REVIEW: TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT

CAST (VOICES)

Stuart Allan (Rise of the Guardians)
Taissa Farmiga (The Nun)
Brandon Soo Hoo (Ender’s Game)
Jake T. Austin (The Fosters)
Kari Wahlgren (Wolverine & The X-Men)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
Christina Ricci (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Gregg Henry (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Meg Foster (Masters of The Universe)
Maria Canals-Barrera (Justice League Unlimited)
Crispin Freeman (Young Justice)
Masasa Moyo (Paris)
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
Jason Spisak (Piranha 3D)
David Zayas (Gotham)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)

Five years ago, the original Teen Titans (consisting of Dick Grayson as Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, Beast Boy and Bumblebee) rescue Princess Starfire of planet Tamaran from her captors sent by her evil older sister Blackfire who had staged a coup and forcibly took the throne. As she is no longer able to return to her world, the Titans offer her a home on Earth as one of them.In the present, Dick Grayson (now called Nightwing) rejoins the Teen Titans to track down a terrorist cult led by Brother Blood who plans on capturing the team to absorb each of their unique abilities with a machine that he has tested on Jericho (whom his assistant and lover Mother Mayhem quickly shoots afterwards). Brother Blood hires the mercenary Deathstroke to deliver the Titans to him, which he obliges to do for both the money and get revenge on Damian Wayne for foiling his evil plans a few years ago and replacing him as Ra’s al Ghul’s heir before Damian turned against the League of Assassins. Deathstroke monitors the Titans through his double agent that joined the team a year prior named Terra whom he rescued after her parents turned their whole village against her and tortured her. When Damian grows suspicious of Terra’s behavior and starts tracking her, he is captured by her and Deathstroke, thus revealing herself as a spy to Damian.Terra acts cold and distant towards the other Titans despite their welcoming attitude, but eventually warms up to them over time. During the night celebrating her one year anniversary with the Titans, she shares a tender moment with Beast Boy and kisses him. The next day, Deathstroke kidnaps Blue Beetle at the soup kitchen he works at, Beast Boy at a convention where he thought he would do a podcast with filmmaker Kevin Smith, and Starfire at the apartment shared by her and Nightwing. Dick discovers what happened to the other Titans and is attacked by Deathstroke at his apartment. He manages to escape by faking his own death, while Terra captures Raven in Titans’ Tower.Deathstroke and Terra bring the Titans to Brother Blood, but since the machine cannot operate properly without a sixth Titan (as Slade had failed to capture Nightwing), Slade hesitantly offers him Terra instead. Brother Blood starts draining the Titans of their powers and ascends to godlike status, but they are rescued by Nightwing. Nightwing and Robin fight Deathstroke while the rest take on Brother Blood, who has absorbed all of their powers. The two villains are stopped by the intervention of Terra, who is thoroughly hurt and enraged at Slade for his betrayal. Brother Blood is depowered by Raven unleashing her inner fury as a demon, and killed by Mother Mayhem while Deathstroke is buried underneath multiple rocks thrown by Terra. Too ashamed to face her former allies after betraying their trust, Terra decides to bring down the entire area. Beast Boy attempts to assist Terra in escaping the crumbling fortress, but Terra pushes him back and is buried underneath multiple layers of rubble. Beast Boy digs her up and she dies in his arms.In the epilogue, Beast Boy goes on Kevin Smith’s podcast and talks about the Titans with the host. He mentions that the team has a “wonderful new member” and that he will always miss Terra. In a post-credits scene, Jericho is shown to have survived the bullet Mother Mayhem shot at him earlier.The action is exciting, the screenplay is very well written and the animation keeps a solid level; but what I liked the most was to feel the Teen Titans as an authentic team, well balanced and united despite their differences with each other. To sum up, I enjoyed Teen Titans: The Judas Contract very much, and I will now be expecting their next movie with enthusiasm.

 

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REVIEW: TEEN TITANS – SEASON 1-5

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MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Scott Menville (Full House)
Hynden Walch (Justice League War)
Khary Payton (The Walking Dead)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Greg Cipes (Anger Management)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Tom Kenny (Superhero Squad)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)
Tracey Walter (Conan The Destroyer)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dave Coulier (Full House)
Wil Wheaton (Powers)
Malcolm McDowell (Heroes)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass 2)
Ashley Johnson (Dollhouse)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
Thomas Haden Church (Sideways)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Henry Rollins (Wrong Turn 2)
James Hong (BLade Runner)
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh (Cosby)
Freddy Rodriguez (Ugly Betty)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Finder)
Jason Marsden (Return to The Batcave)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Judge Reinhold (Ruthless People)
Virginia Madsen (Highlander II)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)

Teen Titans centers around the five main members of the superhero team: Robin (Scott Menville), the intelligent, capable leader of the Teen Titans; Starfire (Hynden Walch), a quirky, curious alien princess from the planet Tamaran; Cyborg (Khary Payton), a half-human/half-robot who is known for his strength and technological prowess; Raven (Tara Strong), a stoic girl from the parallel world Azarath, who draws upon dark energy and psionic abilities; and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), a ditzy, good-natured joker who can transform into various animals. They are situated in Titans Tower, a large T-shaped structure featuring living quarters as well as a command center and variety of training facilities, on an island just offshore from the fictional West Coast city of Jump City.

The team deals with all manner of criminal activity and threats to the city, while dealing with their own struggles with adolescence, their mutual friendships, and their limitations. Slade, their main enemy, is a newly designed version of the DC villain Deathstroke. The team encounters several allies throughout the series; including Aqualad in the first season; Terra in the second season (who is integral to that season’s story arc), as well as Speedy, Hotspot, and Wildebeest; Bumblebee and Más y Menos in the third season (who join Aqualad, Speedy and bumblebee to form ‘Titans East’), and numerous other heroes adapted from the DC universe in the fifth season to aid in the battle against the Brotherhood of Evil.

I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from Teen Titans. The show is nothing like the Teen Titans comic books, which it is based on. It ended up being more of a kids show. The characters are quite different than their comic book counterparts.


The animation is definitely inspired by Anime. It is borrowing elements from several children’s anime. There is a emphasis on exaggerated character facial expressions, that definitely add to the charm of the show. The show isn’t shy to admit its cultural inspirations by enlisting the Japanese pop band Puffy AmiYumi to perform the catchy theme song.
Teen Titans isn’t for everyone. Overall, I quite enjoy the show. It is worth giving it a try.

REVIEW: DC SUPER HEROES: THE FILMATION ADVENTURES

 

CAST (VOICES)

Bud Collyer (Flesicher Superman)
Marvin Miller (The Invisibile Boy)
Ted Knight (The Love Boat)

In 1967, the Filmation-produced Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure featured short animated segments with additional DC characters. The Superman and Aquaman segments have previously been released on DVD, and the rest are now available as the two-disc set, DC Super-Heroes: The Filmation Adventures.
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These discs feature three seven-minute episodes each focusing on:

The Atom
The Flash
Green Lantern
Hawkman
The Justice League of America (made up of the above heroes, plus Superman)
Teen Titans (Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and Aqualad)

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I’ve never seen these before (I grew up on Super Friends), and it’s hard to not compare them to the Bruce Timm-designed Justice League cartoons, which benefit from 30-odd years of advances in animation techniques (and technology) and storytelling — not to mention a decent budget. The stories are simplistic, the villains’ motivations even more so; lots of footage is re-used, and the heroes are flat. But the action tends to be wild and crazy, in keeping with the comics of the time.
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In fact, a lot of the aspects that stand out when viewing these today are true to the source material. This was deep into the Silver Age at DC, and wild and crazy sci-fi adventure hadn’t yet given way to the more street-level storytelling of the Bronze Age. The excessive narration, while annoying at first, recalls the heavy use of narrative captions to point out exactly what’s going on — how the Flash can run across water, for instance, or reminding us of the name of Hawkman’s mascot Screel (I’m sure I spelled that wrong) even when he calls the bird by name. It also gives the features the feel of a radio play with accompanying visuals.

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Almost every villain is an alien trying to invade the Earth. There’s the occasional mad scientist or mutated creature, and in two of the Green Lantern stories, an alien trying to invade Oa. Only one villain from the comics makes the cut: Evil Star, who appears in one of the Green Lantern shorts. The villains are all one-dimensional, but they’re at least differently one-dimensional. They range from pranksters to military commanders (even the ones shaped like beetles) to mustache-twirling megalomaniacs.

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As far as the video quality is concerned, the shows themselves have been remarkably well-preserved or restored. The opening sequences have fared less well, with plenty of scratches and the occasional problem with the sound. The Flash stars in three segments, and appears in the three Justice League episodes. His civilian ID as Barry Allen is mentioned, but his job as a police scientist is only used as set dressing. (The Atom sequences make the best use of a character’s civilian ID.) Meanwhile, Kid Flash appears in two of the Flash episodes, and the three Teen Titans segments. Wally appears out of costume just once, and the fact that he is Barry’s nephew is not mentioned.
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The Flash’s costume is simplified somewhat for ease of animation, with a plain belt instead of a lightning zigzag, and yellow gloves instead of lightning cuffs around the wrists. (Though the wings on his cowl are clearly wings, not lightning bolts as they appear in Justice League.) Less explicable is the change to Kid Flash’s costume. It’s fairly simple: they reversed the yellow and red. But it’s hard to imagine why. The Flash episodes feature a wide range of uses for super-speed. He and Kid Flash not only run fast, but vibrate through walls, create vacuums, launch themselves into the sky like helicopters, run up the sides of buildings and across oceans, clear rubble and tie things up at super-speed. In doing so, they fight a mutated giant ant (created by radiation, of course!), a mad scientist with what we’d now call a mecha suit (and a number of autonomous robots), and an alien speedster who manages to keep one step ahead of them.

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The Justice League of America segments all involve alien invasions of one sort or another, and all pair up the Flash with the Atom. Despite creative use of his powers in his solo stories, the Flash doesn’t do much more than carry the Atom around in the team-ups. Maybe the cast is too big for the seven-minute length. Kid Flash fares better in the Teen Titans episodes, particularly in “Operation Rescue,” in which he breaks his teammates out of a cell, helps Wonder Girl trip a group of attackers with her lasso, and single-handedly protects the T-Copter during takeoff.
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While the stories are played straight, the villains and situations are also way over the top, making for a great deal of unintentional humor. It would probably be better to watch an episode or two a day, rather than all in one weekend like I did. Still, as I worked my way through the set, there was a sense that anything could happen in the next episode. As groan-inducing as the dialog can be, or the ridiculous situations, it’s hard to deny the fact that these are fun.

REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN – SEASON 1-3

CAST

Lynda Carter (Supegirl)
Lyle Waggoner (Love me Deadly)
Beatrice Colon (Happy Days)
Richard Eastham (Toast of The Town)
Norman Burton (Valley of The Dolls)
Saundra Sharp (The Learning Tree)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Red Buttons (The Longest Day)
Stella Stevens (The Poseidon Adventure)
Cloris Leachman (American Gods)
Christine Belford (Outlaws)
Lynda Day George (Chisum)
Anne Francis (Forbidfden Planet)
Dick Van Patten (Spaceballs)
Linda Carpenter (Apoclaypse Now)
John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family 1964)
Debra Winger (Tears of Endearment)
Pamela Susan Shoop (Halloween 2)
Robert Loggia (Scarface)
Robert Reed (The Brady Bunch)
Tim O’ Connor (The Naked Gun 2 1/2)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Harris Yulin (Ghostbusters 2)
Charles Cyphers (Halloween)
Fritz Weaver (Creepshow)
Bettye Ackerman (Rascal)
Jessica Walter (Arrested Development)
Brooke Bundy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3/4)
Barry Dennen (The Shining)
James Hong (Agents of Shield)
Beatrice Straight (Poltergeist)
Bob Hastings (Batman: TAS)
Eve Plumb (Fudge)
Denny Miller (Wagon Train)
John Colicos (The Changeling)
Celeste Holm (High Society)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Dick Rambo (Another World)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Anne Ramsey (The Goonies)
Frank Gorshin (Batman 60s)
John Rubenstein (Angel)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Hal Englund (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Leif Garrett (The Outsides)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)
Lance LeGault (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation)
Craig T. Nelson (My Name Is Earl)
Mako (Conan The Barbarian)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
George Cheung (Rambo: First Blood)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha)
Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop)
Donnelly Rhodes (Tron Legacy)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Joan Van Ark (Knotts Landing)

Wonder Woman is a somewhat forgotten show, it’s not on syndication much, but it’s gotten a boost from a successful release on DVD. The first season takes place in the 1940s with Wonder Woman constantly fighting to dismantle the Nazi’s schemes. The following two seasons take place in the 1970s, and they will be released on DVD soon.

The show is always bordering on the level of high camp, but like most every show from the 1970s, it tells its’ story in a very plain straightforward fashion. Wonder Woman comes to the aid of Steve Trevor, who can never seem to help himself (the male in distress). Someone they know turns out to be an undercover Nazi spy, who is trying to steal valuable information or hurt many Americans.

Lynda Carter, first of all was amazing. She seemed to hit her stride in the part as the series continued and she is often so charming and innocent that you can’t help but like her. Her values and strength of character are idealistic, but they’re also missing in today’s female heroes, who are so dark sometimes, they lose their charm. In many ways, watching Lynda as Wonder Woman is a breath of fresh air and of course, there still doesn’t seem to be a woman other than her who could wear that outfit and pull it off. When Wonder Woman first walks on the city streets in the pilot, you don’t know what to think, but Lynda plays her so innocently she’s fantastic.

She is the driving force, but the innocent quality of the show (good vs. bad) is unique from today’s perspective. The comic book captions at the leads of scenes give it a tie to the comics. The guest stars are often interesting and have good roles and Lyle Waggoner is consistent in a rather thankless role as Steve Trevor.  It may not hold up perfectly today, but it’s a nice time capsule series and Lynda Carter does hold up well in a role she was born to play. And along with the Hulk, this was the best of the slew of comic book hero shows from the 1970s-early 80s.