, Batman believes that Harvey has made a lot of enemies in his career and they are all out to destroy it. Harvey, meanwhile is having some problems of his own after he makes a phone call to… Two Face, who kidnaps Professor Strange as part of their scheme.004a2326Robin is punished to his room by Batman after nearly getting into a row about Harvey’s involvement in Two Face’s plans and Catwoman, who by now has been stood up, escapes the pen by switching places with Lucilee Diamond. Following Harvey to the laboratory, Robin is ambushed by Two Face and Professor Strange corrupts him with the same gas of the extractor that mutates the left side of his body. Batman is forced to fight his beloved sidekick and cures him back at the Batcave, following Two Face to the casino where he is in fact revealed to be Dent, having suppressed his bad side (á la Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). Once the Dynamic Duo are strapped to a large silver dollar, he unmasks Batman and deduces Robin’s true identity, then Two Face invites the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Egghead, Shame, Clock King and Catwoman to an auction for the highest bidder of Batman’s true identity. With Catwoman’s help, Batman and Robin defeat the villains, but Two Face gets away on the biplane stolen by King Tut, intending to use the evil gas to remake Gotham City in his image. The Dynamic Duo manage to shoot him down towards a flaming factory where Batman goes one on one with Two Face having completely taking over Harvey’s body. In a battle of wits, Batman urges Harvey to regain self control and he does, defeating Two Face for good as they escape the factory.batman-vs-two-face-trailerThe next morning, Batman and Robin use the Batwing to cure the infected Gothamites and return that night to Wayne Manor where Harvey holds an auction for a bachelor party. Batman appears before everyone, and to his delight, ends up having the first person to bid for him being none other than Catwoman. In the post credits there is a memoriam for Adam West, who portrayed Batman. It also stated “Rest Well, Bright Knight”.1In the hearts of some, maybe even all, Batman fans, Adam West will always hold a cherished place. Batman Vs. Two-Face doesn’t satirize like its predecessor, but fully embraces the original series’ campiness, with one concession: the inclusion of a villain considered too dark and gritty for the series at the time. According to legend, Clint Eastwood was all set to take on the role of Two-Face before studio execs thought he’d scare off young viewers and put the kibosh on it. Always leave ’em wanting more. It’s sad for me to think of what might have been. If only someone had the brilliant idea of bringing Adam West and Burt Ward in to revisit the classic series in animated form earlier, we may have been able to witness the two squaring off against Poison Ivy or Scarecrow or Harley Quinn. But, as it is, this is as good of a send off as our Bright Knight could ever have asked for.

REVIEW: BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS

CAST (VOICES)

Adam West (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (Return To The Batcave)
Julie Newmar (Star Trek)
Jeff Bergman (Gremlins 2)
Wally Wingert (American Dad)
William Salyers (Judging Amy)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Jim Ward (Ben 10)
Thomas Lennon (balls of Fury)

The official plot synopsis reads as follows, “It’s back to the 1960s as Batman and Robin spring into action when Gotham City is threatened by a quartet of Batman’s most fiendish foes – Penguin, The Joker, Riddler and Catwoman. This time, the four super-villains have combined their wicked talents to hatch a plot so nefarious that the Dynamic Duo will need to go to outer space (and back) to foil their arch enemies and restore order in Gotham City.

What a dose of Nostalgia. The opening credits incorporated many classic comic book covers with some fantastic animation. I could not stop watching. Fascinating, funny, festive, friendly, and very alliterative, the actors, writers, and animators knocked this out of the park.

I was thoroughly amused throughout. None of the dozens of punchlines are particularly surprising, but they are all fun, and many of them require the set-up, animation, and acting to be meaningful.

The movie does get a bit dark. In one particular scene, Robin is horrified by a punch that doesn’t follow Marquess of Queensberry rules. Robin’s reaction to that punch and subsequent actions keep the movie grounded and friendly. I have to give special acclaim for Burt Ward, here — his exuberance and delivery hasn’t changed an iota.

Does the movie get some things wrong? Like the Joker’s hidden mustache? Yes and perhaps. There are dozens of things that are not quite like the 60’s show, and hundreds of things that are spot-on perfect. I don’t recall hearing the Riddler’s music cue, but the Batman theme is incorporated well in many places. The producers have already mention that some of the “mistakes” are intentional, such as the colors of Robin’s logo being flipped in a throwaway shot, an homage to mistakes in previous animations. I will be watching this many times.

The sequel has already been announced, with William Shatner as Two- Face.This is the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen in years. Highly recommended.

REVIEW: RETURN TO THE BATCAVE

CAST

Adam west (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (The New Adventures of Batman)
Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Julie Newmar (My Living Doll)
Jack Brewer (Clueless TV)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Lyle Waggoner (Wonder Woman)
Lee Meriwether (The Munsters Today)
Betty White (Th Golden Girls)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Curtis Armstrong (New Girl)
Brett Rickaby (The Crazies)
Julia Rose (Something’s Gotta Give)
Erin Carufel (Untraceable)

TV reunions can be pretty painful to watch. It usually just seems like a bunch of overly familiar clips, fluffy talking head retrospectives, and maybe some misguided attempts at material that really should’ve been put to rest a decade or three earlier. If you happened to catch Return to the Batcave when it debuted a couple years back, you already know that this 90 minute special isn’t anything like that.
As you could hopefully guess from the title, Return to the Batcave takes a look back at the Batman television series that aired on ABC in ’60s.  The framing story is set in the present, as original stars Adam West and Burt Ward are delivered phony invitations for a charity auto show. Some cackling criminal offscreen swipes the Batmobile from under them, and to ensure that those orphans don’t suffer any more than they already have, he types with a sniffle, Adam and Burt set off to reclaim the Batmobile and Oof! Wham! Pow! whoever’s responsible. (It’s really not much of a mystery, but play along anyway.) Along the way, they stumble onto clues suggesting that the theft has something to do with their past, and as they reminisce about the show, it’s time to cue the flashbacks.
 The sequences set in the here-‘n-now are played with the same sort of campy, goofy sense of humor as the original series, down to the garish set design and Dutch camera angles. The flashbacks are treated a little more seriously, with Jack Brewster and Jason Marsden stepping into the roles of Adam and Burt. The camp may be dialed down, but these flashbacks aren’t dry, monotone re-enactments. They’re teeming with some of the lurid details from any one of the stars’ tell-all books, everything from Burt Ward’s divorce, Adam West’s relentless womanizing, Ward’s excessive man-basket unsettling the religious right, Fredric Wertham’s accusations of homosexuality between the Dynamic Duo, struggles with the censors, Ward almost getting skewered after a disastrous one-night stand, and internal bickering.  Since it’s not just E!’s True Hollywood Story with a bigger budget, everything from the original casting (including some actual footage of Lyle Waggoner testing as Batman) to the series’ numerous guest stars (including Cesar Romero demanding makeup be smothered over his moustache and a food fight with Vincent Price on the set, to rattle off a couple) to Burt Ward getting bruised, battered, and par-broiled during botched stunts (I don’t have a parenthetical reference for this one) is covered.
 This isn’t a shameless, half-thought-out ratings grab — Return to the Batcave manages to capture the spirit of the original Batman series. A lot of the gags in the framing story got a laugh, particularly quips about the structure of these sorts of reunion specials and more subtle ones like Adam West suggesting they drive his car because it’s already been established. I don’t know how many liberties the movie took with reality for the flashback sequences, but they’re certainly interesting enough, spouting off a bunch of stories I hadn’t heard before. If you’re a fan of the original television series, then…well, you probably already saw this when it originally aired…but if not, I guess you have a chance to now. There isn’t much on this DVD aside from the movie itself, but at least it’s cheap.
Return to the Batcave captures a lot of what made the original TV series such a blast to watch, and if you like the show, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll feel the same way about this reunion movie

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966)

CAST

Adam West (Return To The Batcave)
Burt Ward (The New Adventures of Batman)
Lee Meriwether (The Munters Today)
Cesar Romer (The Little Princess)
Burgess Meredith (Rocky)
Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Alan Napier (Marnie)
Neil Hamilton (Tarzan The Ape Man)
Stafford Repp (Plunder Road)
Madge Blake (The Long, Long Trailer)
Reginald Denny (Of Human Bondage)

Batman is a faithful movie adaptation of the hugely successful live-action TV series, which for most of 1966 had been a genuine pop culture phenomenon comparable to the James Bond craze and Beatlemania, and almost unique for a TV show before or since. The Batman movie, filmed in the late Spring of ’66 and released that August, between the end of the first season and premiere of the second.
The story is relatively simple, far too simple to justify its 105-minute running time: Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny) is kidnapped – along with his fantastic new invention, a “Total Dehydrator” – by the United Underworld, an uneasy alliance of Gotham City’s most notorious villains: The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, replacing an unavailable Julie Newmar from the TV series).
As Bruce Wayne/Batman (Adam West) and his ward Dick Grayson/Robin (Bruce Ward) inch toward finding the villains’ lair and uncovering their dastardly plot, Bruce and his alter-ego fall for a Russian journalist from the Moscow Bugle (love that name!), Miss Kitka, actually Catwoman in disguise. Meanwhile, the villains come up with a plan to lure Batman into a trap, using a kidnapped millionaire as bait – Bruce Wayne! Oh bitter irony.
Like the TV show, the movie reaches two very different audiences at once: kids were attracted to the comic book elements while adults appreciated its deliberately campy humor. Many people were responsible for Batman’s success, but the biggest share must go to star Adam West, without whom the show probably wouldn’t have worked. Other actors could have played Robin, and some of the villains were played by different actors over the show’s three seasons. But West was the perfect match for this Batman: there is an earnestness in his consistently hilarious performance that only Neil Hamilton’s Commissioner Gordon comes close to matching. (Hamilton was an excellent “straight man” on this series and a fine actor late in life; by 1966, he had been making films for nearly half a century. See his appearance in the The Outer Limits episode “The Invisibles” as an example of his diversity.)
Handicapped by a cowl that severely restricted his facial expressions, West relied on a funny clipped speech, constantly adjusting its speed. Like Fred Astaire’s dancing, West makes something extremely complex seem easy and natural, but that precise type of delivery had to have required hours upon hours of thought and preparation: it’s a masterwork of comic timing.
In the movie, one also has a new appreciation for his talent as a physical comedian. The scene everyone remembers succeeds largely due to West’s funny, frantic movements: Batman darts around a pier with a lit bomb the size of a basketball, vainly trying to dispose of the thing before it explodes. In every direction is an obstacle, however: a group of nuns, lovers in a rowboat, a Salvation Army brass band, a family of ducks. Again, though hindered by a head-to-toe costume that would seem to limit most expression, West somehow conveys Batman’s sense of urgency, panic, and controlled frustration. For that gem of a scene alone, Batman is worth watching. (Interestingly, West doesn’t simply play Bruce Wayne as Batman unmasked, but in a much less stylized manner. I wonder if this was deliberate, or if wearing the costume somehow inspired him.). The rest of the film is hit-and-miss. Some ideas are quite funny: when the Batcopter is struck by one of The Riddler’s Polaris missiles, sending it crashing to earth, Batman and Robin are saved by an enormous pile of foam rubber – an outdoor display at the Foam Rubber Wholesalers Convention. (“I’d say the odds against it would make even the most reckless gambler cringe,” Batman says.) However, the picture makes the mistake of shooting its wad in the first half-hour. During that time everything there is to see is shown: the Bat Cave, the Batmobile, the four villains and their submarine, as well as several new gadgets, the aforementioned Batcopter and Batboat. After that the film becomes rather serial-like in its extreme repetitiveness. Almost every scene drags on way too long; had it been fine-tuned to 70-75 minutes instead of 105, it might have become a classic ’60s comedy instead of the kind of footnote it’s become.
The film will always be a classic and will always be fondly remembered