REVIEW: THE ZETA PROJECT

MAIN CAST
Diedrich Bader (Batman: TBATB)
Julie Nathanson (Sofia The First)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST~
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Ethan Embry (Eagle Eye)
Tara Strong (Batman: TAS)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Eli Marienthal (American Pie)
Stacy Keach (The Bourne Legacy)
Conchata Ferrell (Two and a Half Men)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Tom Kenney (Super Hero Squad)
Chad Lowe (Floating)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Dave Coulier (Full House)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Kate Jackson (Charlie’s Angel)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Robert Costanzo (Batman: TAS)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Steven Weber (13 Reasons Why)
Joey Lawrence (Melissa & Joey)
Chris Demetral (Lois & Clark)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Mae Whitman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012)
Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap)
Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory)
zeta-b
In this Batman Beyond spinoff, Zeta, an assassination & infiltrator robot, rebels against its programming. The authorities think it has been reprogrammed by their enemies, and tries to bring Zeta in for reprogramming. Zeta goes on the run, trying to find his creators and assisted by an orphan girl, Ro.
zetaproject1
As a spin off for a character introduced in Batman Beyond, this cartoon series went beyond the scope of adventure. Zeta was an experimental infiltration robot equipped with weaponry and a holographic self-projector that allows it to assume any identity. However, negating his own programming, he refused to kill. He fled his employers merely attempting to find his creator to prove that he is acting on his own free will. The government doesn’t know that, and hunt him down as they think he is rogue. Along the way Zeta hooks up with Ro, a teenage girl, and they assist each other in their treks.
165770_fullDiedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) lends his voice to the peaceful, naive and near-human robot, sounding the least bit threatening and true to Zeta’s nature. The friendship between the child-like Zeta and Ro is genuinely portrayed. The supporting characters who chase him are great, including the government agents, and a young genius whom at one point reprogrammed Zeta. The Zeta Project is indeed a combination of Short Circuit and The Fugitive, balanced out by fantastic action, excellent characterization, and plenty of comedic moments.  In one episode, Batman Beyond even makes a cool guest appearance. Sadly, KidsWB canceled this exceptional show after 2 seasons, leaving Ro and Zeta’s quest hanging.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
George Newbern (Law & Order: SVU)
Susan Eisenberg (Lego aquaman)
Phil LaMarr (Futurama)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Maria Canals (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)

JL_line-up

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

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

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

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 4

Starring

Kevin Conroy (Justice League Doom)
Mathew Valencia (Lawnmower Man 2)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Bob Hastings (McHale’s Navy)
Robert Costanzo (Total Recall)

MV5BMTczNTg5Mjk0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTU3OTQ1MjE@._V1_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Marilu Henner (Taxi)
Liane Schirmer (Dark Wolf Gang)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Corey Burton (Transformers: The Movie)
Peter Jason (Mortal Kombat)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners)
Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Billy Barty (Masters of The Universe)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
George Dzundza (Basic Instinct)
Mel Winkler (Coach Carter)
Paul Williams (Battle for TPOTA)
Allan Rich (Serpico)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Barry Bostwick (Spy Hard)
Sela Ward (Gone Girl)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Dennis Haysbert (Heat)
Billy Zane (Titanic)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Henry Silva (Aove The Law)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Thomas F. Wilson (Legends of Tomorrow)
Brooks Gardner (Raw Deal)
Buster Jones (Transformers)
Laraine Newman (Coneheads)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
Jim Piddock (Mascots)
Ian Buchanan (Stargate SG.1)
Pamela Hayden (The Simpsons)
Neil Ross (Transformers: Ther Movie)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Michael Ironside (Highlander 2)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Tim Matheson (Animal House)
Malachi Throne (Star Trek)
John Glover (Smallville)
Steven Weber (2 Broke Girls)
Billy West (Futurama)

MV5BMjI0NTU5NTg0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDQ4OTQ1MjE@._V1_

The  this fourth boxed set Batman: The Animated Series is finally available on DVD in its entirety. For anyone that grew up loving this ’90s legend, that’s a very good thing indeed. Technically the show “ended” with the third volume, but when the producers moved on to Superman: The Animated Series, they were asked to bring back a Batman cartoon, and they did – making a few changes in the process.MV5BMzIwOTM3ZDYtMWVhMi00NDhlLWI1ZmItM2JlODc1NTgyYmE4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1342,1000_AL_Any fan can tell you that the new series, dubbed Gotham Knights and airing as the part of the double-feature The New Batman/Superman Adventures, wasn’t as good as what had come before. Even so, if you’re a fan then it’s certainly worth checking out as it serves as a nice precursor to what we’d get with the Justice League series. Plus, there are some great episodes here that any Bat-fan shouldn’t miss. An animated segment from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns? Yes, please! While the show is essentially the same as the previous version, there are some differences. For one, the episodes here take place two years after the events in the original show. The Bat family has been expanded to include Batgirl and Nightwing, and the first thing you will notice is the abundance of new character designs.MV5BZTA4ZjYzNzAtM2FkYS00Y2E2LTgxYTYtNjA3ODkwOWMzM2QwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_When coming up with a fresh take on the aging series, producer Bruce Timm decided that sprucing up the characters would give the show more punch. For the most part, he was right. Some of the characters got slight touch-ups while others were totally redesigned. For example, the new Joker looks more menacing, but the lack of red lips to surround his wicked grin takes away from the impact of the character. On the other hand you’ve got the new Scarecrow, with demented eyes staring out at Batman through a terrifying burlap mask, which is far creepier than the old design.MV5BZjg2OGFkMmUtYmQwNC00ZjIyLWFkMGEtNjJkNzA3YWY2YjY4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1340,1000_AL_Batman himself suffered some changes too; the costume loses the yellow around the Bat-insignia and the chin is longer, giving Bats’ head a more rectangular shape. Overall, the changes are welcome and they add more than they take away. While the cosmetic upgrades are easy to spot, they are not the most important change; after a few episodes you’ll see exactly what it is. The show just isn’t as good as it used to be. That isn’t to say that it’s bad – it’s still one of the better animated series out there, but the atmosphere and maturity of the earlier episodes is missing. The greater reliance on secondary characters (Robin, Batgirl) and gadgets (glider jetpack) injects the show with a more playful tone than it had in the past. You’ve got less character, but more characters. At first I saw this as a shortcoming, but I quickly came to see it as something different – an opportunity.MV5BYTI0Nzg2MmQtNTBiNC00NzBjLWE5NDItZTFmODRjYzZiN2EzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_You’ve already got three boxes worth of classic, wonderfully moody Batman material. If the showrunners want to take the show to hipper, more action-oriented place, I say let them. After all, as far as experimentation goes, there’s some great stuff here. There are a number of gimmicky episodes, but don’t count that out as a bad thing. There’s still a lot of fun to be had. Meanwhile, other DC Universe characters are brought in, making the show feel more connected to what would follow (Superman, Justice League). The Demon Within brings in the mystic characters of Etrigan/Jason Blood and Klarion the Witch Boy (talk about timely). Girl’s Nite Out sees Batgirl and guest Supergirl team up to take down Live Wire (from the Superman show), Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.MV5BMTUwMzU0OTUzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE4OTQ1MjE@._V1_But, hand’s down, the standout episode of the box, and one of the coolest of the series, is Legends of the Dark Knight. A group of kids get together and swap stories of what they think Batman is “really” like. One kid tells the story of a campy, golden age interpretation of Batman… and we get to see it animated! It’s a classic story where Batman and Robin battle the Joker in a giant musical instrument museum (?!). The voices and music are hilarious and lovingly done in the ’50s Dick Sprang style; there is no sarcasm here. Seeing the Joker tie our heroes to giant piano strings and then jump on piano keys (in an attempt to squash them) is very amusing for its innocence and simplicity. Next, we have the second kid’s story: she thinks Batman is an old, stoic avenger. In other words, the interpretation that Frank Miller used to catapult Batman into the serious mainstream. We are then treated to a great segment from Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns book as it is brought to life.MV5BMjU3OWFhMWYtYzdlZS00NzRmLWFkMWMtZWZmMjYxMTk3YTg1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_Watching Batman take down the mutant leader in a mud-pit, set against grungy ’80s music, is a real treat. What you get with these two segments over the comics is the great voice acting and an additional storytelling layer by way of background music. The voices and music add a wonderful texture to these classic tales and the idea of juxtaposing bright and goofy with dark and serious makes for a very satisfying episode. While these action-focused and gimmicky episodes are not the show at its best, they are a great diversion and a fun reinterpretation of an aging show. It’s not as good as it used to be, but it’s still Batman: The Animated Series. And that makes it worth your time.

 

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1

Starring

Tim Daly (Madam Secretary)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
David Kaufman (Stargate SG.1)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)

MV5BMjExMzc3NDE1Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDMzNzU2MjE@._V1_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tony Jay (Beauty and The Best)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Christopher McDonald (Stargate Universe)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang Theory)
Finola Hughes (Staying Alive)
Corey Burton (Transformers: The Movie)
Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
George Dzundza (The Deer Hunter)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Jason Marsden (Young Justice)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
Brad Garrett (Christopher Robin)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
John Rubinstein (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Thomas F. Wilson (Legends of Tomorrow)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Neil Ross (An American Tail)
Townsend Coleman (Teenage Mutnat Ninja Turtles)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Joely Fisher (The Mask)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Brian Cox (Rise of TPOTA)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Ron Glass (Serenity)
Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Carl Lumbly (Alias)
Marion Ross (Happy Days)
Charlie Schlatter (18 Again)
Cam Clarke (Akira)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)

MV5BNDk2NGU3NzMtMzc2NS00ZTg4LTgzMjctNjFlNGE3MjVlN2I5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_
Superman is not Batman. Luckily this show understands that. He doesn’t hide in the shadows or do most of his work at night or spend a lot of time “planning.” Instead of deflecting a laser beam, he’ll just punch it into submission. Think, for a second, of what it takes to punch a laser beam into submission. He’s not, and never has been, a complicated hero. Any fan can tell you this: just because Superman lives in a bright world and just because he is a “pure” character, it does not make him any less cool. I feel the need to get that out of the way right off. It just seems that too many people aren’t as fond of ol’ Big Blue as they are of Batman. The number one complaint is that Superman is just too perfect; there isn’t anything interesting that can be done with him.MV5BYjNmYjc0MGQtNWVlYS00MWEzLWE1NjQtMjcyYjc3OTBmOGQ0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTM5MTQyNDg@._V1_In many ways, that is very true. Yes, it is difficult coming up with interesting ways to test a guy who can whack ballistic missiles into orbit, but that is not an inherent character weakness. Rather, it is a challenge of taking on the character. Under the right creator, or creators as the case may be, Superman is more than ready to soar… and then punch some laser beams. And what better creative team can you get than Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, and Bruce Timm? The same superstar team that made Batman: The Animated Series one of the best and most defining shows in the history of American cartoon television. With such a fantastic group, and such a well-known character, expectations are bound to be high, and you can’t help but feel a bit let down when the show isn’t as good as Batman: TAS. However, while Superman: The Animated Series isn’t as excellent as its predecessor show, it’s still one very enjoyable and very fun cartoon.MV5BMTcxMDExMTI5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTkyNzU2MjE@._V1_Whereas for the Batman cartoon the producers were going for a gritty feel, here things are big, colorful, and imaginative. Superman fights robots, aliens and sci-fi monsters. And just as you’d expect, that dastardly Lex Luthor is usually at the root of the problem. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Superman isn’t supposed to be conflicted and his villains aren’t supposed to be psychopaths. With the Man of Steel, it’s all about fighting for what’s right. And then punching the occasional laser beam, when it gets out of line. One of the best things about the show is its use of the Superman lore. Over the course of the series you’ll see many of the characters from character’s comic book history. If you’re meeting them for the first time, you’ll probably find them interesting, but if you’re already familiar with them then you’ve got a lot of opportunities to geek out.MV5BNTVlYWUzOTctZTNiYy00NjI0LTkzZjktMzE0NmRkMWM1NDcyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTM3MDMyMDQ@._V1_The creative team did take some liberties with the origins of certain characters, but none of the changes are overly intrusive or unwelcome. Furthermore when they get a character right, they really nail it. For example their take on Metallo, who realizes he traded immortality for the ability to feel, is great stuff. Perhaps their most difficult task was getting Lex Luthor right. Luckily for us, they pulled it off. This Lex is a perfect mix of ambitious businessman and cunning strategist. He isn’t flat out evil, but he is bad and watching the character get what he deserves is fun. The Lois Lane character is also great, a perfect mix of sexy, competitive, and charming. Much like the Batman collections, Superman: TAS isn’t grouped by season since they were all so unevenly produced. That being said, I do hope that we get the rest of the boxed sets in installments of more than eighteen episodes.MV5BMTQ5Mjk0NjQyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTUyNzU2MjE@._V1_While it’s not as serious or as artistic as its predecessor, Superman: TAS is still full of high-flying fun, adventure, and excitement. Whether you’re a fan of animation or just a fan of the character, this show comes recommended. It holds a proud position in the wonderful Warner superhero animated era that we’re currently enjoying.

 

 

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

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

MV5BYjkxZjgzYmItMGIwMC00NjBkLTk5MzUtN2IzNmYzMjgwMWVmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1368,1000_AL_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

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

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

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1

Starring

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

MV5BNjBiNTE1YzEtOGMyZi00NmE1LWE2YTYtZjVkOWQ4MjM1NmVhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg4NjY5OTQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

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

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

 

REVIEW: SMALLVILLE – SEASON 2

Starring

Tom Welling (Lucifer)
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Rosenbaum (Impastor)
Sam Jones III (Glory Road)
Allison Mack (Wilfred)
Annette O’Toole (The Punisher)
John Schneider (The Haves and the Have Nots)
John Glover (Shazam)

Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tom O’Brien (The Accused)
Rekha Sharma (Star Trek: Discovery)
Julian Christopher (Elysium)
Jerry Wasserman (Watchmen)
Krista Allen (Feast)
Mitchell Kosterman (Stargate SG.1)
Sarah-Jane Redmond (Disturbing Behaviour)
Joe Morton (God Friended Me)
Andrew Jackson (Earth: Final Conflict)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Sara Downing (Roswell)
Garwin Sanford (Arrow)
Sean Faris (Never Back Down)
Gwynyth Walsh (Star Trek: Generations)
Richard Moll (Batman: TAS)
Maggie Lawson (Santa Clarita Diet)
George Coe (The Stepford Wives)
Jesse Hutch (Arrow)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Neil Grayston (Wonderfalls)
Patrick Cassidy (Lois & Clark)
Blair Brown (Space Cowboys)
Ryan Kelley (Teen Wolf)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)
Mark Gibbon (The 6th Day)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
David Richmond-Peck (V)
Amara Zaragoza (Perfect Stranger)
Gordon Tootoosis (Lone Star)
Eric Johnson (Flash Gordon)
Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield)
Byron Mann (Arrow)
Colin Cunningham (Elektra)
Jill Teed (Godzilla)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Jason Connery (Wishmaster 3)
Eric Keenleyside (Dreamcatcher)
Barclay Hope (Paycheck)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Shaun Sipos (Texas Chainsaw)
Haig Sutherland (The Flash)
Luciana Carro (White Chicks)
Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Christopher Reeve (Superman)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Michael Adamthwaite (Horns)
Camille Mitchell (Izombie)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift)
Neil Flynn (Scrubs)
Jodelle Ferland (Case 39)
Ingrid Torrance (Scooby Doo 2)
David Lewis (Man of Steel)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)

 

Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)The first season of Smallville got off to a bit of a rocky start, as the program didn’t really find its footing until midway through the season. The show suffered from what fans called “Freak of the Week” syndrome, in which a new Kryptonite-mutated supervillain would emerge in every episode with some pretty weak storylines. The “Bug Boy” and “Coach Firestarter” episodes come to mind pretty quickly, and it makes me shudder just thinking about them. However, the show gradually shifted into telling more stories that advanced Clark Kent’s overall storyline, with multipart episodes that focused on slowly revealing Clark’s origin as Kal-El and his “immigration” to Earth, as well as the ongoing storylines of the supporting cast. Not to say that the show still doesn’t have an occasional “Freak of the Week”, but when they do they are either (1) fewer in frequency or (2) somehow related to the overall show’s story arc.Sam Jones III and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)With that out of the way, let’s talk about the cast. Tom Welling is pitch-perfect as the teenage Clark Kent. With his tall stature and ripped physique, he certainly looks the part, but he also captures the insecurity and awkwardness of youth while portraying an inner nobility and morality for which his character will eventually become renown. As Lana Lang, Clark’s childhood crush and current on-again, off-again love interest, Kristin Kreuk is about as superhumanly lovely as one could imagine. She’s the “girl next door” multiplied by about three million, not only because of her phenomenal physical beauty but also due to her bright-eyed, compassionate, down-to-earth demeanor. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why Clark loves her, or why it rips him apart when he has to push her away in order to keep his powers a secret and keep her from being harmed (people who tend to learn about Clark’s powers generally end up dead or insane.)Kristin Kreuk and Tom Welling in Smallville (2001)Michael Rosenbaum brings young Lex Luthor to life in what has become my favorite character of the show. Making Lex Luthor and Clark Kent childhood friends is a novel (and daring) conceit by the show’s creators, and it pays off handsomely. Lex adds a darker, more cynical dynamic to Clark’s teenage development that was missing in previous iterations of the character. Rosenbaum, who rather ironically provides the voice for the DC superhero “The Flash” on the Justice League animated series, makes Luthor a dark, sympathetic, and conflicted figure. He’s charismatic enough to make one want to like him, Machiavellian enough to make one worry if they can trust him, and – since we know his eventual fate – an overall tragic figure. We know he’s going to “go bad”; his slow transition from Clark’s trusted friend to worst enemy makes for some truly compelling material.Annette O'Toole and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)The cast is rounded out by John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, Academy Award-nominated songwriter Annette O’Toole (and a former Lana Lang herself from Superman III) as Martha Kent, John Glover as Lionel Luthor, Sam Jones III as Clark’s childhood friend Pete Ross, and Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan, whose unrequited love for Clark has emerged as a critical subplot in the development of the series. The group makes for an attractive ensemble, and there’s not a bad apple in the bunch. My only real complaint about the cast could be the little screen time Pete Ross gets (which gets worse in Season Three). As Clark’s best friend since childhood, his relationship with Clark gets laid by the wayside in favor of the Clark/Lex dynamic. Every now and then he turns up to provide some expository dialogue, and while he is featured prominently in a few episodes (especially “Duplicity”), his role in the show has slowly diminished over time.John Glover and John Schneider in Smallville (2001)Smallville: The Complete Second Season picks up from the cliffhanger ending that ended Season One, and slowly grows into a stronger and more self-assured show. Over the course of the season we get introduced to heat vision, red Kryptonite, a trip to Metropolis (with a cameo by The Daily Planet), and, in the episode “Rosetta”, an appearance by the former Man of Steel Christopher Reeve which stands out as one of the series’ best episodes. When I heard bits of John Williams’s amazing film orchestrations woven into the show’s score, I had goose bumps everywhere.Tom Welling and Amara Zaragoza in Smallville (2001)While still a little bumpy at times, Smallville’s second season is a huge step above the first, and remains one of the most entertaining shows on television.