25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: BETTER WATCH OUT

Starring

Olivia DeJonge (The Sisterhood of Night)
Levi Miller (Pan)
Ed Oxenbould (The Visit)
Aleks Mikic (Secret City)
Dacre Montgomery (Power Rangers)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Virginia Madsen (Sideways)

Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge in Better Watch Out (2016)At Christmas time, 17-year-old Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is busy babysitting precocious 12-year-old Luke Lerner (Levi Miller). Luke has romantic feelings for Ashley and unsuccessfully attempts to seduce her while watching a horror movie. Strange happenings outside put Ashley on edge, but it ultimately appears to be just Luke’s best friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), who has stopped by to hang out. Hearing a window break upstairs, the trio find a brick inscribed with “U leave and U die.” Garrett panics and runs out the back door, but is apparently killed by an unknown shooter.Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller in Better Watch Out (2016)Shocked, Ashley and Luke run upstairs and hide in the attic. Ashley almost breaks her neck from a fall but Luke catches her. After they run into Luke’s room and hide in his closet, a masked intruder armed with a shotgun walks into the room. Ashley recognizes the mask as one of Luke’s and yanks it off the intruder, revealing Garrett. Ashley realizes that Luke was hoping to seduce her by scaring her. Angered, Ashley yells at Luke, calling him mental and saying he needs therapy, and tries to leave. While at the top of the stairs, Luke hits her with his gun, causing her to fall down the stairs and be knocked unconscious.Luke binds Ashley with duct tape, then forces her to play truth or dare. Her boyfriend, Ricky (Aleks Mikic), arrives at the house after receiving a text message sent by Ashley earlier. When Ricky fails to find Ashley, he realizes that something is wrong. Luke tries to knock him out, but fails. After nearly killing Luke, Ricky is threatened by Garrett with the shotgun. Luke knocks Ricky out and they tie him up beside Ashley.Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge in Better Watch Out (2016)While Ashley uses a shard of glass to cut herself free, Luke tries to show Garrett what happens if you actually hit someone in the head with a swinging paint can similar to the scene from Home Alone. Luke tries to demonstrate with Ricky, but misses on the first swing. Ashley gets free and threatens Luke with a pistol. He drops the paint can and kills Ricky. When Ashley realizes the gun is unloaded, she tries to escape to a group of carolers outside. Luke uses the brick tossed through the upstairs window to knock her out again before she can alert them.Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller in Better Watch Out (2016)Luke calls Ashley’s ex-boyfriend, Jeremy (Dacre Montgomery), claiming that she wants him to write an apology letter. While Jeremy does so, Luke hangs him from a tree, making the apology look like a suicide note. He kills Garrett for trying to free Ashley. Luke then stabs Ashley in the neck and stages the scene to frame Jeremy. Later, he goes to bed and waits for the return of his parents, who contact the police. It is then revealed that Ashley stuck duct tape over the stab wound in her neck to stop the bleeding. Luke watches from his bedroom window as Ashley gives him the finger before being wheeled into the ambulance. In a mid-credit scene, Luke tells his mom that he is worried about Ashley and wants to go to the hospital.Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller in Better Watch Out (2016)At its lightest level, Better Watch Out can be perceived as a caricature of the Home Alone films. Is it scary? It’s hard to answer that question without revealing a crucial twist but during all the ensuing mayhem, Peckover’s triumph are the comic interjections that make some of the goriest scenes unexpectedly funny. And yet at its scariest, the writing, and the narrative, are grounded towards director Michael Haneke’s psychological thriller Funny Games. Anyone who has seen that film can survive this film. For horror fans who like it dark, clever and twisted, this is the ultimate year-end treat whether you’ve been naughty or nice.

REVIEW: HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING

CAST

Christopher Lambert (Fortress)
Sean Connery (The Hunt for Red October)
Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Allan Rich (Amistad)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Rusty Schwimmer (Heroes)

In August 1994, news broadcasts announce that the ozone layer is fading, and will be completely gone in a matter of months. In Africa, millions have perished from the effects of unfiltered sunlight. Among the dead is Connor MacLeod’s wife, Brenda Wyatt MacLeod. Before dying, Brenda extracts a promise from Connor that he will solve the problem of the ozone layer. By 1999, Connor MacLeod becomes the supervisor of a scientific team headed by Dr. Allan Neyman, which attempts to create an electromagnetic shield to cover the planet, and protect it from the Sun’s radiation. The team succeeds, in effect giving Earth an artificial ozone layer. MacLeod and Neyman are proud to have saved humanity, and believe they will be remembered for a thousand years.
The shield has the side effect of condemning the planet to a state of constant night, a high average global temperature, and high humidity. By 2024, the years of darkness have caused humanity to lose hope and fall into a decline. The shield has fallen under the control of the Shield Corporation. The corporation’s current chief executive, David Blake, is focused on profit, and is imposing fees for the corporation’s services. A number of terrorist groups have begun trying to take down the Shield, among them Louise Marcus, a former employee of the Shield Corporation.

Meanwhile, MacLeod, now a frail old man, expects to eventually die of natural causes. As he watches a performance of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, an image of Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez appears, and induces MacLeod to recall a forgotten event of his past. On the planet Zeist, a last meeting is held between the members of a rebellion against the rule of General Katana. The rebellion’s leader, Ramirez, chooses “a man of great destiny” from among them—MacLeod—to carry out a mission against Katana. At this moment, Katana and his troops attack, crushing the rebellion. Katana orders his men to capture Ramirez and MacLeod alive and kill the rest of the rebels. The two captives are put on trial by Zeist’s priests, who sentence them to be exiled and reborn on Earth in pursuit of “The Prize.” Winning the Prize gives the victor the choice to either grow old and die on Earth, or to return to Zeist. Katana is unsatisfied with their decision, but the sentence is executed, leading to the events of the original 1986 film.

Back in 2024, Louise Marcus discovers that the ozone layer has in fact restored itself naturally, which means that the shield is no longer needed. The Shield Corporation is aware of this development, but has chosen to hide it from the general public in order to maintain its main source of profit. Meanwhile, on Zeist, Katana decides that MacLeod cannot be allowed to return, and sends his immortal henchmen, Corda and Reno, to kill him.

Marcus manages to reach MacLeod first, and asks for his help in taking down the Shield. To her disappointment, she finds the passionate person she once admired has grown into a tired old man. MacLeod explains to her that he is dying and expresses his disapproval of terrorism. Before they can finish their conversation, Corda and Reno attack. MacLeod manages to decapitate them both, absorbs their energy during the Quickening, and regains his youthful appearance. In the process, MacLeod summons Ramirez back to life.

In Glencoe, Scotland – the location of his death in the first Highlander film – Ramirez is revived. He finds himself on a theatrical stage during a performance of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Meanwhile, MacLeod has found a new lover in Marcus. He attempts unsuccessfully to explain to her the concepts of his immortality. Elsewhere, General Katana arrives in New York, the scene of The Gathering and begins wreaking havoc.

Both Ramirez and Katana soon adapt to their new environment. Ramirez’s earring is apparently valuable enough to pay both for a new suit he acquires from the finest and oldest tailor’s shop in Scotland, and for an airplane ticket to New York City. Katana finds New York much to his liking. After entertaining himself for a while, Katana encounters MacLeod at a church. Since immortals are forbidden from fighting on holy ground, they do not fight each other, but MacLeod expresses rage at being immortal once again.

Soon thereafter, MacLeod is contacted by Ramirez, who joins them in their plan to take down the Shield. Katana, expecting this, forges an uneasy alliance with David Blake, who mentions that shutting down the planetary shield would require so much energy that the planet would be destroyed. The conflict between the two sets of allies eventually leads to the deaths of Dr. Allan Neyman, Ramirez, Blake and General Katana himself. MacLeod succeeds in taking down the Shield by using the combined energies of his final Quickening from General Katana. Marcus sees the stars for the first time in her life. MacLeod then claims The Prize by returning to Zeist with Marcus.Sure the original theatrical version was bad but that was not due to the makers, it was due to a financial company that backed the production. Here (in the directors cut) is the way that it was supposed to be made. It has great action, great production value plus the return of Sean Connery. It gives some explanation as to how the competition began and it shows how Connor used the “prize” from the first film. If this had been the version that was originally released on the theater’s in 1991, It would of fared better.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: RED RIDING HOOD

CAST

Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2)
Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight)
Billy Burke (Twilight)
Shiloh Fernandez (Evil Dead 2013)
Max Irons (The Host)
Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Julie Christie (Finding Neverland)
Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica)
Shauna Kain (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Adrian Holmes (Arrow)
Christine Willes (Dead Like Me)
Michael Shanks (Stargate SG.1)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

Red Riding Hood Movie Review
Catherine Hardwike’s film is much closer to the 1984 movie “Company of wolves” (based on Angela Carter short stories) than to the original Charles Perrault tale – and like the former, it is definitely not for children.


The cast. Amanda Seyfried is excellent as Valerie, a young girl who reached the time to be married and gets from her grandmother a red cape as wedding gift. The name Red Riding Hood is never used in the movie, everybody calls her just Valerie – but we of course know better… Amanda Seyfried wears this red cape with a great grace and the effect (especially for the male public) is quite pleasant. It is even more pronounced when the snow falls. Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons give a good performance as two young village men, wild, bold and violent Peter and shy, peaceful and more sophisticated Henry, who both want to marry Valerie. Those two rivals and sworn enemies both have their good and bad points and with the time Valerie will have more and more trouble to choose between them.

Virginia Madsen plays Valerie’s mother – her character, although secondary, is quite important for the plot so pay good attention to everything she says. Julie Christie is Valerie’s grandmother, who lives in a house deep in the forest, away from the village – and she is (obviously) even more important to the story.  Michael Hogan (who is well remembered for his role in “Battlestar Galactica”) plays village’s reeve, a fearless no-nonsense man, who trusts his faithful silver dagger and is not afraid of the wolf. Gary Oldman plays an inquisitor, Father Solomon, whose body and soul were once so terribly hurt by a werewolf, that he devoted his life to destroy those monsters. As usual for Gary Oldman’s characters, Father Solomon is barking mad and definitely not a good person but he is clever and quite consequent and credible in his fanatism.
A special mention goes to Billy Burke, who plays the small role of Valerie’s father, a burned out, heavily drinking wood cutter, used and worn out by the hardships of life and constant struggle with poverty. And finally there are Shauna Kain, Carmen Lavigne and Kacey Rohl as Roxanne, Rose and Prudence, Valerie’s best friends and young Cole Heppel, as Claude (Roxanne’s brother), a retarded village boy. Those characters, although minor in the beginning of the movie, also have some important role to play. The views of the mountains and the forest in this film are amazing. The village is extremely well designed, as are the costumes of the villagers and the soldiers who came with Father Solomon. This movie is visually very pleasant. The third good point is the plot, which is not stupid at all. The main mystery is very skilfully kept until the end. And the ending itself is a very good one – especially for anybody who knows Angela Carter’s short stories about wolves, werewolves and Red Riding Hood.
But the best thing in this movie is the general atmosphere, which is frequently quite erotic, when in the same time there is absolutely no sex and no nudity. Somehow, the simple presence of a flock of nubile girls and young men who court them and the always present menace of a half human Beast which enjoys preying on young females is enough to generate the very special mood of this Red Riding Hood. Amanda Seyfried, her blond hair and her red cape contrasting with the virginal white snow certainly contribute a lot to this atmosphere. There are some violent moments in this film, but here also it is much less brutal than “Company of wolves”.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT

CAST

Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
Martin Donovan (Ant-Man)
Elias Koteas (Crash)
Kyle Gallner (Smallville)
Amanda Crew (Sex Drive)
Spohpi Knight (Rookie Blue)

In 1987, Sara Campbell (Virginia Madsen) is driving her son Matthew (Kyle Gallner) home from the hospital where he has been undergoing cancer treatments. Sara and her husband Peter (Martin Donovan), a recovering alcoholic, discuss finding a rental house closer to the hospital. On another hospital visit, Sara finds a man putting up a “For Rent” sign in front of a large house. The man is frustrated and offers her the first month free if she will rent it immediately. The following day, Peter arrives with Matt’s brother Billy (Ty Wood) and cousins Wendy (Amanda Crew) and Mary, and they choose rooms. Matt chooses the basement, where there is a mysterious door. After moving in, Matt suffers a series of visions involving an old, bearded man and corpses with symbols carved into their skin. The next day, Peter learns that the house was supposedly a funeral home; the room behind the mysterious door is a mortuary.Matt tells another patient, Reverend Nicholas Popescu (Elias Koteas), about the visions. Nicholas advises him to find out what the spirit wants. Later, Matt finds a burned figure in his room who begins to move toward him. When the family comes home, they find a shirtless Matt with his fingers blood-covered from scratching at the wall.The family begins to crack under the stress of Matt’s illness and bizarre behavior. The children find a box of photographs, which show Jonah, a young man from Matt’s visions, at a séance, emitting ectoplasm. Wendy and Matt find out that the funeral home was run by a man named Ramsey Aickman. Aickman also conducted psychic research and would host séances with Jonah as the medium. At one séance, all those attending, including Aickman, were found dead and Jonah disappeared.Nicholas theorizes that Aickman was practicing necromancy in an attempt to control the dead and bind them to the house. That night, Nicholas finds human remains in the house and removes them. Matt awakens to find Aickman’s symbols carved into his flesh. He is taken to the hospital, where he encounters Jonah. Nicholas and Matt begin to have simultaneous visions. Everyone in the séance is burnt, after a flash of bright light. The barely alive Aickman told Jonah to get out of the house, concerned that the demonic presence will get him next. Jonah uses a dumbwaiter to escape, calling for help. Entering an unknown chamber, Jonah realizes that he has entered the crematory. The spirit traps Jonah in the crematory, and cremates him alive.Peter and Sara learn that Matt’s cancer treatments have had no effect. They then discover that Matt has escaped the hospital. Back at the house, Nicholas leaves a message telling the family to get out of the house immediately – Jonah’s spirit was actually protecting them from the spirits. Matt breaks through the walls in the front room with an axe, revealing the dusty corpses Aickman hid in the walls. He forces Wendy and the children to get out, barricading himself inside and tearing down the other walls, as corpses begin to tumble into the room. The view switches from Matt to Jonah, who seems to be occupying Matt’s body. Matt lights the bodies and the room on fire.As the fire department arrives, Sara and Peter frantically try to get in to save Matt. The spirits, finally freed, disappear. Outside, everyone watches tearfully as the emergency crew attempts to resuscitate a dying Matt. As Matt slips away, he has a vision of himself standing in the graveyard where he sees Jonah, no longer appearing burnt. He seems about to follow Jonah when he hears his mother’s voice.He returns to his body and Jonah’s spirit leaves him. Matt’s cancer disappears, and the house was rebuilt and resold with no further reported incidents of haunting.While there are some questions that may not be answered, the story itself was more than satisfying. Special effects were kept to a minimum but used effectively and when needed. Acting was not Oscar worthy but good enough to make it all seem real. Fun when you want it and scary when you need it.

 

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 2

Main Cast

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

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

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

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

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED – SEASON 1

Main Cast

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

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kin Shriner (Manhunter)
George Eads (CSI)
Eric Robert (The Finder)
Dana Delany (Tombstone)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games)
Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Fam)
Fred Savage (The Princess Diaries)
Jason Hervey (Back To The Future)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Michael York (Logan’s Run)
Patrick Bauchau (Panic Room)
Rachel York (One Fine Day)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Annimator)
Robert Foxworth (Transformers)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
Cree Summer (Voltron)
Tom Everett Scott (Because I Said So)
Billy West (Futurama)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Jeremy Piven (Old School)
Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
John C. McGinley (Scrubs)
Oded Fehr (V)
Scott Rummell (Six)
Tim Matheson (The West Wing)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Peter MacNicol (Veep)
Adam Baldwin (Chuck)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers)
Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina: TTW)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Ioan Gruffudd (Ringer)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clark)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Juliet Landau (Ed Wood)
Alan Rachins (Showgirls)
Robert Englund (2001 Maniacs)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Jason Bateman (Office Christmas Party)
Susan Sullivan (Castle)
Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Steve Schirripa (Must Love Dogs)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Nathan Fillion (Serenity)
Elizabeth Peña (The Incredibles)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)

MV5BMTk4NTc5Mzg3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTc5ODM2MjE@._V1_Fantasy now runs your life? Comic books become your vice? And your best friends still have their virginities? Then look no farther, friends, because this collection of episodes is so good you don’t need friends, significant others, or a single reason to emerge from your Geekdrome. But you know what the best part is? It’s not just for geeks – Justice League Unlimited stands tall as the best collection of American action/adventure animation you’re likely to find. While there is, of course, a certain geek charge some may get out of seeing characters like Powergirl and Green Arrow in action (not to mention an episode featuring Nathan Fillion voicing Vigilante and Gina Torres voicing Vixen – come on, how cool is that?), these episodes will entertain because of good characters, good humor, and good storytelling, even if you don’t know your Booster Golds from your Blue Beetles.MV5BMTA3OTAzMDYwMjdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDMzMDkzNjIx._V1_While the first two seasons of Justice League nicely expanded upon the world first established in the early ’90s with Batman: The Animated Series, it wasn’t until this, the show’s third season (or first, depending on how you look at it) that the format and structure was perfected for the genre. It was an interesting experiment having the previous seasons’ episodes run for one-hour, but with JLU the format is scaled back to stand-alone half-hour stories and, ironically, it fits like a bat-glove. It’s strange, but these shorter episodes actually manage to pack in more than the double-length ones. A lot more. And what a roster of characters to fill a show with! You’ll see everyone from The Atom to Elongated Man. Because this is a full-blown, all-star take on these characters, each character can shine their brightest. When you get Superman, you get the best of Superman. Wonder Woman? The best of Wonder Woman. B’wana Beast? Uh… well, I guess this is the best he’s ever been.MV5BMjIwOTMxMzk2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTU5ODM2MjE@._V1_The surplus of great characters is fun, but what really sells the show are the stories. Or, more specifically, story. No doubt borrowing a page from the work of Joss Whedon – showrunner Bruce Timm admits in a commentary that Whedon was a big influence – these episodes highlight a large and complex season-spanning plot that actually has meaning in today’s world. This is certainly the most mature and thoughtful storytelling you’re likely to get from a cartoon of this type. What elevates the show from great to brilliant is its ability to tell stories that are exciting and also manage to propel the larger narrative forward. For example, Dark Heart – penned by famous comic book scribe Warren Ellis – manages to mix a great science fiction plot (a self-replicating AI) with humor (Wonder Woman, needing both hands to fight, rests The Atom in a very interesting holding place) and its plot still manages to play a part later on down the road in the season’s climax.MV5BMjAwMTU4NDI0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIwOTM2MjE@._V1_The writing is the best the show has ever seen, no doubt a result of staff writer Dwayne McDuffie coming into his own; his versatility with the characters is fantastic. Comic book writers Warren Ellis and J.M. DeMatteis join in on the fun, and new series director Joaquim Dos Santos infuses the episodes with a dynamic energy that allows the show to compete with the best of today’s cutting-edge, anime-inspired programming. It’s like the entire DC animated universe has been supercharged in the best way possible.MV5BMTk3NjM3NzI3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQwOTM2MjE@._V1_This collection contains two seasons, and both season finales are just fantastic. The Once and Future Thing is an exciting time romp (with a great Western segment) and Divided We Fall is a showstopper of epic proportions. Either finale would make for a better DVD movie than any of what has been released thus far. Then there’s Epilogue – just brilliant. It manages to tie in the entire DC animated universe – including films Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker! – and still say something meaningful about a very important character. The episode isn’t just great animation, it’s great television.MV5BMTk1MDgzMTYzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUwOTM2MjE@._V1_There really is nothing bad to say about these episodes. The new rock-inspired opening credits do ring a bit too much of cheesy ’80s electronica, but you get used to it, and, after a while, it fits. Of course, the fact remains that if you aren’t into cartoons in the first place you probably won’t be willing to hop on the bandwagon no matter how cool a series is. But if you consider animation to be a legitimate and respectable medium, then this is the pinnacle of the form.  While there are bigger and more influential cartoon shows out there – namely, comedies like The Simpsons – Justice League Unlimited is still one of the best American animated programs you’ll find. With this show the genre has been perfected – it’s fun, exciting, and thoughtful. In other words, this is exactly what superheroes should be.

REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE – SEASON 1

Main Cast

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

JL_line-up

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

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

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