REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES – SEASON 1

Starring

Adrian Paul (Arrow)
Alexandra Vandernoot (Pret-a-Porter)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare On Elm Street)

Adrian Paul and Alexandra Vandernoot in Highlander (1992)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Christopher Lambert (Mortal Kombat)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Wendell Wright (The Howling)
Peter DeLuise (Stargate SG.1)
J.E. Freeman (Alien: Resurrection)
Tamsin Kelsey (The Commish)
Matthew Walker (Alone In The Dark)
Dustin Nguyen (Legend Is Alive)
Soon-Tek Oh (Mulan)
A.C. Peterson (Shooter)
Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost)
John Novak (War)
Victor A. Young (Nemesis Game)
Garry Chalk (Arrow)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Joan Jett (Light of Day)
Leslie Carlson (Videodrome)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Colleen Winton (Van Helsing)
Gary Jones (Stargate SG.1)
Wes Studi (Mystery Men)
Marc Singer (V)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Doug Abrahams (Sanctuary)
Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (Fifty Shades Freed)
Stephen Macht (Trancers 4)
Johannah Newmarch (When Calls The Heat)
John Tench (Watchmen)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Adrian Holmes (Smallville)
Vanity (The Last Dragon)
Tim Reid (IT)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on A Plane)
J.G. Hertzler (Staragte SG.1)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Werner Stocker (The White Rose)
Peter Howitt (Defying Gravity)
Roland Gift (Brakes)
Dee Dee Bridgewater (The Brother From Another Planet)
Fay Masterson (Eyes Wide Shut)
Elizabeth Gracen (Marked For Death)
Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery
Martin Kemp (The Krays)
Nigel Terry (Excalibur)
Peter Guinness (Sleepy Hollow)
Anthony Head (Buffy: TVS)
Marion Cotillard (Inception)
Roger Daltrey (Tommy)
Peter Hudson (Lockout)

Alexandra Vandernoot in Highlander (1992)400-year-old Scottish Immortal Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) has spent the last twelve years living a quiet life with his mortal girlfriend, sculptor Tessa Noel (Alexandra Vandernoot). Unfortunately, when young punk Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsh) breaks into their antiques store, he stumbles upon another uninvited guest- Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), also an immortal Highlander. Connor insists Duncan return to The Gathering- an ongoing battle where immortals fight each other to the death by beheading their opponent to take their Quickening. Friendly immortals like the Parisian monk Darius (Werner Stocker) have no interest in the violence and remain on Holy Ground to avoid the evil, corrupt, insane, angry, and power hungry immortals Duncan must face. All this, however, is in addition to Duncan’s daily hiding of his secrets from pesky cops and nosey reporters like Randi MacFarland (Amanda Wyss).Adrian Paul and Soon-Tek Oh in Highlander (1992)I always find it tough to summarize the scenario that establishes the Highlander universe, even though it is a fairly simple fantasy once you get to know it. Longtime franchise producers Peter Davis and Bill Panzer and creative consultant David Abramowitz don’t have to waste much time in setting up The Series’ introductory mythology like most shows do thanks to its parent 1986 film, but that does not mean this First Season isn’t without its flaws. Highlander: The Series spends most of the 1992 debut here trying to adhere to the original film whilst also attempting to appeal to other compatriot shows of the time like Renegade. Sometimes, Duncan is an immortal who also just happens to get kidnapped, Tessa just happens to witness an immortal murder, Richie just happens to get caught up in some immortal romance or crime.Season 1 seems to meander between reopening its fantastical roots- which actually concluded at the end of the first film- and finding an audience with one off action plotlines and crazy guest star immortals. Toss in some ho-hum police investigations and one annoying journalist, and it feels like you have bits of every other nineties television program. It also seems like the filmmakers were light on material early on, for a slew of slow and dated musical montages about absolutely nothing also have not stood the test of time. Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)I’ve complained, yes- but the irony is, Highlander as a series and its Season 1 still work damn fine. So they had to iron out a few special effects and immortal explanations. Maybe there is an uneven mix of normal real world crime storylines and charming, even glorious, period piece flashback sequences. Yes, they have to mimic the first movie while trying to establish episodic material. Yet somehow, all this and more gets done in fun, entertaining, stylized television. A few of the guest immortals do seem a bit interchangeable and even hokey in their maniacal ways, but that’s part of the bemusement. The lovely counterbalance of the tragedies, consequences, and ill desires of living forever are well played along with the beauty and value of morality, artistry, and time for those who inevitably grow old and die. Highlander: The Series may have lured audiences in the door with promises of nineties cool and wicked swordfights, but its intelligent core of immortal drama, heart, and soul win out today.Adrian Paul and Vanity in Highlander (1992)Although Adrian Paul (Tracker, Relic Hunter) has some big sneakers to fill in following Christopher Lambert, he quickly makes Duncan MacLeod his own with the perfect mix of fearless fighter and moral convictions. Yes, part of his fighting skills, suave ponytail, and immortal sexual buffness is meant to be dreamy for the ladies. However, Mac’s kickass ruthlessness against those who do wrong-whether they be mortal or immortal- combined with his sensitive ways and 400 year old hang ups appeal to all. Paul wonderfully expresses the love, loss, humor, and intelligence as well as the anger, vengeance, and violence each episode as needed. There’s no doubt MacLeod is our hero- and yet he is usually the one handing out killing blows. It’s a complicated mix with plenty of fine drama- and Alexandra Vandernoot (The Five Obstructions) is the perfect compliment to Adrian Paul. Though she can seem kind of uppity and European pissy to start, once you come to know Tessa’s artistic heart and moral fulcrum you can’t help but enjoy her and Mac’s relationship. The two have wonderful chemistry, but then you throw in illicit immortal love with mortal women growing old and dying to that romantic design and it’s dynamite. Such juicy and angst still has plenty of relatable, powerful stuff that never fades, wow, almost 20 years on.Still of Adrian Paul and Amanda Wyss in Highlander and See No EvilStan Kirsh (Invincible) is in the precarious hot young thing role as Richie Ryan, but he also proves himself more likeable then annoying here in Season 1. Despite some of the stereotypically juvenile, young love, and crime storylines in which he finds himself, Richie’s fun place within Mac and Tessa’s lives does a lot of good. He is in a way, their kid- always needing to be bailed out or protected in the ways of the world or waxing philosophical from his humorous spot in the backseat. Even over the course of these 22 episodes, however, Richie also becomes a useful ally and sounding board for each of the leads when immortality or mortality gets in the way. Sadly, the ill-used Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street), doesn’t fair so well. Her brief and needlessly stuck in the opening credits reporter Randi is absolutely unrealistic as a journalist and completely annoying in her attempted antagonizing and snooping. Perhaps more could have been done with the character in time, but thankfully, the role was dropped in favor of some  policemen and detectives. Wendell Wright’s (Benson) Sgt. Powell, Tim Reid’s (Sister, Sister) Bennett and Hugues Leforestier as Inspector LeBrun come and go too much in Season 1, but any one of them could have been fine continuing foil for MacLeod. You do have to wonder how the authorities haven’t discovered all these beheaded bodies!Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)In addition to the lovely guest appearance by Lambert as Connor “same clan, different vintage” MacLeod in ‘The Gathering’, Season 1 offers an array of sweet guest stars. Critical immortals such as Elizabeth Gracen’s (later of the spinoff Highlander: The Raven) Amanda and Fine Young Cannibals’ singer Roland Gift as Xavier St. Cloud appear in ‘The Lady and the Tiger’ and ‘For Tomorrow We Die’ respectively. We don’t get to see the late Werner Stocker’s Darius as much as I would have liked, but he and Roger Daltry’s Hugh Fitzcairn are also wonderful pieces in Highlander: The Series’ repertoire, comparing the potential of pacifism for immortals to their apparent zest for women. As much as I love Joan Jett, her appearance as the first female immortal we see in ‘Free Fall’ is one of the woefully dated examples this season. Several other guest villains and street thugs of the week do seem a little the same- especially the maniacal and crazy, if no less understandable, immortals. Again, it’s tough to not have an over the top bad guy when it is your hero befrickingheading someone per episode. A few of the French supporting players also suffer; so many seemed poorly dubbed that you don’t wonder if it would have been better to just have some French dialogue. All in all however, the guests add debut credibility this season whilst laying the ground work for the series to establish itself beyond the films: the plots and players in the Season 1 finale ‘The Hunters’ directly lead to the events in Season 2 and beyond.Adrian Paul and Christian van Acker in Highlander (1992)Although the actors do their part, the designs of Season 1 could have used some…tweaking. The Quickening effects are definitely touch and go to start. Honestly, the lightning shows generally coming at the end of each episode waver from looking extremely painful and capable of powering a village to limp, sputtering light bulbs and quasi orgasmic shuddering. Women seriously seem to get the short end of the stick regarding Quickenings, and the fashions of the time have not been kind. Oh, the unflattering gaudy shoulder pads, pleated pants, and high-waisted jeans! Richie fairs no better, with some woefully colorful New Edition and Color Me Badd cast-offs. At least most of the immortal men seem to have classic, swanky style- except some of Duncan’s sweaters, vests, and colorful blazers are a miss. However, any men who can carry off such a variety of period fashion earn a plus in my book. The Leather jackets, cozy turtlenecks, tuxedos, and fedoras here are as timeless as the kilts, cavalier coats, French uniforms, and kimonos.Adrian Paul in Highlander (1992)While the MacLeod and Noel Antiques store, loft, and workshop design look just as good as the period production, it also seems a little too high end and unrealistic today. I know he is immortal and she is a sculptor, but real people could not live in such a pricey and overly designed museum. By contrast, Season 1’s opening Seacouver location seems obvious and bland- again looking like it’s a random warehouse back lot used by every other show made at the time. Thankfully, MacLeod’s barge on the Seine is just a little bit cooler. These French locations add a touch of Old World European class to Highlander. Even if I can’t quite figure the logistics of the barge, (How can one just park his boat on the Seine? What kind of codes and regulations are there for a refurbished ship? Where in the heck does Richie sleep if there’s one bed?!) it’s still a neat and unique set. Yes, Highlander: The Series’ location splits and prominence for French casting is thanks to French financing and production, but it also gives Season 1 a chance to correct its early flaws- including adjusting the opening credits and spending more time in our immortals’ pasts. Subtle connections to the original film are all that’s needed for Season 1 to find its footing- and those motifs largely come from the perfect use of Queen’s soundtrack. You can’t not love the ‘Princes of the Universe’ theme. Be honest, sometimes you just tune into Highlander just to hear the song! The somber ballad ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’ also makes a few appearances- however; it’s the nonchalant use of the titular question by unknowing mere mortals that adds extra zing and panache.Fans of the Highlander franchise surely already know and love these DVDs back to front, but 21st Century newcomers will be pleasantly surprised by the exhaustive amount of features for the Season 1 set. The interface is cumbersome, I grant; but the Watcher Chronicles’ menus, additional scenes, bloopers, commentary options, full script CDs, and behind the scenes features are almost obsessive in shear amount, variety, and content. Almost every episode contains some form of extras- and more is included as the season sets progress. I can even forgive the lack of subtitles here, because someone obviously took his time in making Highlander: The Series as complete as possible on DVD. New fans, however, should be forewarned, as there are often spoilers for the entire series within the features. In fact, all the extras from the Complete Series DVDs are probably best left in a marathon viewing all their own. Adrian Paul and Martin Kemp in Highlander (1992)Highlander: The Series is best when it is about the trials of immortality- not the contemporary messes into which an immortal could get himself. Season 1 falters some when it tries for the latter, but there’s plenty of immortal angst and juicy action established here to enjoy. Longtime fans can delight anytime, and audiences looking for action, adventure, fantasy, and romance can certainly find it here. Some scenes and storylines might be too saucy or complicated for younger tween viewers, but a show that matures in its mythos and quality along with its audience while also staying young forever is tough to find. Yes, just think, Highlander: The Series only gets better from here. Start anew or travel back with Season 1 today.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 2

Starring

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

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Julie Brown (Clueless)
Paddi Edwards (The Little Mermaid)
Diane Pershing (Defenders of The Earth)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Bud Cort (Coyote Ugly)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Eugene Roche (Soap)
Thomas F. Wilson (Legends of Tomorrow)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Mark Hamill (Star wars)
Arleen Sorkin (Gotham Girls)
Mari Devon (Digimon)
Buster Jones (Transformers: The Movie)
Robert Ito (Midway)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Brock Peters (Star trek IV)
Ingrid Oliu (Real Women Have Curves)
Mary McDonald-Lewis (G.I. Joe)
Treat Williams (The Phantom)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Ray Buktenica (Heat)
Melissa Gilbert (Little House on The Prairie)
William Sanderson (Blade Runner)
Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo)
Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
John Glover (Smallville)
Ernie Hudsdon (Ghostbusters)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Marc Singer (V)
Jim Cummings (Christopher Robbin)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Meredith MacRae (Bikini Beach)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Aron Kincaid (Transformers)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Neil Ross (An American Tail)
Marilu Henner (Taxi)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Sal Viscuso (Spaceballs)
Barry Dennen (The Dark Crystal)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Michael York (Cabaret)
Matt Frewer (The Order)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Marcia Wallace (The Simpsons)
Joseph Campanella (Mannix)
Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)

MV5BODY3Mjk5ZWYtMWE5MC00MjdmLTkxZWItZTdhYWI0ZTkzNmRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Having starred in radio shows, serials, a succession of movies, live action television shows and cartoons, Batman remained a consistently hot property since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. One of my favorite incarnations of the Dark Knight Detective was the 1992 cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. Though that initial run has spawned over a dozen other series, it remains my favorite. Though it was positioned as a cartoon for kids, it was easily something that adult fans of the Caped Crusader could enjoy too. The cinematic staging and gothic designs gave it an undeniable visual appeal while the smart writing and first-rate voice acting made the whole show sophisticated and believable. To the great joy of longtime fans and those who missed the show in its initial run, Warner Brothers has just released Volume Two, a four-disc collection of 28 episodes.MV5BMDk1MjFmYjItYjkxNC00NTM1LWIzNWEtYWNlNTVjMWVjMmM1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_You’ll notice that these DVD sets are labeled “volume” rather than “season.” That’s because Batman: The Animated Series had a very unbalanced production schedule. Though the first season consisted of 60 episodes, the second through fourth seasons had less than half that number taken altogether.  The episodes on Volume Two are taken primarily from the second half of the show’s first season but it still leaves some gaps here and there. MV5BMmU5YjM4ZjEtODkzMC00OGIyLTgxYTktYjRmOWFjYjBjOTU2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_This volume has my all-time favorite episode, “The Man Who Killed Batman,” in which a small-time hood finds himself the hero and target of Gotham’s underworld after he apparently kills Batman. In “Almost Got ‘Im” some of Batman’s main enemies reminisce over poker about the times each of them almost killed the Caped Crusader. “The Mechanic” has the Penguin targeting the man who designed and built the Batmobile. “Harley and Ivy” is a great team-up story between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. In “I Am the Knight,” Batman begins to question his effectiveness after Commissioner Gordon is shot.MV5BNmZlODI1ODktMzU2ZC00MTI5LThlNGItNjcxM2IwMTAzZWZkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_You also get the first Riddler episode with “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” and the first Ra’s Al Ghul episode, “Off Balance.” This volume also includes two great two-part episodes. “Robin’s Reckoning” delves into the origin of Robin’s character and “Heart of Steel” introduces us to HARDAC, a computer that’s been replacing key figures in Gotham with look-alikes.MV5BMmQ2MjM3ZGUtNjg1MC00ZTQ2LWFlYTktNDBlZjIyMzFiNjk0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Since Warner has decided to release the episodes without regard to their production or airdate order, it would at least be nice to have more thematic continuity within this volume. HARDAC is introduced here but the final HARDAC episode, “His Silicon Soul,” isn’t included in this volume. Ditto for the introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul; his story won’t be wrapped up until the two-part “The Demon’s Quest.”MV5BZDc1NDM0MDItODEzZC00NDcwLTgwZTUtODc4MmU3YWNlZDc2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Dr. Langstrom is here in “Tyger, Tyger” and “Terror in the Sky” but his first episode, “On Leather Wings,” is on Volume One. You do get a few story arcs started and wrapped up on this disc, as with the story of Bruce’s old nemesis, Kyodai Ken, but you’ll still have to wait for the resolution of some of the more important story threads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – SEASON 1-7

Image result for star trek the next generation logo

MAIN CAST

Patrick Stewart (X-Men)
Jonathan Frakes (Roswell)
LeVar Burton (Roots: The Gift)
Denise Corsby (Dolly Dearest)
Michael Dorn (Ted 2)
Gates McFadden (Franklin & Bash)
Marina Sirtis (The Grudge 3)
Brent Spiner (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Wil Wheaton (Powers)
Diana Muldaur (Born Free)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

DeForest Kelley (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral)
John De Lancie (The Secret Circle)
Michael Bell (Tangled)
Colm Meaney (Intermission)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Elektra)
Brooke Bundy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 & 4)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Tracey Walter (Batman)
Stanley Kamel (Domino)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Majel Barrett (Babylon 5)
Robert Knepper (Izombie)
Carel Struycken (The Addams Family)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Amy O’Neill (Honey, I Blew Up the Kid)
Carolyn McCormick (Enemy Mine)
Katy Boyer (The Island)
Michael Pataki (Rocky IV)
Brenda Strong (Supergirl)
Vaughn Armstrong (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Judson Scott (Blade)
Merritt Butrick (Fright Night: Part 2)
Leon Rippy (Stargate)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday The 13th – Part 8)
Seymour Cassel (Rushmore)
Ray Walston (The Sting)
Whoppi Godlberg (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Chris Latta (G.I.Joe)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer)
Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark)
William Morgan Sheppard (Transformers)
Brian Thompson (The Terminator)
Clyde Kusatsu (Doctor Strange 70s)
Paddi Edwards (Halloween III)
Sam Anderson (Lost)
Robert Duncan McNeill (Masters of The Universe)
Mitchell Ryan (Lethal Weapon)
Nikki Cox (Las Vegas)
Lycia Naff (Total Recall)
Robert Costanzo (Batman: TAS)
Robert O’Reilly (The Mask)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)
Scott Grimes (American Dad)
Ray Wise (Agent Carter)
Andreas Katsulas (Babylon 5)
Simon Templeton (James Bond Jr.)
James Cromwell (Species II)
Corbin Bernsen (The Tomorrow Man)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Tricia O’ Neil (Titanic)
Elrich Anderson (Unfaithful)
Hallie Todd (Sabrina: TTW)
Tony Todd (The Flash)
Harry Groener (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13)
Mark Lenard (Planet of The Apes TV)
Ethan Phillips (Bad Santa)
Elizabeth Dennehy (Gattaca)
George Murodck (Battlestar Galactica)
Jeremy Kemp (Conan)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Beth Toussaint (Fortress 2)
April Grace (Lost)
Patti Yasutake (The Closer)
Alan Scarfe (Andromeda)
Bebe Neuwirth (Jumanji)
Rosalind Chao (Freaky Friday)
Jennifer Hetrick (L.A. Law)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Theodore Bikel (Babylon 5)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
Gwyneth Walsh (Taken)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Ashley Judd (Divergent)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil TV)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
Malachi Throne (Batman 60s)
Henry Darrow (The Hitcher)
Daniel Roebuck (Lost)
Kathryn Leigh Scott (Three Christs)
Pamela Adlon (Better Things)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Ron Canada (Wedding Crashers)
Elizabeth Hoffman (Stargate SG.1)
Stephen Lee (Wargames)
Kevin Peter Hall (Predator)
Richard Cox (Alpha House)
Liz Vassey (Two and a Half Men)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Ed Lauter (The Number 23)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Shay Astar (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Thomas Kopache (Stigmata)
Susanna Thompson (Arrow)
Richard Riehle (Texas Chainsaw 3D)
Alexander Enberg (Junior)
Lance LeGault (Stripes)
Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad)
Richard Cansino (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Anne Ramsay (Mad About You)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Suzie Plakson (How I Met Your Mother)
Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes)
Max Grodénchik (The Rocketeer)
Lanei Chapman (Rat Race)
Barbara Tarbuck (S. Darko)
Mike Hagerty (Overboard)
Michele Scarabelli (Alien Nation)
George Coe (Kramer vs Kramer)
James Doohan (Some Things Never Die)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Ronny Cox (Robocop)
Clive Revill (Batman: TAS)
Jean Simmons (Spartacus)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Stephanie Beacham (The Colbys)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Richard Herd (V)
Tim Russ (Samantha Who?)
Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5)
Salome Jens (Superboy)
Andrew Prine (V)
J.C. Brandy (Halloween 6)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
John Neville (The Fifth Element)
Ned Romero (The Lost Child)
Stephen Hawking (Futurama)
Mark Rolston (Aliens)
Joel Swetow (The Orville)
Bruce Gray (Starship Troopers)
Richard Lynch (Puppet Master 3)
Robin Curtis (General Hospital)
Julie Caitlin Brown (Babylon 5)
Kirsten Dunst (Bring it On)
Lee Arenberg (Pirates of The Caribbean)
Fionnula Flanagan (Lost)
Mark Bramhall (Alias)
Stephen Root (Dodgeball)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Penny Johnson Jerald (Bones)
Jonathan Del Arco (The Closer)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)
Alexander Enberg (junior)
Ellen Albertini Dow (The Wedding Singer)
Brenda Bakke (Hot Shots 2)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas)
Erich Anderson (Friday The 13th 4)
Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs)
Robert Ito (Quincy M.E.)
Vyto Ruginis (Moneyball)
Richard McGonagle (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Time Winters (Thinner)

When the TNG series premiered in 1987, it wasn’t greeted well by many of the old-time Trek fans, including myself. It didn’t help matters that one of the earliest episodes, “The Naked Now” was a superficial retread of the classic “The Naked Time” from ’66. The new episode should have served as a way of spotlighting several of the new crew, but all it did was show them all in heat. I wasn’t too impressed. What did work was keeping the central theme of exploration (something lost in the offshoots, DS9 & Voyager). The new Enterprise was twice as large as the original, with about a thousand personnel aboard. Capt. Picard (Stewart) was a more cerebral, diplomatic version of the ultimate explorer we had known as Capt. Kirk. Again, Picard wasn’t too impressive in the first two awkward seasons, as some may mistake his caution for weakness. The Kirk-like first officer Riker (Frakes) was controlled by Picard, so the entire crew of Enterprise-D came across as a bit too civilized, too complacent for their own good. It’s interesting that this complacency was fractured by the most memorable episode of the first two years, “Q Who?” which introduced The Borg. All of a sudden, exploration was not a routine venture.

Other memorable episodes of the first 2 years: the double-length pilot, introducing Q; “Conspiracy”-an early invasion thriller; “Where No One Has Gone Before”-an ultimate attempt to define the exploring theme; “The Big Goodbye”-the first lengthy exploration of the new holodeck concept; “Datalore”-intro of Data’s evil twin; “Skin of Evil”-death of Tasha Yar; “11001001”-perhaps the best holodeck story; and “The Measure of a Man”-placing an android on trial. Except for “Q Who” the 2nd year was even more of a letdown from the first. Space started to percolate in the 3rd season. I liked “The Survivors”-introducing an entity resembling Q in a depressed mood, and “Deja Q” with both Q & Guinan squaring off, as well as other alien beings. A remaining drawback was the ‘techno-babble’ hindering many scripts, an aspect which made them less exciting than the stories of the original series. As Roddenberry himself believed, when characters spoke this way, it did not come across as naturalistic, except maybe when it was Data (Spiner), the android. The engineer La Forge (Burton), for example, was usually saddled with long, dull explanatory dialog for the audience.

In the 3rd year, truly innovative concepts such as the far-out parallel-universe adventure “Yesterday’s Enterprise” began to take hold, topped by the season-ender “The Best of Both Worlds,part 1” in which The Borg returned in their first try at assimilating Earth. After this and the 2nd part, the TNG show was off and running, at full warp speed. There are too many great episodes from the next 4 seasons to list here, but I tended to appreciate the wild, cosmic concept stories best: “Parallels”(s7); “Cause and Effect”(s5); “Timescape”(s6); “Tapestry”(s6); and the scary “Frame of Mind”, “Schisms” and “Genesis.” There’s also the mind-blowing “Inner Light”(s5), “Conundrum” and “Ship in a Bottle”(s6), “Second Chances.” The intense 2-parter “Chain of Command” was almost like a film, and the great return of Scotty in “Relics” was very entertaining, though it showed you can’t go home again. The show also continued to tackle uneasy social issues, as in “The Host”, “The Outcast”, “First Contact” and “The Drumhead” as well as political:”Darmok”, “Rightful Heir”, “Face of the Enemy” and “The Pegasus.” The series ended on a strong note, “All Good Things…” a double-length spectacular with nearly the budget of a feature film. But it wasn’t really the end. A few months later, an actual feature film was released “Star Trek Generations”(94). It’s rather ironic that the TNG films couldn’t match the innovation and creativity of the last 4 seasons of the series. “Star Trek Insurrection”(98) for example, is a lesser effort than any of the episodes mentioned above.

REVIEW: AMERICAN YAKUZA 2: BACK TO BACK

 

 CAST

Michael Rooker (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Ryo Ishibasji (The Grudge)
Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5)
John Laughlin (the Rock)
Bobcat Goldthwait (Freaked)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Stephen Furst (Babylon 5)
Tim Thomerson (Air America0
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Leland Orser (The Bone Collector)
Scott Leva (X-Men)

 

An explosive situation erupts when a mob war thrusts a yakuza, an ex-cop, and his adolescent daughter into a deadly, no-win situation. Booted in disgrace from the L.A. police force Bob Malone suffers a seemingly endless unlucky streak. Matters don’t improve when a robbery led by a crazed criminal transpires at the bank where Malone is filling out foreclosure papers. Witnessing the crime, something inside Malone snaps and he single-handedly wipes out most of the robber gang. Unfortunately, the ringleader escapes and Malone ends up jailed by his corrupt former colleague Lt. Tony Dussecq. At the same time, two Japanese yakuza arrive in L.A. to deliver a special message to L.A.’s most prominent Mafia don. The yakuza are in a restaurant when the bank robber (wearing a vest covered with explosives) bursts in and threatens to blow the place up. One of the Japanese, Koji, intervenes in an explosive sequence. He too ends up at the police station just as Malone’s feisty teen daughter Chelsea arrives with bail money. The yakuza suddenly escapes, taking Chelsea and Malone with him as hostages. Now pursued by the crooked coppers and the mob, the unlikely threesome have no choice but to team up to survive.

The story is well told from the view of people living in the back side of the society, with friendship, and loyalty which is an universal code between warriors of two countries. Ryo Ishibashi and Daniel Harris steals the show with their acting. A hidden gem of a movie I’m sure you’ll agree if you’ve seen it.

REVIEW: LIVE VIRGIN (AKA American Virgin)

CAST

Mena Survari (American Pie)
Gabriel Mann (Cherry Falls)
Robert Loggia (Independence Day)
Bob Hoskins (Hollywoodland)
Sally Kellerman (Prêt-à-Porter)
Octavia Spencer (Insurgent)
Michael Cudlitz (Standoff)
Freda Foh Shen (Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Esai Morales (Caprica)
Cynthia LaMontagne (That 70s Show)
Michael Milhoan (She’s All That)
Kristin Minter (Home Alone)
Bobbie Phillips (Chameleon)
Rick Peters (Dexter)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)

This film features the daughter of a porn magnate with a boy friend she once trusted who appears to have strayed from the straight path of love. In a mixture of despair and retaliation she agrees to be the first star (victim?) on a new TV series which once every month will feature a virgin experiencing her first sexual liaison on camera. The film creates a parody of pornographic movie makers interested only in the audience such a program will achieve, and this is deliberately exaggerated to the point of being grossly overdrawn. Ultimately, it culminates in a pure slapstick sequence where the boy friend manages to penetrate her dressing room on the eve of the performance and convince her that he did not stray in the way she thought – she then tells the producers of the show that she is quitting, with the obvious results.

The film ends after the TV connections have been severed by a sword leaving the happy couple able to consummate their liaison in relative peace. This parody of the porn industry displays promoters trying to bring their new series to screen in a very unkind light, whilst simultaneously providing some quite sharp satire. I did not feel it was as bad as some of people suggest; but the aim of the film makers appears to have been simply to create easily achieved comedy sequences – not to make a film with any social significance – and as a result much of this satire can readily be lost leaving a very cheap and tawdry residue.

The  film provided a classic example of a lost opportunity; and that, despite its challenging subject matter, it is unfortunately not worth repeated viewings.

REVIEW: SNOW WHITE: THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL

CAST
Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and The Beast)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Tom Irwin (21 Grams)
Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Jose Zuniga (Constantine)
Warwick Davis (Ewok Adventures)
Tyron Leitso (Wonderfalls)
Martin Klebba (Jurassic World)
Michelle Harrison (The Flash)
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John and Josephine deeply wish to have a child and when she is born with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony, they name her Snow White. However, Josephine, Snow White’s mother, dies in childbirth, leaving John alone with their child. In the winter, John struggles to find food for his daughter, Snow White, when he sheds a tear over a frozen lake and frees a creature known as the Green-Eyed One. As thanks for freeing him, Green-Eyed One offers John three wishes. For John’s wishes, he asks for nourishment for his daughter, a kingdom to raise his family, and a queen for a new wife, as the creature cannot raise the dead. John’s wishes come true, though he is unaware that the Green-Eyed One owes Elspeth, his hideous spellcasting sister, who is an old and ugly crone, a wish of her own. In order to fulfill her ambitions, the Green-Eyed One transforms Elspeth into a beautiful and young woman who will marry John and become his queen, second and new wife, and Snow White’s stepmother. The creature also provides Elspeth with a magical mirror that allows her to see others unseen and to deceive John. As years pass, Elspeth forms a good relationship with her stepdaughter, Snow White, who becomes a beautiful princess 16 years later. However, Elspeth is vain and keeps a room full of magical mirrors which assure her each day that she is the fairest of them all whenever she asks.
When Prince Alfred arrives in the kingdom and falls in love with Snow White, Elspeth is furious to discover that images of Snow White are appearing in her mirrors, which means that her stepdaughter is the fairest of them all. Driven with jealousy, Elspeth orders Hector, a hunter, to take the Princess into the forest and kill her, and then return with Snow White’s heart for her to consume. In the meantime, Elspeth transforms Alfred into a bear. Unable to kill Snow White, Hector presents Elspeth with the heart of a wild boar instead. When she learns the truth, Elspeth kills Hector, imprisons John in her mirrors, and stifles Snow White with an enchanted ribbon.
Snow White is saved by seven dwarfs, each named after the days of the week and possessing the power to transform into a rainbow to move from one place to another (but are only capable if all seven dwarfs are present). The eldest is Sunday, who is a victim of one of Elspeth’s spells that has left half of him as a garden gnome. The dwarfs allow Snow White to care for their home, though the dwarf Wednesday is initially suspicious. When Elspeth learns that Snow White is still alive, she prepares a poisoned apple and transforms into Josephine, Snow White’s deceased mother, with the magic mirror the Green-Eyed One gave her. Aided by Monday, who is turned into a garden gnome afterward, Elspeth, disguised as Josephine, finds her and convinces her to eat the enchanted and poisoned apple, which seemingly kills Snow White.
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With her task finished, Elspeth tries to resume her beautiful guise with the mirror. But instead, the magic mirror returns her to her true form, even more loathsome than before, as punishment from The Green-Eyed One for killing her stepdaughter. Snow White, a sweet and innocent human being. The dwarfs, unable to save Snow White, place her in a coffin of ice and leave her near Monday’s statue. When she receives a kiss of true love from Prince Alfred, in his bear form, she is revived. The spells on Alfred, Sunday, and Monday break, and Elspeth’s mirrors shatter, freeing John. Elspeth gets tackled and killed by gnomes, who have been freed from their enchantments. Freed from Elspeth, the Green-Eyed One is able to go his way. Snow White and Alfred live happily ever after while the dwarfs decide to move on to find Sleeping Beauty.
An excellent and refreshing version of this classic. Enough twists to make it different, but also very recognisable for a child familiar with the story. The dwarfs are named after the days of the week and each wear a colour of the rainbow they can all form together. It is very magical and well made.

REVIEW: BATMAN RETURNS

CAST
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Danny DeVito (Drowning Mona)
Michelle Pfeiffer (Stardust)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Michael Gough (Corpes Bride)
Andrew Bryniarski (7 Mummies)
Pat Hingle (Talladega Nights)
Vincent Schiavelli (American Yakuza 2)
Jan Hooks (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Paul Reubens (Mystery Men)
Michael Murphy (Rogue)
Cristi Conaway (Timecop TV)
Branscombe Richmond (The Scorpion King)
Diane Salinger (Ghost World)
Sean Whalen (Superstore)
Robert Gossett (Dark Angel)
Felix Silla (Spaceballs)
Debbie Lee Carrington (Total Recall)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Tucker and Esther Cobblepot, an aristocratic couple, throw their deformed infant child in a river, feeling that Gotham City’s high society would not approve after witnessing their son kill their pet cat. However, a flock of penguins living in an abandoned zoo’s arctic exhibit connected to the sewers rescue and raise him. 33 years later, the child becomes The Penguin (Danny DeVito) and the ring master of the Red Triangle Circus Gang, who appear in Gotham City during the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and cause a riot. As the police and Batman (Michael Keaton) deal with the riot, one of the guests at the ceremony, a prominent businessman named Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), is kidnapped and taken to the Penguin, who desires to become a citizen of Gotham and blackmails Shreck into helping him by threatening to expose evidence of his corporate crimes.
Meanwhile, Shreck’s secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), accidentally finds out that the power plant which her employer wants to build will actually drain Gotham of its electricity. When Shreck confronts her after returning from his visit with Penguin, he pushes her out of a window to silence her but a series of curtains break her fall somewhat and a clutter of alley cats revive her by licking her wounds. Selina returns home, suffers a mental breakdown, and designs a black vinyl catsuit to become the costumed vigilante Catwoman.
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The Penguin sends one of his costumed henchmen to kidnap the mayor’s baby while he “saves” him, becoming a hero to the people of Gotham. However, Bruce Wayne is suspicious of his true motives. After some time in the Hall of Records, the Penguin discovers that his parents are dead and his name is Oswald Cobblepot, though he has secretly been taking notes on the first-born sons that live in Gotham City. Meanwhile, Batman’s alter-ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne, is dealing with Shreck’s persistence in having his new power plant built. As both Bruce and the current mayor will not approve of the power plant, Shreck decides to pull strings and make Penguin the new mayor. To do this, Penguin has the Red Triangle Gang create a riot, causing the citizens to lose all faith in the mayor. During the riot, Catwoman vandalizes Max’s Department Store to gain revenge on him. When Batman and the Penguin confront each other, she intervenes just as the store blows up and she slips away. The Penguin escapes as Catwoman fights Batman and gets pushed off a rooftop, but she is saved when she lands in a dump-truck filled with kitty litter.
The Penguin and Catwoman meet and collaborate on a plan to kill Batman out of mutual hatred for the Caped Crusader, but Selina finds herself developing a romantic relationship with Bruce Wayne as the two of them start to spend time together. That night, Penguin and his gang kidnap the actress chosen to turn on the Gotham City Christmas tree lights known as the “Ice Princess”, and frame Batman by leaving one of his weapons on the scene. After a fight with Catwoman, Batman finds the Ice Princess on a rooftop where the Penguin releases a swarm of flying bats and makes her fall to her death, further incriminating Batman. As Penguin and Catwoman celebrate their victory, Penguin tries to make advances towards her, which she rejects. Angered, Penguin ends their alliance and causes her to fall into a greenhouse. Batman escapes to the Batmobile and discovers that Penguin’s henchmen have broken into it and installed a remote control device. The Penguin takes it on a devastating rampage, but Batman regains control and escapes death. He also manages to record part of the Penguin’s taunts, which are being transmitted to the screen on his dashboard.
The next day, the Penguin and Shreck are using Batman’s rampage to push for an impeachment of the mayor. Batman turns the situation around by jamming the signal and broadcasting the Penguin’s contemptuous outburst. Enraged, the Penguin takes his notes from the Hall of Records and orders the Red Triangle Gang to kidnap all the first-born sons of Gotham so that he can throw them to their deaths in the sewer like his own parents did to him, and he personally kidnaps Max Shreck as revenge for being manipulated. Batman saves all the children, forcing the Penguin to execute an alternate plan to destroy the entire city with his army of rocket-armed penguin commandos. The plan backfires when Batman lures the penguins back to the Penguin’s sewer base before confronting Penguin directly and knocking him into the sewer water from a great height.
Catwoman appears with her costume torn after the greenhouse crash, and again tries to kill Shreck, but Batman stops her and reveals himself as Bruce Wayne. She does the same as Selina. Shreck then shoots Batman, before shooting Selina four times. She survives all the shots, counting out how many of her nine lives she has left, and once Shreck runs out of bullets, she puts an electrical taser between their lips while grabbing an electrical cable. As Batman, who was wearing body armor, regains consciousness, a tremendous explosion is caused that kills Shreck but leaves no trace of Selina. As the dust settles, the Penguin rises from the water and tries one more time to kill Batman, but collapses from his injuries and dies. The emperor penguins hold a funeral procession for their dead master and drag his corpse back into the sewer water, his resting place.
Afterwards, Alfred (Michael Gough) drives Bruce home, but Bruce spots a shadow of Catwoman in the alley and has the car stopped so he can check. All he finds is a black cat trying to keep warm, and so Bruce takes her home with him as he exchanges Christmas wishes with Alfred. As they leave, the Bat-Signal lights up in the night sky as Catwoman, with her costume fixed, watches from afar.
Batman Returns remains the greatest cinematic comic book movie to date and one of Tim Burton’s most uniquely accomplished films