DVD Review: Batman: The Brave and the Bold – Season One – Part One

Hi all!

Though I’d seen a few comic books in my youth, my first exposure to the Batman phenomenon was in 1989 when I saw Tim Burton’s Batman on the big screen. From that moment on, Michael Keaton captured the duality of Batman for me – playboy by day (as bazillionaire/tychoon Bruce Wayne) and crime fighter (Batman) by night.

Then in 1992, Batman: The Animated Series really drove that home the comic legacy of the Batman character. Paul Dini and around 30 other writers took the Gotham City from the pages of DC Comics and breathed life into the heroes and villains that walked its streets. It was really the series’ four seasons that Batman graced my television screen that made me appreciate the depth of what DC Comics and Bob Kane had created from the late 1930s to today.

In 2008, a new chapter of Batman animation would unfold as Batman: The Brave and the Bold. But where previous incarnations of the world were portrayed in a serious vein, this new series amped up the campy, fun nature once seen in another Batman television product starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin in the 1960s.

The Brave and the Bold uses Batman (voiced by Diedrich Bader – The Drew Carey Show) as the straight man while still managing to incorporate the classic heroes and villains of the DC Universe with humor. Now DC Animation and Warner Brothers are releasing the first 13 episodes of season one in a two-DVD set – Batman: The Brave and the Bold – Season One – Part One.

In the first 13 episodes, we see an amazing array of heroes share the stage with the Dark Knight… We meet the Blue Beetle (Will Friedle, Batman Beyond, Kim Possible) as he’s just getting used to his alien powers; Plastic Man (Tom Kenny, SpongeBob SquarePants) who’s constantly struggling with his criminal side; the Red Tornado (Corey Burton, who seems to have been in 100+ different cartoons over the last 30 years) who is an android trying to understand what it is to be human…

We also meet:

  • Green Arrow
  • Wildcat
  • Deadman
  • Bronze Tiger
  • The Atom

But Aquaman (John Di Maggio, Futurama, Penguins of Madagascar, Ben-10) is by far my favorite. He manages to be endearing and annoying at the same time. Larger than life and willing to tell of his adventures to anyone who will (willingly or unwillingly) listen.

Not to be outdone, we also see many of the classic villains appear along with some I had never heard of… Kite Man (Jeffrey Combs, The 4400, Justice League, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), gliding thief, nemesis and former employer of Plastic Man; Black Manta (Kevin Michael Richardson, The Penguins of Madagascar, The Cleveland Show), a surface dwelling criminal who seeks dominion of the sea; Gorilla Grodd (Di Maggio in another role), super-intelligent gorilla from Gorilla City seeking revenge over the human race; and many more…

  • Kanjar Ro
  • Gentleman Ghost
  • Fun Haus
  • Morgaine le Fey
  • Slug
  • Chemo
  • Despero
  • Terrible Trio
  • Clock King
  • Owlman

Honestly, when I watch an episode of Batman: Brave and the Bold it’s a very guilty pleasure. It’s fun to see how cheesy some of the lines can be (deliberately) and how the bad guys inevitably foul up and let the good guys win. These are definitely simplified hero vs. villain stories, but they’re great for kids and adults who want to become kids again for a little while.

Other than the episodes and a game trailer, you don’t get any extras, but that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying any of the 13 great episodes in this collection.

So if you’ve seen an episode or two and want to catch up or simply want to have a good time, be sure to check out Batman: The Brave and the Bold – Season One – Part One. I’m very excited to see when Part Two comes out so I can enjoy my favorite episode of the series so far – “Mayhem of the Music Meister!” starring Neil Patrick Harris as the Music Meister!

This article first appeared at Blogcritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up Batman: The Brave and the Bold today and enjoy some campy fun!

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[Book Review] Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Hi there…

Short story collections are tricky to sum up sometimes. In the case of fantasy, science fiction, or horror collections, often I find that an anthology feels more like it was rounded up like cattle to slaughter than a carefully selected group of stories about a particular theme. Warriors from Tor was thankfully in the latter category.

Warriors was put together and edited by George R. R. Martin (author of the bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series that began in 1996 with A Game of Thrones), and Gardner Dozois (acclaimed editor and novelist who has won fifteen Hugo Awards for his editorial work in science fiction and fantasy). I’ve read many of GRRM’s works, including some of his Wild Cards anthologies and have been waiting to see who lives and dies in the next book of his Song of Ice and Fire series for 5 years along with everyone else. And I really enjoyed Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy a few years ago, which was edited by Dozois. So I suspected that Warriors would be just as good.

Man was I wrong. Warriors was an amazing collection of stories from all eras and genres, from ancient Rome and Carthage to a future where soldiers jack into giant robots on a battlefield far away and everything between. These stories impressed me with their depth, their eloquence, and the ability to surprise me from time to time. I loved Wizards, but Warriors beats it hands down. It helps that the 735 page book could be used as a weapon to bludgeon a poor, unsuspecting wizard while they were trying to remember or cast a spell…

When I first saw this behemoth, I wondered if they’d sent me a dictionary by mistake. Its size alone presented a daunting challenge of carrying it around. That said, I think I added a bit of muscle as I lugged it around.

It would be impossible to cover all of the great stories in this collection in a single review. Instead, I’ll focus on a few that really captured my attention.

Robin Hobb is an author who I had often heard about, but never read until recently. I read Dragon Keeper and just finished Dragon Haven a few days ago, both of which were excellent. So when I read her short story “The Triumph” I already knew she was an excellent writer. But it’s one thing to write about a fictional world of your own making and quite another to write accurately enough about a historical period that you can enjoy the story without getting mired in historical details or inaccuracies.

“The Triumph” is about an Roman soldier named Regulus imprisoned by the Carthaginians and his childhood friend and soldiering companion Flavius, recently escaped from Carthaginian slavers. In the story, Hobb describes the love, respect, and admiration soldiers often have for one another that leads them again and again into and out of impossible situations. Regulus was a natural leader and Flavius a follower intent on keeping his friend alive through battle after battle. But in the end, there was only one kindness Flavius could give his friend. Beautifully written and told with just enough detail to be believable, but not so much as to become lost.

Joe R. Lansdale, I’m sorry to say I’d never heard of prior to reading his story “Soldierin’.” However, from the blurb before his story I now know he was involved with novelizing the awesome and quirky movie Bubba Ho-Tep. Now I may have to look for some of his other works!

“Solderin'” has nothing to do with Elvis, a mummy, and nursing homes, but instead deals with a story from the wild west of 1870 about two Black men looking for a better life. The pair get involved with the Ninth Cavalry from Fort McKavett “between the Colorady and the Pecos rivers” as Nat Wiliferd and Cullen find themselves in Indian country.

Did they find their better life? Perhaps. But what captured my interest was the way in which the story was told, from Nat’s point of view. I laughed my way through the story enjoying his view of the world and the way everyone spoke in a particularly direct, yet drawly English. It reminded me a bit of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. with Bruce Campbell. The language, storytelling, and the touches of history kept me amused from beginning to end.

The story that surprised me the most was “Dirae” by Peter S. Beagle, the author of The Last Unicorn, one of the great novels of an earlier era of fantasy and science fiction. Beagle has written much since then, including other novels, short fiction, and scripts for such great series as Star Trek: The Next Generation at the height of its run. “Dirae” starts with two pages of dream-like text and leads you on an adventure that transcends the frailty of the human spirit to help those in need. As you read and learn more about the character at the center of the action, you and she piece things together to the very end. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was beautifully paced and emotionally charged.

Another story that surprised me, and the last one I’ll talk about here, is “The Pit” from James Rollins. This one moved me to tears in the end and is not about a human warrior at all, but a canine one. Brutus is a dog trained to fight in the pit, stolen from his happy puppy days by a thief intent on perpetuating the “sport” of dog fighting. As anyone familiar with the Michael Vick dog fighting saga knows, it’s not a sport. It’s illegal and immoral. And this story should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants a glimpse into that world.

There are many other stories in the anthology from authors I knew and a few I didn’t – Joe Haldeman, Tad Williams, Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Novik, David Weber, S.M. Stirling, David Morrell, and the editors Dozois and Martin were among the ones I knew. And all the stories – whether I knew the authors or not – were well written, diverse, and told amazingly well.

If you need some summer reading material, Warriors works well on vacation as you can enjoy the collection a story at a time. The editors and Tor outdid themselves this time. Great work!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this collection and others at Barnes & Noble!

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DVD Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection

Hi there!

That’s right, you read the title correctly. The 25th Anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) phenomenon. Who knew that radioactive turtles would have such staying power in pop culture?

[amazon-product]B00284AVI2[/amazon-product]To mark the occasion, Warner Brothers is releasing a 25th Anniversary Collection of the four TMNT movies to date. Aptly named the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection, it includes a special DVD case with the four DVDs (in the shape of a manhole cover), four turtle masks (one for each one of the Turtles), and a page of temporary Turtles tattoos. All in all, this is an awesome collection that is for collectors and people new to the world of the Turtles alike!

If you need to brush up on your TMNT history, let’s go back to the beginning…

In 1984, the first TMNT comic book was released. In those comic pages, the world was introduced to four turtles and a rat mysteriously transformed into intelligent, man-sized creatures by radioactive ooze in the sewers of Manhattan. Leonardo, the turtle with the blue mask, was the leader of this young group of heroic martial arts students. Raphael, with his red mask, tended to punch first and ask questions later. Michelangelo, with his orange mask, was the easygoing surfer dude of the group. Donatello, with his purple mask, was the scientist of the bunch. And Master Splinter, the mutant rat who was a pet of a Ninja master before his transformation, served as their teacher and guide.

And what comic book would be complete without its bad guys? The Turtles fought a fierce battle against the evil Foot Clan of Ninjas and their nefarious leader, Shredder.

Along the way we met other characters in the Turtles’ world. April O’Neill was originally a lab assistant in the comic book, but later became a television reporter in the cartoons and movies. She is the Turtles staunchest human ally. Casey Jones is a sporting goods-wielding vigilante who also fights alongside the Turtles in their battle against Shredder. And he turns out to be April’s love interest later on in the series…

By 1987, there was the first TV cartoon series, line of action figures, figurines, and much more. The world grew exponentially with merchandising and licensing and there was a time you could hardly turn the television on without seeing Turtle mania. I have to admit that even I was brought under the Turtles’ spell for a time and shouted phrases like “Cowabunga!” and “Turtle Power!” once upon a time.

In 1990, the first live-action TMNT movie was released – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Featuring a quartet of actors dressed in turtle suits, the movie was a big hit at the box office and has been the highest grossing movie in the series so far. The movie showed the origin of the Turtles and the beginning of their battle against Shredder and the Foot Clan. After seeing the Turtles in cartoons for a few years, it was a shock to the system to see the Turtles in the “real world” of New York City. However, their love for pizza and seeing those huge costumes for the first time brought me over to their side of the sewer.

In 1991 there was a live-action sequel – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. Here we learn more about the company responsible for the ooze that transformed normal turtles into Ninja Turtles and find that Splinter somehow survived his demise at the end of the first movie. When he discovers the secret of the ooze, he tries to create his own mutant army to stop the Turtles from interfering with any more of his plans… By this point, the fascination with actors in suits had started to wear off, and the box office started to fall off accordingly.

And in 1993 there was another live-action sequel – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time. This time, the Turtles travel through time to save April O’Neill from being stuck in feudal Japan forever. Evidently movie goers thought the Turtles should have stayed in the past, as this has been the lowest-grossing TMNT movie so far.

And most recently in 2007 after a gap of 14 years, there was an animated feature simply called TMNT that follows the events of the first three movies. In this adventure, the Turtles must stop an immortal warrior and his generals from opening a rift to another universe and allowing monsters to invade and take over the world. As with any group of teenagers, the Turtles had drifted apart after finally defeating Shredder, and they had to rediscover the meaning of family.

The first movie and the animated movie were the best two for me. The original movie captured the campy spirit of the comic book and made it accessible to a whole new audience of kids. There’s something about mixing people in suits, puppeteers and cheesy martial arts moves that made this movie work. And the 2007 animated film provided a great mix of that same campy feel, with updated animation and a story that didn’t feel recycled.

There are even rumors of a new TMNT movie coming sometime in 2010 or 2011. We’ll have to see whether they choose the live-action route or go with animation next time.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection brought back a lot of memories for me and allowed me to share these movies with my daughters, who were entranced by the stories of these mutant Turtles and wanted to see what happened next. We can only hope that the next generation enjoys them as much as some of the rest of us did growing up in the 1980s and 1990s!

Be sure to check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection at your favorite online or brick-and-mortar retailer!

–Fitz

p.s. Click below to pick up this DVD collection and other TMNT products from Amazon!

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