REVIEW: DC SHOWCASE: THE SPECTRE

CAST

Gary Cole (Crusade)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs)
Jon Polito (Barton Fink)

Foster Brenner, a successful film producer, is killed by a bomb hidden underneath the diving board of his swimming pool. Los Angeles Police Department detective Jim Corrigan, who was having a relationship with Foster’s daughter Aimee, starts investigating despite the case having been assigned to another officer. Jim interviews Flemming, Brenner’s butler, who shows him security footage of two men in ski masks entering the complex and placing the bomb. Jim asks if Brenner had any enemies, and Flemming replies that any man so wealthy and powerful has many. He tells him that several of Brenner’s longtime collaborators were excluded in his latest films and were very unhappy about it.

That night at a special effects warehouse, Drew Flynn sees the late Foster, who accuses him of his murder and transforms into the Spectre, who uses his powers to animate the models and animatronic film monsters to attack Flynn, and kills him with a gigantic gorilla robot. The Spectre confronts and kills Peter McCoy by controlling his car that repairs itself and crushes him, before taking a suitcase of money. Arriving at Aimee’s house undetected by phasing through the wall, Jim tells Aimee that she is good enough to be an actress in her father’s movies. Learning that Aimee was responsible for giving the correct access code for her father’s estate to Flynn and McCoy, Jim opens the briefcase with her father’s money. Aimee asks Jim that they will get together while she rummages the pistol from the desk drawer, but Jim refuses. Aimee fails to attack Jim, who transforms into the Spectre and kills her by engulfing her in a tornado of money, avenging her father’s death. Jim calmly walks away as the police arrive while they cannot see him. Jim narrates that his job is to root out evil, that he is justice and being the Spectre.332c4-dcshowcasespectre1Seeing as how The Spectre might not be as famous as Batman or as popular as Superman, it was probably a wise move for Warner to only make one short film in order to gauge viewers’ interest. The result was so spectacular, so oozing with style and boasting high end production values that it really is a pity Warner did not go all out to make a full length feature from the start. Having a mature narrative makes this short film accessible to even viewers who are not fans of animation as it plays out very much like a live action movie

 

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

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MAIN CAST

Diedrich Bader (Vampires Suck)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW: CONSTANTINE (2014) THE TV SERIES

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CAST

Matt Ryan (Layer Cake)
Angelica Celaya (Dallas)
Charles Halford (Agents of SHIELD)
Harold Perrineau (Lost)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Michael James Shaw (Limitless TV)
Jeremy Davies (Hannibal TV)
Jonjo O’Neill (Dragonheart 3)
Charles Parnell (Pariah)
Emmett J. Scanlan (The Clinic)
Mark Margolis (Scarface)
Lucy Griffiths (Winter’s Tale)
Skyler Day (Redemption MAddie)
Claire Van Der Boom (The Pacific)

DC/Vertigo’s John Constantine leapt from the sordid, scary pages of his Hellblazer comics thanks to EPs David Goyer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel) and Daniel Cerone (Dexter, Charmed). Matt Ryan, as the titular hero, was really effective in bringing Constantine to life on screen. Flippant when called for. Vulnerable when need be. All the while – whether casting out a demon from some poor body or battling one within himself – creating a very commanding, likable presence on screen. John Constantine was a the sort of hero you had to get right immediately and Ryan excelled.

John’s back up proved reliable from a charismatic standpoint. Chas and Zed were great characters and as the serious progressed we got to see their back story’s and what made them the way they are.


I really liked that Newcastle was used as the show’s jumping off point, and that throughout the season John would have to atone in various ways with scattered members of that ill-fated team, but his own team often suffered. Even though we’re only talking about 13 episodes here, the show still made good use of a seasonal arc format. Even using the “Rising Darkness” to both inform and be the cause of a procedural “case of the week” structure . The “Scry Map” gave John demons and ghosts to chase, all under the umbrella that hell was slowly encroaching upon the world of the living. And while not every “case of the week” landed, a couple of stories ripped from the comics came alive in (remixed) cool ways (“A Feast of Friends,” “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 1” and “Waiting for the Man”). Along with some DC notables like Felix Faust, Eclipso’s Black Diamond, and Jim Corrigan.


I liked that Manny turned out to be the villain right at the end of the finale. Mostly because the “Rising Darkness” needed a face. The Brujeria were mentioned quite a bit, but never shown. Was the twist worth sitting through a handful of episodes where I wondered why Manny was even there at all? Maybe, maybe not. But the show needed a “big bad,” and whether or not Manny turns out to be Satan himself or just an evil angel, he still fits the bill nicely.

Constantine had a cool look, an awesome lead, and a confidence that you don’t see in most fledgling series. As the series went on it became an intriguing show with many dimensions that would of been worth exploring in later seasons, this is a show that was cancelled too soon and now with a unresolved cliffhanger we may never know where it will lead. On the plus side  Matt Ryan’s Constantine is coming too Arrow, so we at least get to see him at least one more time.