REVIEW: ON BECOMING A GOD IN CENTRAL FLORIDA – SEASON 1

Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)

Starring

Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Théodore Pellerin (Family FIrst)
Mel Rodriguez (Better Call Saul)
Beth Ditto (Nocturnal Animals)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)

Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Alexander Skarsgård (Straw Dogs)
Usman Ally (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Melissa De Sousa (One on One)
Sharon Lawrence (Solace)
Mary Steenburgen (Elf)
Josh Fadem (Better Call Saul)
Kevin J. O’Connor (Widows)
Billy Slaughter (Focus)
David Paymer (Drag Me To Hell)
Shari Headley (Goosebumps 2)
John Earl Jelks (True Detective)
Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Office Christmas Party)
Eric Allan Kramer (Mike & Molly)
Cooper Jack Rubin (Cold Moon)
Lois Smith (Lady Bird)

Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)“On Becoming a God in Central Florida” is such a clever, compelling, and thorough evisceration of American capitalism it’s shocking Elizabeth Warren isn’t listed as an executive producer. Created by Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky, Showtime’s new hourlong black comedy does feature a few well-known progressive producers in EPs George Clooney and Grant Heslov, but the ’90s-set story of lower-middle class Floridians put to ruin by a pyramid scheme isn’t solely a political statement; it chronicles a tragedy in action, as the promise of the American dream is ripped away from those who believe in it — and need it — the most. Like any great satire, you won’t be able to tell if you’re laughing so hard it hurts, or if you’ve just been punched in the gut.Kirsten Dunst and Théodore Pellerin in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)The awesome Kirsten Dunst (also an EP) is the story here, bringing a captivating vitality and unflinching veracity to her lead character, Krystal Stubbs. A the beginning, however, the starry-eyed dreamer is embodied by none other than a mullet-sporting, profusely sweaty (like, Justin Theroux-level sweaty), and stunningly unfashionable Alexander Skarsgård. Travis Stubbs, husband to Krystal, is a frustrated insurance salesman who’s become discontented with his one-story house, compact car, and average lifestyle. His wife clocks in and out at the local water park while he slaves away at two jobs: his nine-to-five desk gig and spearheading his own company — well, not exactly his own company.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Though his FAM brethren would remind Travis he’s absolutely his own boss, the tall, lanky, former football star still spends his nights making door-to-door deliveries, stocking boxes in his garage, or recruiting new “downlines” — aka “independent contractors” who give part of their profits to Travis, who in turns gives part of his cut to his “upline,” and so on and so forth. They’re all hocking Founders American Merchandise, which is, of course, a pyramid scheme. It’s a cultish, multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme, but a pyramid scheme nonetheless. Sitting at the top is Obie Garbeau II (Ted Levine), a mustachioed millionaire whose deep voice fills the motivational tapes his FAM family is required to purchase. Obie is only accessible to those Jefferson-level members, and only then via crowded retreats where each FAM couple does a song and dance in the hopes of five minutes with the company founder.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)If that sounds like a lot for anyone to take, rest assured the series depicts the obsessive fandom surrounding Obie quite well, illustrating a thorough and convincing mass brainwashing where there’s an answer to every question and an encouragement for every doubt. Even those who’ve avoided recruitment have a hard time keeping their brains from dreaming of the rewards these hucksters promise, in part because their enthusiasm is otherworldly. The most convincing member is Travis’ own upline, Cody (Théodore Pellerin), whose fanatical fandom over Obie and FAM is like seeing a DCEU Twitter troll spring to life: He’s so thoroughly bought into a sham, and yet he’s so impossibly joyous about his own gullibility.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Pellerin’s conviction is thrilling to behold, especially considering how much intensity he has to bring to each layer of Cody’s fragile psyche, just to keep his baseline state as a jubilant con man believable. The cast overall is working at a top level, with Skarsgård operating miles away from his Emmy-winning smooth talker on “Big Little Lies” and Mel Rodriguez mining new depths as the lovable, good-hearted family man audiences got to know in “The Last Man on Earth.” But this is Dunst’s series. From the start, you can tell there’s something special about her and Krystal; the latter doesn’t take any of Cody’s bullshit. She’s not some doting wife, worried about her husband’s work ethic while turning a blind (or oblivious) eye to the Sisyphean mountain he’s trying to climb. Krystal sees things clearly. She values what they already have and is trying to hold her family together while raising a newborn and making minimum wage. She speaks to Travis clearly and forcefully, telling him what he needs to hear in the only way he might be able to listen.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)At one point in the premiere, Krystal says, “I will not be poor again,” and Dunst emphasizes the line so clearly, it defines her backstory and sets her path forward. You understand Krystal then, so that each choice that follows makes perfect sense. There are times when Dunst flaunts unexpected emotional nuance that deepens our ties to Krystal — in how she skins an alligator, for instance, or when she unveils a former, unparalleled dance routine — but the true power of her turn comes in how the actor is able to make the audience relate to Krystal as anyone and everyone. The fear of an indebted life — one controlled by lenders, collectors, and powerful institutions you can’t even put a face to — that’s a real fear, and Dunst acknowledges the trepidation while fighting tooth and nail against it every second of the way.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Set against the absurd splendor of the southeastern Sunshine State, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” squeezes quite a bit of creative juice out of this particular orange. The locales are lively yet unexaggerated; the cast is quirky yet never to the point of distraction; the arcs are peculiar — at one point, a man wrestles a giant pelican with his bare hands — and yet they make a lot of sense as they’re happening. In that way, the series can resemble the very pyramid scheme its critiquing, but this story never feels like a lie. You don’t have to be well-acquainted with Florida, or to have just watched “The Florida Project” to see a struggling working class in this country.Kirsten Dunst in On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019)Through some savvy narrative maneuvering, “On Becoming a God” connects the charlatans and con men of FAM to politicians, corporate overlords, and America’s 1 percent, as well — all the wealthy people up top, only working to keep their downlines in service. Showtime’s strong new series never forgets about the individuals who still think America is working for them, nor does it treat them with disdain. “Central Florida” understands how attractive the offer can look, and punches up at the liars instead of down at anyone eager to buy in. The surroundings might be pink and shiny, but the good folks like Krystal Stubbs, with their noses forever pressed to window of their dream home, are as real as they come. If only someone had a plan to fix things for ’em…

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

 

CAST

Aaron Stanford (X-Men 2 & 3)
Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13)
Vinessa Shaw (Eyes Wide Shut)
Emilie De Ravin (Lost)
Dan Byrd (Heroes)
Tom Bower (Die Hard 2)
Billy Drago (Children of The Corn 8)
Robert Joy (Land of The Dead)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Desmond Askew (Roswell)

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A group of scientists are killed by a mutant named Pluto (Michael Bailey Smith). Later, Bob Carter (Ted Levine) and his wife, Ethel Carter (Kathleen Quinlan) are traveling from Cleveland, Ohio to San Diego, California for their silver anniversary. With them are their teenage children Bobby (Dan Byrd), and Brenda (Emilie de Ravin), eldest daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw), Lynn’s husband Doug Bukowski (Aaron Stanford), their baby daughter Catherine (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi), and their German Shepherds, Beauty and Beast. In the New Mexico desert, they meet a gas station attendant named Jeb (Tom Bower), who tells them of a short-cut through the hills. After taking the supposed short-cut, their tires are punctured by a hidden spike strip. Doug and Bob go look for help, while the rest of the family stays behind.
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Bobby chases a panicked Beauty into the hills and finds her mutilated body; frightened, he runs and accidentally falls, knocking himself unconscious. A young female mutant named Ruby (Laura Ortiz) finds him and protects him from her brother Goggle (Ezra Buzzington). Bob goes back to the gas station for help, and upon investigation finds news clippings detailing various disappearances that have occurred in the area. He realizes the attendant purposefully led them to danger by suggesting they take an alternative route through the hills. When Bob exits he finds the hysterical Jeb, who commits suicide in front of him. In fear, Bob attempts to flee, but is attacked by the mutant leader, Papa Jupiter (Billy Drago), and dragged into the mining caves by Jupiter, Jupiter’s eldest son Lizard (Robert Joy), and Pluto. Bobby returns to the trailer, but doesn’t mention Beauty’s death not wanting to frighten the rest of the family. Later that night, the family is awakened by Bob’s screams, and they all rush from the trailer, except for Brenda and the baby, who are left behind. Outside they find Bob being burned alive on a stake and frantically try to save him, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Pluto and Lizard use the distraction to ransack the trailer, where Lizard beats and rapes Brenda. When Lynn returns to the trailer she is greeted by Lizard and Pluto, and forced to let Lizard drink from her breasts while her baby is held at gunpoint. When Ethel returns she is shot by Lizard, and Lynn stabs Lizard in the leg, prompting Lizard to shoot Lynn in the head. Lizard and Pluto flee with the baby after Lizard attempts to shoot Brenda.

Doug and Bobby return to the trailer and discover Lynn and Ethel, who die shortly afterward. Goggle, who is watching the Carters with a pair of binoculars, is attacked by Beast, who tears his throat out, killing him. The next morning, Doug and Beast set off to rescue Catherine. Doug finds an abandoned nuclear testing village, and is knocked unconscious by Big Mama (Ivana Turchetto) during his search. Upon awakening, he escapes an ice box filled with human body parts and continues his search, only to encounter Big Brain (Desmond Askew). After Big Brain tells him the mutants’ origins, Doug is attacked by Pluto, who severs two of his fingers with an axe. Pluto almost kills Doug, but Doug manages to gain the upper hand while Pluto is distracted, and kills him with his own axe. Outside, Doug kills the mutant Cyst (Gregory Nicotero) and continues to search for Catherine. After ordering Lizard to kill Catherine, Big Brain is mauled to death by Beast. Lizard takes a cleaver and prepares to kill Catherine, but finds that Ruby has taken her. Doug sees Ruby running through the hills with Catherine and follows her. At the trailer, Brenda and Bobby prepare an explosive trap, which destroys the trailer, apparently killing Papa Jupiter.

Doug catches up with Ruby, but before she can return Catherine, Lizard attacks him. Lizard and Doug fight, and Lizard is presumed dead. When Doug turns his back Lizard aims a shotgun at him, but Ruby tackles Lizard off a cliff, killing them both. Bobby and Brenda find that Papa Jupiter managed to survive their trap, and Brenda finishes him off. They are then reunited with Doug, Catherine and Beast. As they celebrate their apparent victory, an unknown mutant watches them through binoculars from the hills.

Very much following the marker set by Craven’s original, is actually what stops this from truly breaking the mould. It lacks freshness to go with it’s willingness to set bloody parameters. But, and it’s a good but, this is still one fine and squeamish little ride, one that lingers even after you watched the film.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: BANSHEE CHAPTER

CAST

Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Katia Winter (Sleepy Hollow)
Michael McMillian (The Hills Have Eyes 2)

The movie begins with stock footage of President Clinton and other people announcing the existence of the government experiment Project MKUltra. The scene then cuts away to camera footage of James Hirsch (Michael McMillian), a young man investigating Project MKUltra. With a friend filming him, James takes the drug used in the experiments, dimethyltryptamine-19 (DMT-19). Soon, bizarre music and voices begin to broadcast from a nearby radio and James becomes extremely anxious, announcing that something is coming towards the house and that it wants to “wear them”. A large, shadowy figure rushes by the window and the camera’s footage cuts in and out, ultimately ending with a shot of James with all-black eyes and a disfigured face.The movie then shifts to Anne (Katia Winter) a reporter who attended college with James. She is concerned over his disappearance, as James’s friend also mysteriously disappeared a few days after he was questioned by the police. Anne investigates James’s house and discovers a VHS cassette that contains footage of the MKUltra experiments as well as a book of notes about the project. Curious about some of the things found in the house — particularly some information about radio waves — Anne goes to a local expert and discovers that the bizarre radio broadcast heard by James is a phantom radio station, which can only be tuned into in the desert, at a certain time of night. Anne drives out into the desert after dark and is able to pick up the broadcast, but flees when a monstrous form appears from the darkness.Anne discovers that a mention of “Friends in Colorado” in James’s notes is related to the counter-culture writer Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine), a Hunter S. Thompson-esque figure known for his drug use and unpredictable behavior. She tries to contact him by phone and is angrily rebuffed when she mentions Project MKUltra. Anne travels to Blackburn’s home and lies to gain his confidence, only to discover that Thomas has seen through her ruse and tricked her into taking DMT-19 that his friend Callie (Jenny Gabrielle), has made. The night quickly sours as Anne is angry at the deception, and Callie begins exhibiting the same behaviors that James did earlier in the film. Anne hears some of the bizarre music played by the phantom station and goes to investigate, only to be attacked by a strange entity.Callie suddenly exhibits the same black eyes and disfigurement as James did, and vomits blood onto the floor. An indeterminate time later, Anne and Thomas awaken to find Callie missing. They decide to go to Callie’s house to find out more information about the DMT-19. Anne is nearly captured by Callie, who is now controlled by the entity. She and Thomas begin to realize that DMT-19 works as a “radio antenna” of sorts that allows otherworldly entities to broadcast signals to the people on the drug as well as take over their bodies. They also realize that the government never came up with DMT-19 but instead received instructions from the otherworldly entities and made the drug without realizing the full implication of their actions. In addition to the base chemical compound, scientists were also adding harvested material from the pineal gland of a female corpse, dubbed the “Primary Source”, who returned to life during an experiment and attacked one of the doctors.At this point Anne realizes that the signal is likely coming from the laboratory that performed the Project MKUltra experiments, which is in the same desert that the radio broadcast was coming from. Shortly after this revelation, Thomas reveals that he had lied about giving her DMT-19. Realizing that the entity will pursue her regardless, Anne resolves to put an end to the broadcast once and for all. She and Thomas travel out into the desert and discover the laboratory in an abandoned fallout shelter, taking a can of gasoline so that they may burn whatever they find. Inside, they discover a room full of radio equipment and a large tank. Upon inspecting a small porthole built into the side, Anne discovers that a pale figure with black eyes resides within (implied to be the “Primary Source”). At this point, the radio equipment comes to life and begins broadcasting the numbers station.Realizing that they must burn the creature and the equipment, Anne hunts for the gasoline can, avoiding a grotesque figure who chases her. Thomas begins to bleed from the eyes and convulse violently. Apologizing to Anne, he shoots himself in the head. In a frenzy, Anne smashes open the porthole in the tank, pours the gasoline inside, and throws a lighter scavenged from Thomas’ corpse. The resulting explosion knocks Anne unconscious. When she comes to, she finds the clothing worn by her friend James before his disappearance lying outside in the hallway, implying that the creature chasing her had been “wearing” James the whole time.Anne is taken into police custody and one of her co-workers travels down to ensure that she is okay. She and Anne discuss the events that have happened so far, including the tape that Anne had discovered earlier in the movie. Part of the tape had been erased, but had been retrieved by a video forensics company. Anne then muses that she can’t understand why James’s friend disappeared, as he had never taken the drug. She begins to hear the phantom broadcast issuing from the room’s intercom and realizes that the effects of the drug can be passed along by human touch, as she still saw the creatures despite never having taken the drug. She turns to discover that her co-worker (whose hand she held moments before) has been taken over by the entities. The film then cuts to the recovered footage on the tape, which reveals that a college-age Thomas Blackburn was one of the people who had taken part in Project MKUltra as a test subject.In conclusion Banshee Chapter is a decent creepy movie with a good story concept and some good jump scares, it’s really interesting in the first part but lose some of his appeal in the second part.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 2

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)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Powers Booth (Sin City)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Seymour Cassel (Dick Tracy)
Takayo Fischer (Moneyball)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
James Remar (Black Lightning)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Giselle Loren (Happy Feet)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween)
Kim Mai Guest (G.I. Joe: Reneages)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Alexis Denisof (Avengers Assemble)
Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time)
Juliet Landau (Aquaman)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Oded Fehr (V)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Amy Acker (The Gifted)
Virgina Madsen (Highlander II)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator)
Joanne Whalley (Willow)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)
Michael Ironside (Scanners)
Bud Cort (MASH)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)

MV5BMjQwMjQ0MTUzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTAwOTM2MjE@._V1_Since I was just a young lad, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have been showing me exactly what a superhero should be. They were some of the people behind the sublime Batman: The Animated Series, which is the definitive version of Batman in my eyes. They helped bring a certain Kryptonian to television screens in the late ’90s, taking an extra step into forming a coherent version of the DC universe to life. Hell, they even went so far as to help create a true successor to the Dark Knight. After doing all this, they managed to bring a clean, faithful and truly amazing assortment of champions of the DC Universe to life, showing us all exactly what a superhero should be.MV5BMTQxMjk3MTgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDAwOTM2MjE@._V1_JLU – Season Two  remains faithful to its source material, which isn’t something you’ll find too often when translating a comic to a TV show or movie; whether it’s Green Arrow humming his own theme music while he’s fighting villains to Batman always being the baddest man in the room, the show conveys everything perfectly. A huge strength of the show lies within its voice talent, which is an assortment of voice-over veterans that have had some time to perfect their takes on characters: Kevin Conroy expertly delivers every line as Batman; Michael Rosenbaum has a wonderful, playful performance as Flash; and Clancy Brown is nothing short of brilliant as the ever-scheming, truly egotistic Lex Luthor. Though some of these actors have had over a decade to perfect their take on their respective characters, the guest stars who have little to no VO experience, much less know their characters, manage to be spot-on with their takes, making their characters memorable and charismatic.MV5BMTk4NTY4ODY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDYwOTM2MjE@._V1_Not only that, some of the guest stars who appear are more than enough to cause a nerdgasm to any self-respecting comic geek. Names like Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Amy Acker, Morena Baccarin, Juliet Landau, Michael Ironside, James Remar, and Daniel Dae Kim all bring their characters to life in the best way possible, creating a lasting impact on the series. As the series progressed from the seven core heroes, requiring the talent of so many guest stars, some viewers may be inclined to think, “Wow, DC has a lot of lame heroes in its roster.” Almost at the exact point in the series that the thought occurred to me, the show comes out swinging with the episode “Patriot Act,” hitting the nail on the head. This episode has an Incredible Hulk type character wanting to face off against the JLU varsity squad (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc&#Array;), but what he gets is a slew of D and E-list heroes, like Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E., Shining Knight, Vigilante, Green Arrow and Speedy.MV5BMzcyNjI0Nzc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODI5ODM2MjE@._V1_Though you may be thinking “who?” at this roster of leaguers, and though they get thoroughly trounced, the episode manages to make the point of despite who they’re fighting, these champions won’t ever quit, and it’s a theme that’s brought up more than once during the series without beating you over the head with it nor becoming cheesy, and that’s fine by me. The writing of the series is easily its greatest strength as it has fun with its storylines and it’s very obvious that everyone involved knows their craft. They don’t bother setting up any more characters – they already had four seasons to do so. Rather than exploring the universe further, they jump into tales that can be enjoyed by newcomers and longtime fans alike. The main story-arc of the season is a huge nod to an older crowd as it deals with the Legion of Doom – well, maybe not in name, but without a doubt in spirit: A gaggle of villains led by Lex Luthor who use a giant Darth Vader helmet as a base of operations.MV5BOTE5NTA5MTc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTIwOTM2MjE@._V1_If that isn’t the Legion of Doom, I don’t know what is. The storyline revolves around Luthor’s quest to reunite with Braniac and become a god. Unfortunately, he unleashes one of the most dangerous and powerful foes in the DC universe and the events that follow make for one satisfying bookend to one of the most prolific takes on a comic universe.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE – SEASON 2

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)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Corey Burton (Transformers)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Mitchell Ryan (Halloween 6)
Rob Paulsen (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Tom Kenny (The Super Hero Squad Show)
William Atherton (Die Hard)
Fairuza Balk (The Craft)
Dana Delany (Tombstone)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
David Kaufman (Prom Night)
Dorie Barton (Down With Love)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Larry Drake (Darkman)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Kim Mai Guest (TMNT)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Bruce McGill (Lincoln)
Ted McGinley (No Good Nick)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Tracey Walter (batman)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Brian Doyle-Murray (JFK)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Kristin Bauer van Straten (Nocturnal Animals)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lamabs)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Brad Garrett (Tangled)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Khary Payton (The Walking Dead)
Greg Cipes (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans Go)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Hynden Walch (Groundhog Day)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Kimberly Brooks (Voltron)
Robert Ito (Midway)
Victor Rivers (The Mask of Zorro)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Elizabeth Peña (The Incredibles)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

MV5BMTkxOTY5NTY5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjEwOTM2MjE@._V1_Now this is more like it. Justice League’s second season takes all of the wrinkles found in the first year and smoothes them over. The action is bigger, the stories are more exciting, and Batman’s rating on the cool-o-meter reaches new highs – exactly how things should be. The result is a boxed set that offers perhaps the finest collection of superhero animation that your hard-earned dollars can buy. They don’t come any better then this, kids.MV5BODg3ODYzM2QtNTIwOS00YzhjLThmMDItZTY4MDc0NzU1NDhkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Much like the comic book universe from which these characters came, the Warner Bros. superhero shows headed by Bruce Timm and friends (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond) have created a continuity and universe all their own. Justice League is the latest (and, sadly, final) entry in this cartoon universe and it takes all of the best stuff from what has come before it and combines it into a near-perfect superhero animated series. While the first season was light on character development and solid storytelling, the second season gets the balance of action, story, and character just right. Again we’ve got great supporting characters and villains from the DC universe; Darkseid, John Dee, Despero, and even Doomsday all make appearances.MV5BMTQxNzgzNDg3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTAwOTM2MjE@._V1_The action is also a lot more exciting, with more imagination having gone into the writing of the fights. Furthermore, this season we’ve got some great CG effects (used for vehicles and ships) – the air dogfight in Maid of Honor between the Batwing and some jetfighters is especially cool to watch.  Another standout this season is the music. The series composers (Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, and Kristopher Carter) have created some amazing stuff here. In each episode you’ll find several musical cues that will really get your attention and at least one that will tug at the ol’ heartstrings. The music knows when to fade into the background and let the images do the work and when to take centre stage. With stuff this good you want the music to take centre stage as much as possible. There is a Princess Mononoke-esque “nature endures” moment in Hearts and Minds where the score was just wonderful. The music in these episodes is too good for a cartoon TV show.MV5BMTQ1MjM0MTMwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjc5ODM2MjE@._V1_So the action is awesome, Superman is fixed, and the music is one-of-a-kind. All that’s left is the writing… and it’s the best part. The writing here is really great, with story and character always being the focus of each episode. A Better World answers a simple question in an interesting way: what if Superman crossed the line? In an alternate universe, Superman realizes that Luthor really is an unredeemable villain and he kills him. We see that the murder – even the murder of a monster like Luthor – changes both Superman and the League. They become Big Brother-like sentries of the planet. When a cross-dimensional rift is opened, this “darker” league (known as the Justice Lords) has a showdown with our untainted heroes. The episode brings up some very interesting questions and is a blast to watch.MV5BMTYwOTU0OTUwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTk5ODM2MjE@._V1_We’ve also got some fantastic variety. The Paul Dini-penned Comfort and Joy is a very touching Christmas episode, while Hereafter transports Superman to a Planet of the Apes-ish future where he is the planet’s sole survivor (he even grows a Robinson Crusoe beard and fashions himself a jungle-machete!). The Terror Beyond makes for a very fun H.P. Lovecraft-inspired romp which sees Solomon Grundy fighting his way into the brain of the massive Ichthulhu (voiced by Rob Zombie) and wrestling a nightmare creature inside this thing’s head. Very bizarre, but very cool. Finally there’s the three-part season finale, Starcrossed. This is a balls-to-the-wall action spectacular which culminates in Batman piloting the League’s watchtower into the planet, while Green Lantern and Hawkgirl’s relationship is torn to shreds.MV5BMTkxMDQzODI2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDIwOTM2MjE@._V1_This is a fantastic collection of episodes, to be sure, but there are still a few nitpicks that keep the set from getting a perfect score. For one, while Superman is tougher, much of the new attitude doesn’t feel genuine – it seems that they wanted to make him “cooler” so they made him more badass. Problem is, Superman isn’t a badass character. Second, there are a few episodes (Maid of Honor and Eclipsed) that feel somewhat stale, and one episode, Wild Cards, that, sadly, let its driving gag get the better of the story. On TV you’ll find many cartoons, but you’ll only find one Justice League – its second season is a shining example of superhero animation done right in virtually every respect. Most importantly, the show’s creators have crafted a series that respects the intelligence, attention-span, and maturity of its audience. This isn’t just a kids show nor is it just a television show. It’s Justice League – and it’s great.

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)

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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: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

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

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sharon Lawrence (The Ranch)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Renée Taylor (The Nanny)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Brad Garrett (Christopher Robin)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Steve Sandor (The Yellow Rose)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Victor Brandt (The Batman)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Diane Michelle (Robotech: The Movie)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
William H. Macy (Fargo)
Peter Gallagher (The Gifted)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mathew Valencia (The New Batman Advntures)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
John Glover (Smallville)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Bob Hastings (The Poseidon Adventure)
Charity James (Space Jam)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
Chad Lowe (Unfaithful)
Melissa Joan Hart (No GOod Nick)
Joely Fisher (The Mask)
Bud Cort (Harold and Maude)
Townsend Coleman (The Tick)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Gilbert Gottfried (Critters: A New Binge)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Carl Lumbly (Supergirl)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael P. Greco (Bleach)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Peter Mark Richman (Defenders of The Earth)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations)
Billy West (Futurama)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
David Warner (Tron)
Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas)
Michael Horse (Roswell)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)

3447328-absolute-powerSuperman is everywhere. He’s also been everywhere; for nearly seventy years now the character has been inspiring us with his tales of heroism, adventure, and fantasy. Seventy years is a long time and with a character as popular as Superman it equates to a lot of different interpretations. From the original comic books to a radio series to a handful of television shows, it seems that the Last Son of Krypton has done it all. We are very lucky then to have these DVDs, because in all of that time, throughout all the years, the stories found in Superman: The Animated Series are his best. The fifty-four cartoon episodes (spread across three boxed sets) that make up the complete run of Superman: The Animated Series aren’t just the best take on the character because they’re faithful. Nor is it because they’re animated, for all ages, or very imaginative. It’s for all of these reasons. And several more.3447300-little_big_head_manThe creative team behind the series has plundered the rich mythology of the character and come up with a fantastic take on each and every piece of the Superman universe. For starters, their Clark Kent and Lois Lane interpretation is spot-on. Clark isn’t too much of a goof, nor is he too simple. Similarly, Lois is fiery, funny, and lovely. Seeing the characters come together at the end of Legacy, Part 2 makes for a great cathartic moment. Superman has saved Lois a countless number of times, it is only fitting then that Lois save him when he needs it. The main arc of this season borrows from the comic book universe and brings Darkseid and his homeworld to the forefront. Hinted at earlier in the show, it’s in this third volume that the Lord of Apokolips finally gets his payoff – and his payback. In a trio of two-parters, Apokolips… Now!, Little Girl Lost, and Legacy, Superman fights one of his most ruthless foes in a series of episodes that offer some excellent action, drama, and science fiction fun.maxresdefault (1)While these episodes are very faithful to the mythos, we’ve also got a great selection of original stories that go to prove that with a character like Superman, there is no limit to the stories that you can tell. One of my favorites is Knight Time. When Batman goes missing, Superman pays a visit to Gotham City and tries to find out where his friend has gone. Supes inadvertently ends up masquerading as Batman – dressing up in the Dark Knight’s costume and everything! – and teams up with Robin to solve the mystery of the missing Bruce Wayne. Not only is the episode entertaining, but it’s also got a great sense of humor. Seeing Superman do his best impersonation of Batman is wonderful – Clark doesn’t know which utility pockets contain what, and his attempts at being grim (nodding his head instead of speaking) are great.stas-legacy7Watching these shows you get the feeling that it was during this final stretch of episodes that the show’s producers were finding new ways of playing with the formula that they had designed, and perfected, with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Not only do these Superman episodes have a lot of two-parters, but we’ve also got some great guest-stars; it seems that this show is the precursor to Justice League. We’ve got heroes, Kyle Rayner from In Brightest Day, and villains, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Demon Reborn, and everyone in between – everyone’s favorite master of the sea, Aquaman in Fish Story. We also get an expansion of the Superman supporting cast when Supergirl makes a welcome appearance in the Little Girl Lost two-parter.Superman_TAS_2x27_001The animation is somewhat more limited when compared to the fancy digital effects that more modern shows exhibit, but the handcrafted style gives the show a wonderful atmosphere. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that a lot of effort has gone into the design of the animation – much more so than most animated series. The framing here is frequently packed. Helping flesh out the world are all of the voice actors; everyone from Tim Daly (as Superman/Clark) to Clancy Brown (as Lex Luthor) is perfect in his or her role. The only thing holding the show back, and this is a small point, is the fact that the stories, due to their child-friendly animated nature, are a little more limited than the best television shows tend to be. Even so, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better adventure series – animated or live action.Superman_meets_SupergirlIn one of the episodes found in this collection, Superman pays his final respects to a recently departed friend. In the graveyard, Superman comes to realize something very important: “In the end, the world didn’t really need a Super man. Just a brave one.” This show gives us a character who is both brave and super. It gives us a real hero. It gives us Superman… as good as he’s ever been.