REVIEW: BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER

 

CAST (VOICES)

Will Friedle (Boy Meets World)

Kevin Conroy (Batman:
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Angie Harmon (Agent Cody Banks)
Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Tara Strong (Comic Book: The Movie)
Matthew Valencia (Lawnmower Man 2)

Melissa Joan Hart (Melissa & Joey)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Henry Rollins (Wrong Turn 2)
Rachael Leigh Cook (Antitrust)
Ryan O’Donohue (The Iron Giant)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang theory)

It’s a shame that Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker did not have the opportunity to grace the silver screen. Though the film was originally conceived as a direct-to-video effort, Bruce Timm reported in San Diego during the summer of ’99 that Warner was flirting with the idea of a theatrical release. Was not to be, though, and as the Halloween 2000 release date of the video and DVD drew closer, the entertainment industry was under the watchful eye of the government, fending off accusations that it was delivering adult content to children. A nearly two month delay for the dark, violent Return of the Joker was announced shortly thereafter, and fans were aghast at the timing. Rumors began to circulate that Warner was unhappy with the content of the movie in this hostile political climate and sought to water it down considerably. Writer Paul Dini confirmed in an interview with Ain’t It Cool News that edits were in the wings, and though he was positive about the changes spearheaded by partner Bruce Timm, it did apparently lead to a rift in the seemingly insurmountable team.

 

To get an idea of how drastically certain portions were changed, World’s Finest has a assembled a detailed list of edits, though bear in mind that there are substantial spoilers. Sales of the edited disc were lackluster, due in large part to a lack of any real promotional effort by Warner Bros. Though the quality of the butchered product was still exceedingly high, it seemed as if the untainted version would never see the light of day. Slowly, positive news began to trickle from Tinseltown. Paul Dini, at the Wizard World Convention last summer, stated that he was certain that an unedited release would be forthcoming. This was confirmed by Warner two months later in a chat on the Home Theater Forum. Now, just over three years after Paul Dini first put pen to paper for his initial draft of the Return of the Joker screenplay, Warner has finally given the movie the release it deserved from the very beginning.


Batman Beyond, for those unfamiliar, takes place some fifty years after the previous animated series. Bruce Wayne had long since shelved the cape and cowl, and Gotham City went two full decades without a protector. Derek Powers, who picked up the reins at Waynecorp, was using Wayne’s company to traffic weapons, including some of the thoroughly nasty biological variety. The father of troubled teen Terry McGinnis stumbled upon this secret and paid for this knowledge with his life. Terry, after a chance encounter, deduced Wayne’s secret identity and lifted a Batman suit, setting out to punish those responsible for his father’s murder. Despite some early friction between Bruce and Terry, the mantle was passed, and Terry took over as Gotham’s champion.


The Clown Prince of Crime has been painted in the animated series as more of an entertaining nuisance than a psychotic murderer, a far cry from how the character has appeared in comics for the past couple of decades. Return of the Joker shows the title character for what he truly is: a genuinely deranged, insane soul. Bruce has made a conscious effort to avoid telling Terry about his greatest foe, though such facts cannot remain buried forever. A gang of thugs inspired by the Joker has been ripping off bleeding-edge tech, which isn’t exactly their style. While Terry tries to determine who it is they’re fencing for, Bruce regains control of his corporation after a prolonged battle, much to the chagrin of the worm who was next in line. At a celebration to commemorate his return, the gang strikes again. This time, they are led by an individual who looks and sounds exactly like the Joker, unmarred by the ravages of time. Terry is assured that the genuine article is dead, though Bruce and Commissioner Gordon are both reluctant to provide a detailed explanation. Whatever may have happened decades ago was obviously traumatizing for the elder Wayne, who is concerned enough to request that Terry step down as Batman. Though the Joker is six feet under the festering remains of Arkham Asylum, whoever’s stepping into the role is well-aware of the secret identity of both Batmans, seizing the opportunity to rid himself of the Caped Crusaders once and for all. Long-buried secrets are unearthed, and not everyone will walk away from the final battle unscathed.

I cannot heap enough praise upon Return of the Joker. The animation is theatrical quality, sharper and more fluid than any of the previous animated tales or the best of the television series. The roster of voice actors put in excellent performances, particularly Mark Hamill as the Joker and the always-reliable Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne and the original Batman. Return of the Joker also doesn’t pull any punches…literally. Though it’s not really any more violent than what can be found on the printed page, this is undoubtedly the most extreme representation of the Caped Crusader to date, live-action or animated. It’s kept in character, though. Bruce Wayne has said time and again in the animated series that Batman does not kill, but in the film’s central flashback, he lobs a knife at the Joker with fatal force. It may have missed, but it’s difficult to fully describe the sensation of seeing Batman pushed that far. The intensity of the flashback to the torture inflicted by the Joker rivals most any live-action film I can recall offhand.

This DVD-only release of the unedited Return of the Joker includes the supplemental material from the previous release, as well as its original commentary track and intended aspect ratio. Devoted fans of the Batman Beyond series ought to find a purchase to be a no-brainer, and even those who didn’t much care for the concept of the series may very well feel differently about Return of the Joker.

REVIEW: BATMAN BEYOND- SEASON 2

Main Cast

Will Friedle (Batman Ninja)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Cree Summer (Bambi II)
Frank Welker (Transformers)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Ian Buchanan (panic Room)
Ice-T (Tank Girl)
Stockard Channing (Grease)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Teri Garr (After Hours)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Ryan O’Donohue (Toy Story)
Lindsay Sloane (Sabrina: TTW)
Dan Lauria (The Spirit)
Stephen Collins (Star Trek: TMP)
Wendie Malick (American Housewife)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Ethan Embry (Empire Records)
Stacy Keach (THe Bourne Legacy)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Rider Strong (Cabin Fever)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Daphne Zuniga (Spaceballs)
Miguel Sandoval (Mediam)
Jon Cypher (Masters of The Universe)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Henry Rollins (Feast)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Victor Rivers (Hulk)
Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angels)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Shiri Appleby (Roswell)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Tim Curry (IT)
John Ritter (Bad Santa)
Rachael Leigh Cook (Antitrust)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Vernee Watson (The Kid)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Kathleen Freeman (Innerspace)
Andy Dick (Road Trip)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Gary Cole (Fam)
Kerrigan Mahan (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
Chris Demetral (Lois & Clark)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Mitch Pileggi (Stargate: Atlantis)
Bill Fagerbakke (How I MEt Your Mother)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Eli Marienthal (American Pie)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
George Lazenby (Gettysburg)
Sarah Douglas (Superman I & II)

MV5BMTQxNTk2MTgwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Batman Beyond—Season Two would be ambitious and further expand the adventures of Terry McGinnis, the new Dark Knight of the Gotham City’s future, but it would also be quite different from the first season in several ways. For one thing, the creators had killed off Terry arch nemesis Derek Powers (a.k.a. Blight) at the end of season and despite having a cliffhanger ending, the character never returned for season two, or season three for that matter.MV5BODgxNjYyMzM1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjg5OTQ1MjE@._V1_In fact, the fundamental change between the two seasons was that the network requested more episodes be written around Terry and the kids he interacted with in his high school, instead of focusing on a corporate espionage subplot like in the previous season. The producers did not argue with this as it was more or less the direction they were interested in going too. The network also wanted the show to introduce a stronger female character that could assist Terry in his mission as Batman.MV5BMTQzNzI1MzY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzEwMDU1MjE@._V1_That not led to the creation of new supporting character Maxine “Max” Gibson, a beautiful and intelligent girl at Terry’s high school who would discover his secret in her first episode and would become one of his allies for the rest of the series. She was always intended to be her own character and not a placeholder for Robin, Batgirl, Alfred or anyone from the classic Batman supporting cast. Most of Terry’s teenage peers like Dana Tan, Chelsea Cunningham, Blade Summer and Nelson Nash came back in this season and is some cases got slightly more prominent roles. But there was also at least one more friend of Terry’s introduced named Howard Groote, a nerdy comic relief who design was, amusingly, inspired by producer/writer Paul Dini.MV5BMTQ1MTU2MTkyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQ5OTQ1MjE@._V1_As for villains this season, many characters like the Jokerz gang, Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, Spellbinder, Willie Watt, Shriek and Curare return for further episodes. But there were also several new villains introduced, though unfortunately many of them were only one-time threats and did not become members of terry’s recurring rogues gallery. The three major recurring villains introduced this season were the Stalker, a cybernetically-enhanced big-game hunter who sees Batman as his ultimate prey, the insanely liberal bomber Mad Stan, and the terrorist snake cult known as Kobra). Memorable one-shot villains include gene splicer Dr. Able Cuvier, the A.I. ‘ghost’ of a former corporate mogul who takes control of the Batsuit, a rat boy named Patrick that kidnaps Dana, the father of one of Terry’s friends who becomes a supervillain named Armory, a burly woman named Mom Mayhem and her two sons, a snobby gossip reporter using invisibility technology, and a vigilante named Payback who takes his revenge against tormentors of troubled teenagers too far.MV5BMTc2NDEzNDU5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Overall, Batman Beyond—Season Two is twice and big as the first season, and just as strong.

REVIEW: ANTITRUST

CAST

Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions)
Rachael Leigh Cook (Texas Rangers)
Claire Forlani (Mallrats)
Tim Robbins (Mystic River)
Richard Roundtree (Shaft)
Yee Jee Tso (50/50)
Nate Dushku (Wolf Girl)
Ned Bellamy (Terminator: TSCC)
Tyler Labine (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Zahf Paroo (Andromeda)
Jonathan Young (Sanctuary)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Nathaniel DeVeaux (The Core)
Eric Breker (Godzilla)
Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
JR Bourne (Stargate SG.1)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)

Working with his three friends at their new software development company Skullbocks, Stanford graduate Milo Hoffman is contacted by CEO Gary Winston of NURV (Never Underestimate Radical Vision) for a very attractive programming position: a fat paycheck, an almost-unrestrained working environment, and extensive creative control over his work. Accepting Winston’s offer, Hoffman and his girlfriend, Alice Poulson, move to NURV headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Despite development of the flagship product (Synapse, a worldwide media distribution network) being well on schedule, Hoffman soon becomes suspicious of the excellent source code Winston personally provides to him, seemingly when needed most, while refusing to divulge the code’s origin.MV5BMTU3ODM0OTQzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTk4MTA3._V1_After his best friend, Teddy Chin, is murdered, Hoffman discovers that NURV is stealing the code they need from programmers around the world—including Chin—and then killing them to cover their tracks. Hoffman learns that not only does NURV employ an extensive surveillance system to observe and steal code, the company has infiltrated the Justice Department and most of the mainstream media. Even his girlfriend is a plant, an ex-con hired by the company to manipulate him. While searching through a secret NURV database containing surveillance dossiers on employees, he finds that the company has information of a very personal nature about a friend and co-worker, Lisa Calighan. When he reveals to her that the company has this information, she agrees to help him expose NURV’s crimes to the world. Coordinating with Brian Bissel, one of Hoffman’s friends from his old startup, they plan to use a local public-access television station to hijack Synapse and broadcast their charges against NURV to the world. However, Calighan turns out to be a double agent, foils Hoffman’s plan, and turns him over to Winston.

Hoffman had already confronted Poulson and convinced her to side with him against Winston and NURV. When it became clear that Hoffman had not succeeded, a backup plan is put into motion by Poulson, the fourth member of Skullbocks, and the incorruptible internal security firm hired by NURV. As Winston prepares to kill Hoffman, the second team successfully usurps one of NURV’s own work centers—”Building 21″—and transmits the incriminating evidence as well as the Synapse code. Calighan, Winston and his entourage are publicly arrested for their crimes. After parting ways with the redeemed Poulson, Hoffman rejoins Skullbocks.Antitrust is the best tech movie I have ever seen. The cast is perfect.  I recommend it to everyone I know in IT, and most anyone else too.

REVIEW: SHE’S ALL THAT

 

CAST

Freddie Prinze. Jr (Bones)
Rachael Leigh Cook (Antitrust)
Paul Walker (The Fast and The Furious)
Matthew Lillard (Scream)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (The Vampire Diaries)
Kevin Pollak (Mom)
Usher (The Faculty)
Lil Kim (Superhero Movie)
Anna Paquin (X-Men)
Kieran Culkin (Home Alone 2)
Elden Henson (Daredevil TV)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy)
Gabrielle Union (Flashforward)
Clea DuVall (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Alexis Arquette (Pulp Fiction)
Chris Owen (American Pie)
Milo Ventimiglia (Gotham)
Flex Alexander (The Hills Have Eyes 2)
Tamara Mello (Popular)
Debbie Lee Carrington (Total Recall)

MV5BZTUxOTQ1NTQtYzViMS00ODUzLWI2OTYtMzUwODNlZWE5ODA4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ4ODE4MzQ@._V1_

Taylor Vaughn (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) is supposed to be a lock for prom queen, but her newly-minted ex Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.) shrugs that off. Grab any girl on campus, give her the right look, and pair her with the right dude, and — flash forward a month and a half! — she’s the one getting a sparkly tiara placed atop her immaculately-coiffed head. Über-bro Dean Sampson (Paul Walker) sez that it’s a bet, and as part of the terms, he even gets to choose the girl. ‘Course, Dean’s not gonna make it easy.  The unwittingly lucky lady…? Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook)! A standoff-ish klutz.

She’s All That isn’t exactly going to blindside you with outta-left-field twists or anything. You know Laney isn’t gonna give Zack so much as the time of day. You know he’ll wind up wearing her down and that the two of ’em will get to be buddies. You know they’re gonna fall in doe-eyed love. You know that whole bet thing will come back to bite Zack on the ass. You know they’ll break-up-to-make-up, that there will be a big thing at the prom, that the bad kids will get what’s coming to ’em, and that it’ll all end happily ever after. You know beat-for-beat how things are gonna go, and that predictability is kinda part of the appeal.it’s a film you can sit down to and not have to think much.

NOTE: there is a blink and miss it cameo from Sarah Michelle Gellar