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.

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

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

MV5BYjkxZjgzYmItMGIwMC00NjBkLTk5MzUtN2IzNmYzMjgwMWVmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1368,1000_AL_

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Mari Devon (Digimon)
Melissa GIlbert (House on The Prairie)
John Vernon (Animal House)
Richard Moll (Scrry Movie 2)
Tim Matheson (The West Wing)
Diana Muldaur (Star Trek: TNG)
Lloyd Bochner (Point Blank)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Paul Williams (Battle For TPOTA)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Manu Tupou (Payback)
Helen Slater (Supergirl)
David Warner (The Lost world)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
George DiCenzo (She-Ra)
William Sanderson (Blade Runner)
Pat Fraley (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Steve Susskind (Star Trek V)
Vernee Watson (The Big Bang Theory)
Bess Armstrong (Jaws 3D)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Neil Ross (Back To The Future – Part II)
Marilu Henner (Taxi)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
LeVar Burton (Star Trek: TNG)
Aron Kincaid (Transformers)
Brad Garrett (Ratatouille)
Jeffrey Jones (Howard The Duck)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Arleen Sorkin (Days of Our Lives)
Stephanie Zimbalist (A Timeless Love)
Diane Pershing (Gotham Girls)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Megan Mullally (Will & Grace)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
Hector Elizondo (The Princess Diaries)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Alan Rachins (Dharma & Greg)
Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Roscoe Lee Browne (Logun’s Run)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Diane Michelle (Robotech: The Movie)
Alison La Placa (Fletch)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Jason Marsden (A Goofy Movie)
Robbie Rist (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Alan Young (The Time Machine)
Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)
Malcolm McDowell (Halloween 2007)
Michael Bell (Transformers: The Movie)
Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched)
Bill McKinney (First Blood)
John Glover (Smallville)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday The 13th 8)
William Katt (Carrie)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Nicholas Guest (Trading Places)
Henry Polic II (Mighty Max)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Andrea Martin (SCTV Network)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Dan O’Herlihy (Robocop)
Edward Asner (Elf)

MV5BYzBmZjM1MzItNzU2Ny00MzcxLTg2YWYtZmM1NWQ4NzExMmE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_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. It’s surprisingly moving.MV5BYTFiODEyZDQtNmRmZi00ZjlhLWE1NDQtOTY3OWE2ODM0OWQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_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.MV5BOTEwMmFhM2MtN2NmOC00ZGQ2LThmMGMtYTc4YWFjOTllOTY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1344,1000_AL_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.MV5BY2U0ZTAwZDYtNjZjNC00YzVhLWJjMGItZDg5MTMzYTM1MjhjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1334,1000_AL_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, an underground gambling kingpin, Detective Bullock, and…gulp!…the military.MV5BMWNjYWJmNjQtNzQ3Ny00ZGQ2LTkzNjEtNmQ5OTcyM2EwYzBkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_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.MV5BMmIzZTQ4NmItMjRlMS00ZDBiLTllNzktNDUwZTAyNjI3MWI3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_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.MV5BMjI2OTQ0NTMwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM4MTg3MjE@._V1_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 (though only as a supporting character; no “fear!” episodes this time around), 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.MV5BNGI1YTBiYzYtODI2ZS00NzUzLThkMjktMDhkMzI3Yzk5ODAxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ0NjQzNTE@._V1_Batman: The Animated Series does everything right. It doesn’t dumb itself down or resort to hyperkinetic editing to try to appeal to a younger crowd. The retro-styled art design and dark visuals contribute immeasurably to the overall tone of the show, as does the award-winning music. The writing’s consistently impressive, avoiding falling into some formulaic “villain of the week” trap, and the casting choices for its voice actors is incredibly inspired. Henry Silva, LeVar Burton, Dick Miller, Megan Mullally, Brad Garrett, Bill Mumy, David Warner, Elizabeth Montgomery, Jeffrey Jones, Adam Ant, William Katt, and Robert Pastorelli are just a few of the familiar voices contributing to the series for the first time, joining the usual favorites like Paul Williams, Mark Hamill, and Roddy McDowall. These three collections are required viewing for anyone with an interest in Batman, and fans who have picked up the first two collections should certainly consider buying this third set as well.

REVIEW: HEROES – SEASON 3

Starring

Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Adrian Pasdar (Supergirl)
Jack Coleman (Spawn)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and The Beast)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)
Hayden Panettiere (Nashville)
James Kyson Lee (Sleepy Hollow)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Ali Larter (Final Destination)
Dania Ramirez (Mojave)

Sendhil Ramamurthy in Heroes (2006)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Brea Grant (Halloween II)
Ashley Crow (Minority Report)
Željko Ivanek (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Jamie Hector (All Eyez on Me)
Ntare Mwine (Treme)
Blake Shields (The Hollow)
Robert Forster (Automata)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Lost)
Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange)
Alan Blumenfeld (Pathology)
George Takei (Star Trek: TOS)
Dan Byrd (28 Days)
Francis Capra (Veronica Mars)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wofe and Kids)
Demetrius Grosse (The Rookie)
Lisa Lackey (Planet of The Apes)
Eric Roberts (The Finder)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Jessalyn Gilsig (Nip/Tuck)
David Anders (Izombie)
William Katt (Carrie)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Breckin Meyer (Garfield)
Taylor Cole (The Originals)
Aarti Mann (The BIg Bang Theory)
Justin Baldoni (Jane The Virgin)
John Glover (Smallville)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kevin Alejandro (Arrow)
Kenneth Choi (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Diana Scarwid (Psycho III)
Ravi Kapoor (Bones)
Edwin Hodge (Red Dawn)
Alexa Nikolas (Red State)
Cam Clarke (The Lion Guard)
Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Michael B. Silver (Jason Goes To Hell)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)

Hayden Panettiere and Milo Ventimiglia in Heroes (2006)I love the concept of a weekly show about people dealing with superpowers and an evil government agency coming to get them. I also really like that it doesn’t shy away from the violence, especially when it comes to the ruthless power collecting ultimate bad guy (who at times shows his good side) Sylar. What I don’t like is how scattered and uneven this show has become. I dare anyone to try and make sense out of the first half of the season titled “Villains”. The only crime committed was a lack of concern for a coherent plot. Luckily the second half of the season “Fugitives” got the show focused in and back on track. More after the jump…Masi Oka, James Kyson, and Brea Grant in Heroes (2006)The first half of the season “Villains” was advertised with big campaigns claiming that this season “Heroes will battle Villains.” I was super stoked because the way my mind pictured the structure of the show was switching the narrative focus over to the villains and showing the events through their perspective making all the good guys side characters. I realize this sounds a bit ambitious, but coming off of a lackluster sophomore season I thought the creators were pulling out all the stops. This is not what happened. Instead what came out of the first half was a jumbled, messy plot that had moments of brilliance mixed in with a heavy dose of confusion. I still was thoroughly entertained, but I’m an easy sell when it comes to anything comic book oriented.Zachary Quinto in Heroes (2006)The plot of “Villains” centers around the revelation that Arthur Petrelli is in fact alive and planning some dastardly things at Pinhearst, in his search for the catalyst (the nebulous source that gave all these characters powers). If Arthur can get his hands on the formula then he can create a whole slew of super humans to do his bidding. This is a pretty cool plot, especially when a ton of super baddies are released from Level 5 during a crisis leading to HRG and Sylar teaming up to round them up. Sylar has a lot of moral issues this season as he grapples with his true nature, is he a monster or was he programmed by the Company to be this way?Jack Coleman in Heroes (2006)There are some really fun things he gets to do this season, especially the buddy cop-esque episode where he and HRG are trying to stop a bank robbery being held up by super villains. The plot gets confusing when time travel keeps being thrown in and the actual source of the catalyst was jumbled for me. Is it Claire or Hiro’s mother or both or just a formula? I have no idea. There’s also a two-part episode where another eclipse happens and they all lose their powers. I understand why in the dramatic arc of the story this was put in, but it’s not fun to watch superheroes without powers and these two episodes dragged a bit. I liked the initial idea and towards the end the showdown with Arthur and the Petrelli boys is great, but this half loses steam here and there with just too many ideas on the table.Now comes the second half of the season “Fugitives,” which I thought was awesome! Nathan outs himself to the President as being a person with abilities and is then put in charge of rounding up all people like him in the interest of Homeland Security. Nathan’s motives are a bit sketchy, has he turned to the Dark Side or is this all a way to help Claire, or is it a way to work the system from the inside and eventually destroy it? I’m not telling, but there are a decent number of twists throughout. The reason this half of the season works so much better is because there is a clear through-line and the story is way more focused. Basically it’s the U.S. government versus everyone with abilities, as villains team with heroes and the lines of good and bad are blurred to fight a bigger enemy that threatens all their existence. It’s also a classic comic book plot that works well for a reason, because it seems realistic that this is how our government would react if living Weapons of Mass Destruction started popping up all over the country.Hayden Panettiere, James Kyson, and Brea Grant in Heroes (2006)“Fugitives” has a clear bad guy in the ruthless Agent Danko, who will stop at nothing to detain and sometimes simply destroy anyone with abilities. HRG and Angela start playing both sides and their characters have some great moments. Sylar takes a trip down memory lane to try and find out who his real parents are and some interesting new developments come up leading him down a darker path then before. And Sylar acquires his best power yet, when he kills a shape-shifter, could he be any more unstoppable? While Nathan grapples with the morals of the decisions he’s made and how to fix this manhunt he’s started. Not to mention a great deal is revealed when the gang of heroes goes to Coyote Sands to find out about a mysterious project called “Icarus” which turns out to be a concentration camp for people with abilities where some pretty bad stuff went down. Lots of action, suspense, twists, and a more focused plot makes “Fugitives” a bad ass return to form for a series that has had some ups and downs, but is still dear to my nerdcore heart.Hayden Panettiere, Masi Oka, and James Kyson in Heroes (2006)The first half of season three meandered a bit, but was still fun to watch. The second half reminded me why I started watching the show in the first place and gives a great deal of hope for season four, especially with the cliffhanger we were left with at the end of “Fugitives.” Let’s just say it won’t be politics as usual this coming season…

 

REVIEW: SUPER

CAST

Rainn Wilson (The Office)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Liv Tyler (jersey Girl)
Kevin Bacon (A Few Good Men)
Gregg Henry (PaybacK)
Michael Rooker (Guardians of The galaxy)
Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo)
Nathan Fillion (Slither)
Andre Royo (Empire)
Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls)
Stephen Blackehart (Death Racers)
Mikaela Hoover (The Guest Book)
Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses)
Lloyd Kaufman (The Litch)
William Katt (Carrie)

1Frank (Rainn Wilson), a not-that-bright, not-that-handsome guy who can count the good things that have happened to him on one hand and who works as a cook at the greasiest spoon you’ve ever seen, has lost his recovering-addict wife (Liv Tyler, The Lord of the Rings)–one of those precious few good things–to a sleazy, drug-dealing club owner (Kevin Bacon). This unbearable injustice is the last straw for Frank, who has, to be sure, experienced no shortage of injustice in his time. After some surreal, hallucinatory soul-searching, and egged on by young, hyper Libby (Ellen Page)–a comics-shop clerk who nags her way into the role of his official sidekick–he becomes “The Crimson Bolt,” a fed-up DIY superhero who is going to not only save Frank’s wife and get them back together, but also make the world safe at long last for all the nice, mild-mannered people who have had enough of playing doormat for the world’s pushers (of all kinds) and shovers.Super_filmFrank is at the end of his rope; overstimulated Libby is terminally bored. They are in way over their heads, but they are too inspired to care, and The Crimson Bolt, accompanied by sidekick “Boltie,” can be heard to utter his catchphrase, “Shut up, crime!” as they use their trademark pipe wrench (for The Bolt) and Wolverine claws (Boltie) to whip violators into shape; whether you are a child molester or a smug, self-centered jerk who cuts in line at the movies, you had better watch out, because their adrenaline is pumping, and you are likely to end up in the emergency room with severe lacerations or a crushed skull. Gunn shies away from neither the ghastly injuries nor the pleas and cries of pain emanating from those on the receiving end of justice, Crimson Bolt-style. By now, we have been intentionally “shocked” often enough by movie violence, whether it be the flippant, choreographed Reservoir Dogs kind or in the devastating (and, I think, much more conscientious) Funny Games mode.super-movieIn the case of Super, though, the Taxi Driver comparisons Gunn has garnered for his film are apt; regardless of how many movies and TV programs may encourage cheering it on, “justified” violence is as ugly and difficult to stomach as any other kind, and it may even be more painful to watch a character whom you can relate to and whom you know to be acting out of conscience doing such unconscionable things. But Gunn’s film is quite different from Scorsese’s masterpiece in its willingness to wear its heart directly on its sleeve.Both Frank and Libby are damaged people whose emotions have been run roughshod over by life, they are rife with insecurities and uncertainties, and they want the reassurance of a fantasy world in which one’s moral certitude translates into real action and results. It is very, very easy for us to understand and sympathize with them…but then we cringe at the cruelty they rather randomly inflict as retribution for life’s crumminess (not to mention at the uneasy romantic tension that develops between the very married Frank and Libby, with her underfed emotional and sexual appetites). Gunn does not skimp on fully exploring either the righteousness of Frank and Libby’s rage or the unacceptable brutality that results from it; Libby’s comics-bred (over)enthusiasm might be able to override her less-than-fully-developed conscience, but Frank’s is too powerful not to impede his enjoyment of what they are up to, and he also seems burdened by the felt responsibility of being the older one, Libby’s role model and moral compass.
MV5BODNmODZmMTMtYTA0NS00ZDE1LThiZTQtMTQ4OWZhMTJlNTRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTIzOTk5ODM@._V1_A great deal of the credit for the film’s ability to move us belongs to its actors. When it comes to embodying Frank in all his poor, pathetic put-upon-ness. It would have been a tragic misfire to play such a character as a dismissable laughing stock, and Wilson fortunately avoids that entirely, making Frank a character whose feelings are very real and every bit as valid as any of ours would be. Page does the same for the misguided but charming Libby, with her fumbling but authentic sexuality and her game-for-anything attitude that is hard not to like even as it tips her right over the deep end. It grows into a real pleasure as the film goes on, seeing the actors match, scene for scene, the physical boldness necessary for all their maladroit running, jumping, and ass-kicking with the emotional courage required to sympathetically depict their characters’ social and romantic clumsiness. Tyler and Bacon shine in their smaller parts, too.thumbnail.24481.4Gunn has not only pulled off his risky idea with aplomb, but at the visual level alone, he and cinematographer Steve Gainer have used the red digital video camera with a great feel for the visuals it can provide and the way the images it can produce–distinct from film, but offering a full palette from which to work cinematically–are able to serve the film’s story and tone. They expertly create a world for Super that is not movie-“ordinary” but really ordinary, in the litter-on-the-streets, used-car, rundown-buildings kind of way; the walls of Frank’s workplace, Libby’s apartment, and the comic book shop appear to actually be sweating. (Gunn uses a lot of handheld camera to add to the inelegance of “real life,” and for once it is an actually suitable as opposed to merely cool choice, really contributing something important to the film’s feel.) That realism clashes with some of the more graphically poppy, self-conscious elements in the film such as comic-book titles appearing up now and then in the most unlikely circumstances and, of course, Frank’s and Libby’s brightly colored costumes standing out starkly against the drab environment), and the jarring shifts works quite well to complement, on the visual level.