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

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MAIN CAST

Patrick Stewart (X-Men)
Joanthan 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)
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)
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)
BethToussaint (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)
David Ogden Stiers (Tweo Guys and a Girl)
Gwyneth walsh (Taken)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Ashley Judd (Divergent)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
Malachi Thorne (Batman 60s)
Daniel Roebuck (Lost)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Ron Canada (Wedding Crashers)
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)
Lanei Chapman (Rat Race)
James Doohan (Some Things Never Die)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Ronny Cox (Robocop)
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)
Alan Oppenheimer (Transformers)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
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)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Penny Johnson Jerald (Bones)
Brian Markinson (Arrow)

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.

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REVIEW: HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES – SEASON 1-6

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MAIN CAST

Adrian Paul (Eyeborgs)
Alexander Vandernoot (Pret-A-Porter)
Stan Kirsch (Shallow Ground)
Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
Elizabeth Gracen (Death of The Incredible Hulk)
Jim Byrnes (Sanctuary)
Philip Akin (Robocop 2014)
Michel Modo (My Father’s Glory)
Lisa Howard (Earth: Final Conflict)
Peter Wingfield (Caprica)

RECURRRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Christopher Lambert (Fortress)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Wendell Wright (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Peter Deluise (21 Jump Street)
Matthew Walker (Andromeda)
Soon-Tek Oh (Mulan)
Vincent Schiavelli (Buffy)
John Novak (Wishmaster 3 & 4)
Garry Chalk (Dark Angel)
Joan Jett (The Sweet Life)
Gary Jones (Stargate SG.1)
Wes Studi (Mystery Men)
Marc Singer (V)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix)
Stephen Macht (Galaxina)
Scott McNeil (Beast Wars)
Vanity (52 Pick-Up)
J.G. Hertzler (Star Trek: DS9)
Tom Butler (Freddy vs Jason)
Werner Stocker (The White Rose)
Peter Howitt (Defying Gravity)
Roland Gift (Brakes)
Dee Dee Bridgewater (Another Life)
Jason Isaacs (Peter Pan)
Nigel Terry (Troy)
Anthoyn Head (Buffy)
Marion Cotillard (Contagion)
Peter Guinness (Alien 3)
Roger Daltrey (Tommy)
Peter Hudson (Hitman)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Cameron Bancroft (Legends of Tomorrow)
Douglas Arthurs (Stargate SG.1)
J.H. Wyman (Sirens)
Geraint Wyn Davies (Cube 2)
Traci Lords (Zack & Miri Make a Porno)
Andrew Jackson (Earth: Final Conflict)
Kendall Cross (Caprica)
Sheena Easton (Young Blades)
Don S. Davis (Stargate SG.1)
Robert Wisden (Watchmen)
Mitchell Kosterman (Smallville)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Robert Ito (Quincy M.E.)
Dustin Nguyen (21 Jump Street)
Bruce A. Young (Jurassic PArk III)
Andrea Roth (Ringer)
Roddy Piper (They Live)
Bill Dow (Stargate Atlantis)
Gabrielle Miller (Down River)
Bruce Weitz (Hill Street Blues)
Nicholas Lea (V)
Lochlyn Munro (Little Man)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Ed Lauter (The Number 23)
Roark Critchlow (V)
Jeremy Brudenell (Wish Me Luck)
Peter Firth (Victoria)
Angeline Ball (My Girl 2)
Nia Peeples (Pretty Little Liars)
James Faulkner (X-Men: First Class)
Nadia Cameron-Blakey (Batman Begins)
Emile Abossolo M’bo (Hitman)
Martin Cummins (Bates Motel)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Tamlyn Tomita (Heroes)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Randall Cobb (Liar Liar)
Chandra West (White Noise)
Brion James (Blade Runner)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Alan Scarfe (Andromeda)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Myles Ferguson (Little Criminals)
Jesse Moss (Ginger Snaps)
Sherry Miller (Bitten)
Laura Harris (Dead Like me)
Garwin Sanford (Stargate SG.1)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Vincent Gale (Van Helsing)
Tamara Gorski (Hercules: TLJ)
Stella Stevens (General Hospital)
Barry Pepper (The Green Mile)
Vivan Wu (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
Richard Lynch (Puppet Master III)
Eugene Lipinski (Arrow)
David Robb (Downtown Abbey)
Lynda Boyd (Sanctuary)
Kim Johnston Ulrich (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Ben Pullen (Elizabeth I)
Paudge Behan (Veronica Guerin)
Carsten Norgaard (Alien vs Predator)
Anna Hagen (The Messengers)
Laurie Holden (the Walking Dead)
Gerard Plunkett (Sucker Punch)
Kristin Minter (Home Alone)
Wolfgang Bodison (A Few Good Men)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heroes Reborn)
Callum Keith Rennie (Flashforward)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)
Travis MacDonald (Warcraft)
Venus Terzo (Arrow)
Rachel Hayward (Jingle All The Way 2)
Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci’s Inquest)
Peter Outerbridge (Beauty and the Beast)
Jill Teed (Battlestar Galactica)
Molly Parker (Deadwood)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half men )
Ann Turkel (The Fear)
Ron Halder (Stargate Sg.1)
Ocean Hellman (Voyage of The Unicorn)
Rae Dawn Chong (Commando)
Carl Chase (Batman)
Michael J. Jackson (Coronation Street)
Ricco Ross (Wishmaster)
Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita)
Jamie Harris (Agents of Shield)
Crispin Bonham-Carter (Basil)
Stephen Tremblay (Unnatural Pursuits)
Jesse Joe Walsh (JCVD)
Tracy Scoggins (Lois & Clark)
Real Andrews (Born on The 4th of July)
Eric McCormack (Will & Grace)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Michael Kopsa (Dark Angel)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Sandra Bernhard (2 Broke Girls)
April Telek (Walking Tall)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Steve Bacic (Andromeda)
Kira Clavell (Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Peter Hanlon (Scary Movie)
Musetta Vander (Stargate SG.1)
Valetnine Pelka (8mm 2)
Sonja Codhant (Navarro)
Jonathan Firth (Withering Heights)
Danny Dyer (Severance)
Rachel Shelley (The L Word)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Anita Dobson (Eastenders)
Jasper Britton (The New World)
Alice Evans (The Originals)
Andrew Bricknell (Victoria)
Justina Vail (Seven Days)
Sandra Hess (Encino Man)
Claudia Christian (Babylon 5)
Jack Ellis (Bad Girls)
Paris Jefferson (Xena)_
Martin McDougall (Batman Begins)

Few television series’ that are based on movies live up to the original version, either because they simply don’t have right qualities that made the movie great or they the people making the show just don’t give a damn. “Highlander: The Series”, however, is one of those rare exceptions.

Image result for highlander the seriesBased off of the original 1986 fan favorite and produced by same the executive producers William Panzer and Peter Davis, it continued the saga of the immortals, a race of beings destined to fight one another in sword fights in a centuries long event called the game and who can only be killed by decapitation, with the opponent taking their head and their power. In particular, the show centers around one such immortal named Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul in his best role) of the Clan Macleod, a descendant of Connor Macleod (Christopher Lambert who reprises his role for the pilot) from the first film.Image result for highlander the seriesBorn in the highlands of Scotland in 1592, Duncan has roamed the world for 400 years, seen many different events, and has fought in many different wars and many battles with other immortals. And that last part is one of the things that made the show great. You could count on almost every episode to feature a spectacular sword fight with the villain of the week, a battle of life and death, with Duncan Macleod emerging victorious from yet another trying ordeal and even more spectacular quickening.

Image result for highlander the seriesBased on that, you might expect a show centering on such a plot to become boring or same old, same old, and the show might very well have become so. But, the truth is the show managed to constantly entertain and thrill for most of its run in large part because of the talent the show had. Adrian Paul was more than capable of carrying a show, bringing not only charm and charisma to the role of Duncan but also a strong sense of honor and chivalry, thus making Duncan Macleod one of the great television heroes.Image result for highlander the seriesBut it wasn’t just Adrian’s acting that made the show great; it was also due to the well blending of strong supporting actors, guest stars and villains, writers, and set designers and directors. You had Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch), a young man who becomes a part of Duncan’s world in a way he never imagined. Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) a member of a secret society of mortals called the Watchers who dedicate themselves to watching and recording the deeds and actions of the immortals; the always enjoyable Methos (the wonderfully charismatic Peter Wingfield), a 5,000 year old immortal and the oldest living of his kind; Amanda (Elizabeth Grace), an immortal who’s had an on again, off again relationship with Duncan throughout the ages and who’s not put off by an occasional high-value heist or two to make a living, and a slew of guest stars, villains and other supporting actors that added to the show every week.Image result for highlander the seriesPlus, one must also give credit to behind the scenes people, who not only managed to make things interesting in the present, but the past as well. Every episode featured dazzling historical flashbacks, flashbacks that were so good there isn’t one where you didn’t believe the characters weren’t where the show said they were, be it World War I France or British Colonial India (these flashbacks are even more remarkable when you consider the fact that the show, because it was syndicated, had a much smaller budget than shows tied directly to a network). It was also a show that, like the original film, caused the viewer to wonder what would it be like to live indefinitely and witness the changing of the times? What kind of person would you become if you witnessed your time, your religion, possibly even your entire culture disappear into the mists of time?Image result for highlander the seriesAll this must be credited to the writers, led by creative consultant David Abramowitz, who had a lot to do with the magic of the show. Not to say, of course, that weren’t imperfections; some episodes dragged, and one or two of them were pretty bad (the episode “The Zone” is a good example of this), not to mention the fact that the show badly lost steam in the last season, a thing that tends to happen to most shows in the end. However, that being said, the show did far more for the Highlander franchise than any of the sequels ever did. For that reason, it’s a show that all fans of action and fantasy should check out.

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)

 

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: 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)
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.
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.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 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)
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.
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

REVIEW: BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – SEASON 1-7

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Logo 3840x2160 wallpaper

CAST

Sarah Michelle Gellar (Ringer)
Nicholas Brendon (Children of The Corn III)
Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother)
Charisma Carpenter (Scream Queens)
Anthony Stewart Head (The Iron Lady)
Davis Boreanaz (Bones)
Seth Green (Austin Powers)
James Marsters (Caprica)
Marc Blucas (Red State)
Emma Caulfield (Supergirl)
Michelle Tractenberg (17 Again)
Amber Benson (The Killing Jar)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Mark Metcalf (Drive me Crazy)
Brian Thompson (Hired To Kill)
Ken Lerner (The Running Man)
Kristine Sutherland (One Life To Live)
Julie Benz (No Ordinary Family)
Eric Balfour (Skylive)
Persia White (The Vampire Diaries)
Mercedes McNab (The Addams Family)
Elizabeth Anne Allen (Bull)
Robin Riker (The Bold and The Beautiful)
Musetta Vander (Stargate SG.1)
Christopher Wiehl (Cold Hearts)
Geoff Meed (Little Miss Sunshine)
Andrew J. Ferchland (The Last Leprechaun)
Jennifer Sky (Cleopatra 2525)
Chad Lindberg (The Fast and The Furious)
Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: DS9)
Dean Butler (Little House on The Prairie)
Clea DuVall (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Robia LaMorte (Spawn)
Michael Bacall (Django Unchained)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Ara Celi (American Beauty)
Clayne Crawford (Roswell)
Danny Strong (The Prophecy II)
Kavan Smith (Stargate SG.1)
Robin Sachs (Jurassic Park 2)
Larry Bagby (Walk The Line)
Jason Behr (Roswell)
Will Rothhaar (Kingpin)
Julia Lee (A Man Apart)
Bianca Lawson (The Vampire Diaries)
Saverio Guerra (Becker)
John Ritter (8 Simple Rules)
Jeremy Ratchford (Cold Case)
James Parks (Kill Bill)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Jack Conley (Fast & Furious)
Willie Garson (Stargate SG.1)
Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Meredith Salenger (Lake Placid)
Charles Cyphers (Halloween)
Wentworth Miller (Legends of Tomorrow)
Shane West (Nikita)
Max Perlich (Blow)
Richard Riehle (Office Space)
Carlos Jacott (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Nancy Lenehan (Two Guys and a Girl)
Jason Hall (American Sniper)
K. todd Freeman (The Dark Knight)
Fab Filippo (Guidestones)
Jeremy Roberts (The Mask)
Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling)
Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness)
Harry Groener (About Schmidt)
Jack Plotnick (Rubber)
Nicole Bilderback (Dark Angel)
Jeff Kober (New Girl)
Harris Yulin (Training Day)
Dominic Keating (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead)
Alexis Denisof (Dollhouse)
Christian Clemenson (Lois & Clark)
Ron Rogge (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Ethan Erickson (Jawbreaker)
Andy Umberger (Deja Vu)
Katharine Towne (Evolution)
Lindsay Crouse (The Insider)
Phina Oruche (The Forsaken)
Adam Kaufman (Taken)
Walter Jones (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Kal Penn (Van Wilder)
Bailey Chase (Longmire)
Leonard Roberts (Heroes)
Andy Hallett (Chance)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
George Hertzberg (Too Much Magic)
Alastair Duncan (The Batman)
Rob Benedict (Birds of Prey)
Erica Luttrell (Lost Girl)
Kathryn Joosten (desperate Housewives)
Connor O’Farrell (Lie To Me)
Rudolf Martin (Swordfish)
Tom Lenk (The Cabin In The Woods)
Charlie Weber (Gacy)
Clare Kramer (Bring it On)
Ravil Isyanov (Alias)
Amy Adams (Man of Steel)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Kali Rocha (Buried)
Kevin Weisman (Alias)
Abraham Benrubi (Open Range)
Cynthia LaMontagne (That 70s Show)
Oliver Muirhead (The Social Network)
Shonda Farr (Crossroads)
Adam Busch (Sugar & Spice)
Joel Grey (Cabaret)
Karim Prince (Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers)
Wade Williams (Gangster Squad)
Todd Stashwick (The Originals)
Amber Tamblyn (Two and a Half Men)
Jordan Belfi (Surrogates)
Mageina Tovah (Spider-Man 2 & 3)
Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale)
Lee Garlington (Flashforward)
Jan Hoag (Scream Queens)
Nicole hiltz (Smallville)
Alexandra Breckenridge (The Walking Dead)
D.B. Woodside (24)
Zachery Ty Bryan (The Fast and the Furious 3)
Sarah Hagan (Freaks and Geeks)
Jonathan M. Woodward (Firefly)
Stacey Scowley (The Brotherhood 2)
Felicia Day (The Guild)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (Arrow)
Ashanti (Resident Evil: Extinction)
Indigo (Broken City)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Dania Ramirez (Heroes)
Julia Ling (Chuck)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of the wittiest, most well developed, and consistent cult fantasy shows on television. Unlike other shows in the genre, it has been able to showcase a wide balance between fantastic character development, humor, topical plotlines, heart wrenching drama, science fiction, and horror- a horn a plenty of styles all in one 44 min episode. While entertaining, everyone probably can’t relate to the technobabble machinations of a Star Trek episode, or the convoluted paranoia of and X-Files episode, but we all went through high school and whether you were average, popular, or an outcast, we know, we remember, all too well, the emotional highs and lows of growing up. Its something everyone can relate to, and its the central fire that keeps Buffy grounded.


But, Buffy began as a humble mid season replacement on a non entity network, and its early days when it was gaining its footing, starting its mythology, seeing how far they could tweek the drama and the horror with a minuscule budget… well, its not nearly the powerhouse it would quickly become in its second season. There are of course, subtle signs of the drama and humor to come, little hints that it was more than a teen show with vampires. And, honestly, if you were going to try and impress someone who had never seen The X-Flies, you certainly wouldn’t show them the first season without saying, “It gets much better.”

KEY EPISODES ARE –


Episode 1: Welcome to the Hellmouth- Buffy Summers, a high school sophomore, transfers to Sunnydale High. There she meets her “Watcher” and learns she cannot escape her true destiny.— Like most pilots, its all about introductions- Buffy the reluctant Slayer, her pals and soon to be Scoobies, spazz with a heart of gold Xander, shy brain Willow, her stuffy Watcher Giles, the mysterious Angel, and the snobbish beauty queen Cordelia. Also, of course, establishes the first main villain, The Master, and the Hellmouth, the demonic portal that would provide the show with its main mythological device keeping the town of Sunnydale infested with all manner of creatures for Buffy to slay

Episode 2: The Harvest:- A Stranger named Angel tells Buffy that if she does not stop the Harvest, the Hellmouth will open and the Master roam free.— Whereas the first episode was focused on introducing the characters and didn’t have much room for tension or action, The Harvest provides a look at Buffy having to accept her role as Slayer as she realizes the deadly consequences if she abandons her destiny.

Episode 5 : Never Kill a Boy on the First Date:

While awaiting the arrival of a warrior vampire called the Anointed One, Buffy’s big date at the Bronze ends with an assault on a funeral home. — Once again, showing Buffy’s attempts to balance a normal life with her secret life as the Slayer. While a little weak and cornball, it also manages to show the villain thread well, how most main Buffy villains will have some sort of evolution, twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing.

Episode 7: Angel: A moment of passion turns to terror as Buffy discovers Angel’s true identity and learns about the Gypsy curse that has haunted him for almost 100 years.— Probably the most weak, ill-defined character early on, this episode finally showcased more about Angel and gave his character some considerable fleshing out. Taking into account the large part his character would play in the Buffyverse, and the leaps and bounds of change he would undergo, his affect on all the characters, particularly Buffy, in one way or another, it makes this one of the seasons better episodes.

Episode 11: Out of Mind, Out of Sight: As Cordelia prepares for Sunnydale High’s May Queen competition, an invisible force starts attacking her closest friends.— Another of the seasons better episodes, and a clever look an always pertinent issue, showing yet another sympathetic foe, those fringe kids who are always ignored, sometimes until it is too late.

Episode 12: Prophecy Girl:

As the Spring Fling dance approaches, Giles discovers an ancient book foretelling the Slayers death at the hands of The Master.— While a tad abrupt, this finale serves up everything one wants, tension, conflict, and turns you don’t quite see coming. Pivotal in the series for all players, but mainly Buffy, showing that she isn’t just an invulnerable buttkicker able to save the day alone, but through banding together her and the Scoobies will take on many a Big Bad to come.

Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is quite possibly the best season of the bunch. Season 2 is by definition, where things get darker and more complex, this was the season that really made Buffy an unpredictably smart series.

The season opens with ‘When She Was Bad’ which deals with the fallout of Buffy’s momentary death in the previous year one finale; this episode is appropriately handled and sees Buffy acting rather out of character after returning from her summer away from Sunnydale. The preceding episodes are a fun affair and help the viewer to settle back into the rhythm of the series with various episodes focusing upon certain characters.

The ‘Big Bads’ of the season appear early on and come in the form of Drusilla and Spike, the former being a rather off-her-rocker vampire and the latter a bleached, leather wearing, cocky undead Englishman! As villains they are a lot of fun and help to shape season 2 as something unique and well constructed. However, come the end of the year things are considerably shaken up in terms of ‘the Big Bads’, with the appearance of Angelus.

Willow, Xander and Giles all find themselves venturing into new territory: dating! Cordelia continues to redeem herself and becomes a fully fledged scoobygang member, whilst Buffy and Angel undergo many changes to their relationship which is mostly the driving force of the season. By the middle of the season the episodes gradually become darker and a more coherent storyarc begins to emerge, starting with the events of ‘Surprise (Part 1)’ which culminate in the emotional and incredibly shocking ‘Innocence’ (Part 2). Said episodes are some of the best in the history of the series and set in motion events that help to lead to the end of the season. The circumstances surrounding this two parter does literally change everything once established between Buffy and Angel; and brings into question their future. The continuity, witty one liners, oblique use of language does continue into this season and helps to boost the chemistry between the actors as they discuss, for example the oddness of some TV movies and sore thumbs. These subtle touches give the season a vibrancy and kooky edge; what makes Buffy such an enjoyable show is the warmth and heart it retains, mostly provided by the actors but also by the wonderfully consistent writing.

The two part finale ‘Becoming’ is well set up as a consequence of the episode ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, which happens to be beautifully moving and tragic respectively. The complexity of the Angelus arc presented here really sets up and supports the actions that lead to the occurrences of the finale. ‘Becoming’ part 1 & 2 with all it’s flashback goodness brings about tumultuous change and throws one through the emotional wringer all the while its still surprising, sad and gut wrenching upon each rewatch. The issues dealt with this season are far more adult and dark than is the usual, and in turn it delivers a wonderfully realized arc which never fails to amaze.


This third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer contains some of my favourite episodes from the entire run of the show and also has the fewest offbeat episodes. This year Buffy and the gang are in their final year of high school but living on the Hellmouth is never easy and in addition to the usual demons and vampires they must deal with the schemes of the Watchers Council, a new slayer and a politician after even more power.

Buffy has really found its feet with this season and I would say that it is this year that the show reaches its peak. All the regular cast members give their usual brilliant performances but the season is really stolen by the new cast members, specifically Eliza Dushku as Faith the new Slayer and Harry Groener as the eccentrically evil Mayor Wilkins, who is probably my favourite of all the Buffy villains.

It is difficult to choose favorite episodes from this season as it includes so many great ones. `Bad Candy’, `Amends’, `Earshot’ and the two part season finally `Graduation’ are all excellent episodes being both funny and enthralling but my favorite episode has to be `Lover’s Walk’ where a lovesick Spike returns to Sunnydale after breaking up with Drusilla in order to find a way to get her back. James Marsters is truly excellent in this episode and livens up the series brilliantly. Another couple of episodes of note are `The Wish’ and `Doppelgangland’ both of which involve a parallel universe where vampires have taken over and feature a vamped up Willow, brilliantly portrayed by Alyson Hannigan who seems to enjoy the role immensely. Although none of the episodes could truly be considered awful, `Gingerbread’ and `The Zeppo’ are the weakest episodes of this season and are slightly painful to watch in places.

Overall this season is truly great, with brilliant writing and a plot that never ceases to be in turns exciting, funny and touching.

With the loss of David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter to the spin-off show, “Angel”, there were voids to be filled in this, the first season out of high school, and Marc Blucas and Emma Caulfield suitably obliged. The fragmentation of the Scooby Gang was for many the core reason why Season Four didn’t match the heights of the previous three: nobody seemed to care enough about each other any more. With Giles out of work, Xander flitting from one deadbeat job to another, and Buffy and Willow settling in to life on campus, there was concern that the old gang would never get back together.


A big risk was taken in introducing a more sci-fi element with the arrival of a secret government demon-hunting operation. But there’s a big difference from other genre shows: the Initiative was never in control of its actions. And that’s the gist of the season: that Buffy and her traditional methods will always be superior, and that it’s through her skills and her friends that evil is defeated, not bureaucracy. Which is why there’s no big finish in episode 22 (the grand climax happens in episode 21), because the most important storyline is about the reaffirmation of friendships, demonstrated in the most bizarre way imaginable in an episode composed almost entirely of dream sequences.


There are some classics (the Emmy-nominated “Hush” was possibly the boldest piece of television attempted before “The Body” the following year). And in the final scene of the season, we get a great setting-up of what’s to come, without knowing any specific details. All in all, a season that left a few minor gripes, but which in the overall scheme of things, has continued the journey of life into adulthood. Now they’re all supposed to be grown up, but the future still holds a great deal of uncertainty, and that can only be good for the show.

Although Season 5  still has comedic moments, it also has many more serious moments. Not to spoil it for those who have not seen the series yet, two major deaths rock the Sunnydale Slayage Crew. These are excellently handled, and in no way seem like they are tying off loose ends.

The episodes are excellent. From fighting Dracula, to multiple Xanders. From a new sister, to an old foe swapping sides. This season is excellent. the first disc houses such gems as the introduction of Dawn, without any back story or any clues into why she is there. These facts are revealed slowly through the next disc, with amusing storylines for Spike, clearly an excellent addition to the principal cast. Anya also comes into her own, and becomes revels in the joys of capitalism.

Through the next disc a departure of a relatively new character, Riley, hurts Buffy tremendously, whilst the appearance of a troll lightens the mood considerably. The fourth disc includes the fun episode where the Watcher’s Council return to Sunnydale, and reveal a shocking secret about the main enemy of this series. Spike also has a choice to make, whether to fall back into the arms of his old flame, Drusilla, or to move on and persue his newest conquest, a source of exasperation for Buffy.

The fifth disc is a solemn affair, with the death of a principal cast member, who had been with Buffy from the beginning. As Buffy and her ‘Scoobies’ attempt to cope, the attacks on them by the villain of the series grow more violent and frequent, leaving a dissuaded Buffy sure that she cannot beat the villain. When his new enemy learns of an importance in the Scooby gang, and this member of the gang get captured, Buffy goes into meltdown. With the help of Willow, Buffy recovers and faces the most terrifying villain ever in the history of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, with a conclusion that is heart wrenching.


“The Gift”, the season five finale, ended with Buffy dead and buried after battling deranged fallen goddess Glory. Dying is kind of old hat for Buffy, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away by revealing that the show’s title character quickly gets over the whole death thing. Although the ensuing gang of biker demons is corny, I thought her return from the grave in the feature-length “Bargaining” hit all the right notes. Her reappearance is heartbreaking and almost horrifying, and it avoids undermining the events that concluded the previous season.

Rather than just toss her back in this mortal coil as if she’d never left, Buffy is distant and depressed, not quite the elated response her friends were expecting to see. The opening of the season offers an evenhanded blend of humor and drama, particularly the early escapades of the Troika. The all-nerd supersquad — robotics whiz Warren (Adam Busch), clumsy sorceror-lite Jonathan (Danny Strong), and summoner Andrew (Tom Lenk). They added a well-needed dose of geeky comedy to the season, which made the bitter pill of the agony Buffy and friends endure later on easier to swallow.

The darker spin the three of them eventually take also resonates more having seen several episodes worth of their giddiness at being supervillains. I also thought the aftermath of Buffy’s return, seen in “After Life”, “Flooded”, and “Life Serial”, worked well as she tried to find her place in the world (and her friend’s worlds) after being plucked from the afterlife. These episodes also manage to strike that perfect balance between humor and drama.

Another early highlight is “Tabula Rasa”, where a spell gone awry robs the Scoobies of their memories.  Of special mention from this chunk of the season, of course, is the musical episode “Once More with Feeling”. The version presented here is the original broadcast, a few minutes lengthier than your average Buffy installment. Although the concept of characters in an established drama singing and dancing for an hour screams ‘gimmick’, it’s not a standalone episode, tying in heavily to the previous episodes of the season and setting up some of what would soon follow. The songs are surprisingly good, particularly impressive considering that they were written by someone without much of a musical background.Image result for buffy once more with feeling

The season closes out with a series of strong episodes. “Hell’s Bells” features the chaos of a wedding between a human raised in a dysfunctional family and his millennia-old former vengeance demon fiancee, the aftermath of which is explored in “Entropy”.

One of the season’s best is “Normal Again”, which questions the reality of what we’ve seen for the past six seasons, and Buffy’s assault on her possibly-delusional friends and family is as chilling as anything seen up to that point on the series. The darkness pervasive throughout much of the season culminates in “Seeing Red”, which has two monstrous turning points. Its fatal closing events lead into the three-episode arc that rounds out the season. Similar to Angelus’ appearances on both Buffy and Angel, the immeasurably powerful antagonist in these final episodes tear down the main characters.

In its final season, Buffy the Vampire Slayer issued a mission statement you might not expect from a series that’s been on the air for seven years: go back to the beginning. After a foray at college and a year spent toiling away in the working world, Buffy’s going back to high school. Several years after its destruction at the hands…or giant coiled tail, whatever…of the ascended Mayor Wilkins, Sunnydale High has been rebuilt from the ground up. The Hellmouth beneath the school happens to lurk directly below the office of Principal Robin Wood (D.B. Woodside), who’s harboring some sort of dark secret that may or may not work to Buffy’s favor. Anyway, Wood continually stumbles upon Buffy as she spirits Dawn off to her first day of school as a freshman and ensuring both Summers girls make the most of the lovingly-crafted Sunnydale High set, Wood offers Buffy a job as a part-time counselor. Holed up in the bowels of Sunnydale High is Spike, who’s been driven mad by a combination of his newly-acquired soul and an entity that’s been haunting him, one that’s soon going to expand its grasp to the rest of the Scooby Gang and the world at large.

These early episodes really do capture the feel of the first few seasons of the series, a very welcome change after the grim year that came before it. This is one of the stronger opening salvos of Buffy. “Him” is played pretty much for laughs, revolving around a football player whose letter jacket makes him irresistible to the fairer sex, compelling Dawn, Buffy, Willow, and Anya to take drastic and wholly over-the-top measures to win his complete adoration.

 

Three of the season’s best episodes run back-to-back. “Same Time, Same Place” follows Willow’s return to the group, still reeling from the near-apocalyptic events of the previous year and further disheartened when she’s apparently abandoned by her friends. Buffy and company really are there for Willow, but the problem is that there are kind of two separate and distinct “there”s. The cannibalistic Gnarl is one of the most effectively creepy creatures of the show’s entire run, and his confrontation with Willow is unsettling and horrifying…and I mean that in the best possible way. “Help” quickly follows, chronicling Buffy’s quest to save the life of an awkward, introverted poet who foretells her own death.

Although I really like all of the first batch of episodes, this season has two particularly strong stand-outs. Following the excellent “Same Time, Same Place” and “Help” is “Selfless”, which features Anya returning to form as a mass-murdering vengeance demon, a decision that awes her demonic coworkers and conflicts her former friends as Buffy must make a difficult decision. The episode makes use of flashbacks from several vastly different time periods and juggles drastically different tones. We see what led young Aud to become the vengeful Anyanka in a hysterical glimpse back at her life with her wench-drenched, troll-hating brute of a husband, Olaf. There’s also a flashback to “Once More, With Feeling”, complete with a new musical number, followed by a brutal, brilliant cut to the present.

The other standout is “Conversations with Dead People”, an inventively structured episode penned by four different writers. The title is a decent enough synopsis, as a number of characters communicate in varying forms with the dearly departed. Buffy allows herself to be psychoanalyzed by a recently-risen Psych major, Dawn is haunted by a poltergeist that takes on a shockingly familiar image, Willow is delivered a message from a lost love one, Spike goes out on the town, and the remnants of last year’s nerdy Troika return to Sunnydale.

In general, season seven feels like Joss Whedon and company had a clear beginning and a clear ending. The Finale does give the show a nice ending, but is left open should the show ever return in any format.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 1-4

Image result for batman the animated series logoMAIN CAST (VOICES)

Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Loren Lester (Flashforward)
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Hot Shots)
Bob Hastings (General Hospital)
Robert Costanzo (Dick Tracy)
Melissa Gilbert (Zoya)
Tara Strong (Sabrina Goes To Rome)
Mathew Valencia (Lawnmower Man 2)Image result for batman the animatedRECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)
Neil Ross (Centurions)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Richard Moll (Scary Movie 2)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
Marc Singer (V)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek:DS9)
Meredith MacRae (Petticoat Junction)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Mari Devon (Howl’s Moving Castle)
Brock Peters (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Edward Asner (Up)
Josh Keaton (Green Lantern: TAS)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Diane Pershing (Centourions)
Ingrid Oliu (Real Women Have Curves)
Henry Polic II (Webster)
Tim Curry (IT)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Alan Rachins (LA Law)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Lindsay Crouse (Buffy)
Paul Williams (Adventure Time)
Aron Kincaid (Freakazoid!)
Heather Locklear (Return of Swamp Thing)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Treat Williams (The Phantom)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Harry Hamlin Clash of The Titans)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
William Sanderson (Blade Runner)
Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil’s Rejects)
John Glover (Smallville)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
Michael York (Logans Run)
George Dzunda (Crimson Tide)
John De Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Robert Picardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Julie Brown (Earth Girls Are Easy)
Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns)
Michael Gross (Familt Ties)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad men)
Jean Smart (Designing Women)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang Theory)
Marica Wallace (The Simpsons)
Marilu henner (Two and A Half Men)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Stephanie Zimbalist (The Story Lady)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Henry Silva (Ocean’s Eleven)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Andrea Martin (Anastasia)
Grant Shaud (Murphy Brown)
Bruce Weitz (Hill Street Blues)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
Roy Dotrice (Beauty and The Beast)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Billy Barty (Masters of The Universe)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Billy Zane (Zoolander)
Mark Rolstan (Alias)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Michael McKean (Smallville)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Lori Petty (Tank Girl)
Linda Hamilton (Chuck)
Billy West (Futurama)

Debuting on Fox in 1992, Batman: The Animated Series was immensely successful, garnering immense critical praise, taking home an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, and continuing in various forms for several years and well over a hundred episodes.First, the series is written and produced by people with a fundamental understanding of what makes the comics work, particularly during its peak in the ’70s under Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams. As a long-time comics fanatic, it’s always welcome to see names like Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman flash across the screen, and in the intervening years, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have made their own impact on the four-color world. The tone is dark but not hopelessly grim, and the scripts don’t inundate viewers with patently obvious exposition or villainous cackling. It’s intelligently written and, while appropriate for a wide range of ages, doesn’t pander to a younger audience. I started watching Batman when it first debuted on Fox in 1992, and I appreciate it every bit as much now as a 34-year-old adult. The writers don’t shackle themselves to comic continuity, and their revisions are frequently more compelling than any other form in which we’ve seen Batman’s rogue’s gallery. Third-stringers like the Clock King and Clayface are given heavily revised origins and almost unrecognizable characterizations that are far more interesting than any other take on them.Batman boasts visuals that are as strong as the writing behind them. It’s incredibly dark; despite its Saturday morning/weekday afternoon origins, this is a series that greatly benefits from being watched at night with the lights off. The character designs are angular and exaggerated, in contrast to the rounded, ’40s-inspired props and backgrounds that further establish the distinctive, timeless look of the show. The detail and fluidity of the animation vary from episode to episode, but the better installments are almost jaw-dropping.

Following the visuals of the series, the next obvious subject to tackle is how it sounds. For me, Batman’s tone is one of the elements that really sets it apart from most every other animated series, and contributing greatly to that is the orchestral score in each episode. The series also has a phenomenal roster of talent contributing its voices. The main group — Kevin Conroy as the definitive Batman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred, Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon — just nail their parts with complete perfection. Very recognizable names also contribute to villains and assorted supporting characters. A complete list would be prohibitively long, but some of the more notable actors and actresses from these episodes are Michael Ansara, Ed Asner, Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Begley Jr., Mark Hamill, David L. Lander, Heather Locklear, Kevin McCarthy, Roddy McDowall, Richard Moll, Kate Mulgrew, Ron Perlman, Alan Rachins, Marc Singer, Jeffrey Tambor, John Vernon, Adam West, and Paul Williams. The campy live action series from the ’60s also drew heavily from established Hollywood talent, but the difference here is that the actors don’t draw attention to themselves as stars.

This set has the show at the absolute top of its form. There isn’t a lame show in the bunch, and many of the episodes in this set are destine to become classics. Prechance to Dream, the second show in the set, is a wonderful look at what might have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents hadn’t been killed. After being knock out while chasing some crooks, Bruce wakes up at home, uncertain as to how he got there. He’s surprised to find that the entrance to the Batcave is blocked, but even more astonished to discover that his mother and father are still alive. Bruce must figure out what going on, but in doing so, he knows he’ll ruin the happiness that he’s discovered.AlmostGot ‘im, probably my favorite show of the series. This story takes place during a “villain’s night out” where Batman’s main enemies aren’t committing crimes. They are all sitting around a table in a bar playing poker, relaxing. While talking, the conversation turns to Batman of corse. Like a group of fisherman swapping stories, each crook takes a turn telling the time that they were closest to killing Batman. The little vignettes were all full of action, and the framing story was very funny. A great combination, with an excellent ending line.
The Batman’s background story takes is fleshed out in a couple of episodes too. His early training plays an important part in Night of the Ninja, and I Am the Night introduces Dr. Leslie Thompkins who is an important person from when Bruce was young. Viewers get to find out just where the Batmoblie came from in The Mechanic, a great show that explains some aspects of Batman’s world that usually gets glossed over. Robin’s origin is recounted in Robin’s Reckoning, a two part story which won an Emmy. This story examines the bond between Batman and Robin, and why the Dark Knight agreed to raise a young boy.
The writing on the show is top notch. The show doesn’t dumb itself down to appeal to a young audience, the creators thought that if you have well written intelligent stories, kids would be attracted. They were right but the show also appeals to adults for the same reason.

One of the things Batman: The Animated Series does particularly well is infuse its villains with personality. They’re not a rotation of thugs with a different gimmick and costume each week — the writers go to great lengths to humanize these characters, and although they’re still unambiguously the bad guys, they still manage to be sympathetic at times. “His Silicon Soul”, following up on the two-part “Heart of Steel” from the previous collection, features a robotic duplicate of Batman unable to come to grips with the realization that he’s a machine.

The title character of “Baby-Doll” was created especially for the series. Think Webster with the race and gender reversed; Mary Louise Dahl was in her twenties but looked like a three-year-old, and she cashed in on that rare disability with a successful and hopelessly bland sitcom. An ill-advised career move derailed her as an actress, and a decade later, she’s systematically kidnapped all of her former co-stars in an attempt to reclaim those happy years. Again, as outlandish as the premise might sound, it really does work. You might smirk at reading about a teary-eyed Baby Doll attempting to fire an already-emptied doll-shaped pistol into a funhouse mirror, but the immeasurably talented writers are gifted enough to eke more pathos than I ever would have thought possible out of that.

Redemption, whether seized or tossed aside, is also frequently touched upon. “Sideshow” opens with a grueling chase between Batman and an escaped Killer Croc, who manages to stumble upon a remote farm that’s home to a group of former sideshow acts. They offer Croc a chance at an honest life, but old habits die hard. Another example is “House and Garden”. When a poisonous plant-creature starts a reign of terror in Gotham, Batman naturally turns his sights towards the recently-released Poison Ivy. She insists that she’s rehabilitated, and by all accounts, Ivy is happily married and living the mundane suburban life. The investigation continues to point back to her, and the final revelation involves some of the creepiest imagery ever seen in the series.

Harley Quinn is also featured in a couple of episodes centered around her attempts to stick with the straight ‘n narrow. She’s a fan favorite for a reason, and these appearances are some of the most memorable episodes in this collection. “Harlequinade” is a chaotic team-up with Batman in an attempt to track down The Joker, who’s managed to get his hands on a bomb that’ll turn Gotham into a smoldering mushroom cloud. “Harley’s Holiday” documents her release from Arkham Asylum, and even though she’s determined to leave that life of crime behind her, an attempt to legitimately buy a pretty pink dress at a store spirals into a bad day…a really, really bad day, culminating in being chased by Batman.

It’s particularly great to see the villains interact with one another. That’s part of the fun of “Trial”, which has a reluctant prosecutor attempting to defend Batman in an insane trial when the inmates take over the asylum. The flipside of that coin is seen in “Lock-Up”, when a cruel jailer’s overzealousness gets him fired from Arkham and compels him to hunt down the left-leaning scum he blames for the state of the world. Another stand-out is “A Bullet for Bullock”, an episode in which the slovenly detective is rattled by death threats and reluctantly teams with Batman, and the ending is just one example of how clever the show’s writers can be. “Clever” is also the first word that instantly springs to mind for “Make ‘Em Laugh”, an episode where The Joker co-opts a fellow criminal’s technology to create a small army of fumbling costumed criminals with inane gimmicks.

These episodes introduce a couple of recurring villains ripped from the pages of the comics. Most notable among them is Ra’s al Ghul, who makes his first appearance in a two-parter penned by Len Wein and Denny O’Neil, familiar names to longtime readers of Batman’s four-color incarnation. The centuries-old Ra’s has virtually unlimited resources at his disposal, equally intrigued by Batman’s boundless skills as a detective as he is frustrated by his foe’s determination to disrupt his machinations. Ra’s often lends a Saturday morning serial flavor to the show, from the globe-trotting in his first few appearances to the flared pants of “Avatar”. The charismatic character has such a presence that he’s able to carry “Showdown” largely by himself in an episode that barely features Batman or Robin in any capacity. “Showdown” is set during the westward expansion of the mid-1800’s as Ra’s’ opposition to the sprawling railroads is pitted against scarred bounty hunter Jonah Hex (one of the few DC characters not connected with the Batman mythos to appear on the show). The other noteworthy recurring villain is The Ventriloquist, a fairly timid-looking middle-aged man who seems more likely to be a CPA than a ruthless crimelord. Taken by himself, that seems to be the right impression, but when he has his puppet Scarface on the end of his arm… The Ventriloquist’s first appearance, “Read My Lips”, is one of my favorites of the season, and he returns twice after that.
Several other characters from the comics briefly appear, including Maxie Zeus, the back-breaking, Venom-fueled Bane, and the fairly obscure masked criminals of The Terrible Trio. The majority of Batman’s rogue’s gallery is present and accounted for, with The Penguin, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, The Mad Hatter, The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Clock King, Catwoman, The Riddler, The Scarecrow, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze all wreaking havoc throughout Gotham City at some point or another. Even with the opening titles shifting on disc three from Batman: The Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin, there’s no discernable drop in quality.

After Batman: The Animated Series wrapped up its long, successful run on Fox, a revised version of the series — with most of the same talent in tow — popped up as part of the animation block on Kids’ WB. This half of The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Although the general look of Batman: The Animated Series is still in place, many of the character designs have been revamped, making them sharper, more angular, and somewhat stripped down. Sometimes the changes worked; The Scarecrow is a much more ominous, disturbing figure now, and I like the exaggerated, deranged look of The Mad Hatter. Others didn’t fare so well, especially the much blander looking Riddler, and I have mixed feelings about the older, frailer Jim Gordon and the beady-eyed look of the Joker. One of the more distinctive changes is that the yellow moon on Batman’s chest is gone, an alteration that makes it easy to distinguish one of these episodes from the previous animated incarnation.

One aspect of Batman: The Animated Series that has always impressed me is that even though it was a weekday afternoon cartoon based on a popular comic book character, it didn’t pander to a younger audience. Rewatching the box sets Warner has issued over the past year and a half, I find myself as engaged by them now in my mid-thirties as I was when I first saw them half a lifetime ago.

The New Batman Adventures is a odd mix because even though many of the stories seem geared towards a younger audience, the censors have lightened up, so the villains can use words like ‘murder’ and ‘kill’ more freely, its female characters (especially Harley Quinn) are less subtle with the sexual innuendo, and there’s even a little blood. Over the Edge, one of my favorite episodes of any of Batman’s animated incarnations, with batman hunted by  by Commissioner Gordon as his men spray gunfire throughout the Batcave in a frantic chase against Batman and Robin. It’s a dark, unflinchingly brutal story about loss and betrayal, showing the Dark Knight at his lowest point with his identity exposed and facing greater adversity than he ever has before.

It’s not all dark and dour, though. Another favorite is “Joker’s Millions”, which opens with the Joker struggling with his finances. Robots, hyena chow, Joker venom, and overly elaborate death traps aren’t cheap, but he gets an unexpected windfall when a dead mobster leaves the flat-broke Joker a quarter-billion dollars in his will. The Joker goes on a spastic spending spree, bribing everyone in sight into wiping his criminal record clean, but…whoops. There’s a catch, of course, and the Joker’s not the one who gets the last laugh.

the Joker also take center-stage in “Mad Love”, an episode penned by Paul Dini that was later spun off by DC into a graphic novel. “Mad Love” takes a look at how ambitious, straightlaced psychiatrist Harlene Quinzel could become infatuated with a psychotic madman like the Joker. The Joker’s far more interested in cobbling together some sort of complicated trap to knock off Batsy than fooling around with his eager-to-please henchwoman, so she tries to get her puddin’s attention by rehashing one of his unused schemes and getting rid of Batman once and for all. This is the sort of character-centric episode that I thought really defined Batman: The Animated Series, and “Mad Love” ranks with the best of the series.
“Legends of the Dark Knight” is another personal favorite, paying homage to some of Batman’s different incarnations over the decades. Dick Sprang gets the first nod in a segment with Batman duking it out with the Joker in a music museum with all of the puns, oversized props, and four-color action you’d expect from a Golden Age comic, followed up by a deeply impressive segment with Frank Miller’s hulking, fifty-something Batman squaring off against an army of mutants in the future. The side story with a few kids getting tangled up in an arson-for-hire gig with Firefly doesn’t stack up to the rest of the episode, but who cares?
There are a few other episodes worth pointing out. “Girls’ Night Out” is set with both Batman and Superman out of town, leaving Batgirl and Supergirl to square off against Harley, Poison Ivy, and electrifying Supes-villain Livewire.Dick Grayson, the original Robin, has struck out on his own as Nightwing, and he’s highlighted several times — first in “You Scratch My Back”, which teams him with Catwoman, much to Batman’s chagrin, and again in “Old Wounds”, where Grayson tells Batgirl why he could no longer fight alongside the Dark Knight. The episodes on this box set also introduce The Creeper, the demon Etrigan, and Firefly to the animated series,  Villains like Two Face, The Mad Hatter, Catwoman, Clayface, Mr. Freeze, The Scarecrow, The Ventriloquist, Bane, Killer Croc, Baby Doll, and, briefly, The Riddler also return to torment Gotham again.