Batman The Brave and the Bold Season 3

  • Series Title:  Batman the Brave and the Bold
  • Season:  3
  • Episodes:  13
  • Disc:  1 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast:  Diedrich Bader
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The third season of Batman The Brave and the Bold introduces the JLI – Justice League International, including Fire and Ice, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, Guy Gardner’s Green Lantern and others. However, I thought the characterizations were off a bit – Ice is really dumb, Fire is a sexpot, etc. Still, there’s some fun to be had with the show now being much more of an ensemble piece – and more traditional DC Heroes also make appearances including Superman, Wonder Woman, and the ever-present Aquaman.

The format for Batman The Brave and the Bold includes a short and then the main story. The shorts are completely disconnected from the main story and give the series a chance to really dig into the DC vaults when finding characters to showcase. Many of the shorts are extremely effective. We also get to hear Aquaman sing – twice, first in presenting the theme tune to his sitcom, “The Currys of Atlantis” (one of the opening shorts), and then again when he sings to a de-powered Capt. Atom, “The Rousing Song of Heroism”. Both are a trip – and quite wonderful. Season 3 also includes Vigilante singing “The Ballad of Batman” in an opening short that is essentially a music video. I enjoyed the music of this series.

The regular stories have a great deal of humor, though, at times, it feels like the creators have run out of ideas. But, on the other hand, there are still some very wacky, out there, extremely humorous episodes and I definitely enjoyed that.

The penultimate episode consists of four shorts, and no real Batman story at all. They are amusing in their own way, but not Batman. The final episode is a Bat-Mite story. I’ve never really liked Bat-Mite, but this breaking the fourth wall story as Bat-Mite decides that BTBATB has “jumped the shark” and needs to be canceled so Batman can go back to being dark and brooding, has some fun bits – and Ambush Bug. It’s definitely amusing to have a television show dedicate it’s last episode to getting itself canceled.

Overall, Batman the Brave and the Bold, although uneven throughout it’s run, has some classic moments, and it is worth getting the entire series, including the third season.

Read my review of Batman the Brave and the Bold Season 1.

Read my review of Batman the Brave and the Bold Season 2.

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Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: The Tao Connection

  • Title: The Tao Connection
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Barry Letts
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner, Maggie Stables
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/07/2018

Sarah Jane Smith The Tao Connection picks up from where the previous volume, Comeback left off. Two police officers fish a dead body from a river, but as Natalie tells Sarah, there’s a problem when the old man has the same fingerprints as 18-year-old Toby. Since Toby is both missing and a friend of Josh and Ellie, Sarah decides to investigate. But there is something much more sinister than an issue with fingerprint analysis going on.

Sarah decides to investigate the Huang Ti Clinic, and Holtooth Hall, now owned by the recluse, billionaire, Will Butley. The Clinic reports to be just another expensive health spa, but its customers seem oddly younger when they leave. Meanwhile, what is behind the disappearances of dozens of homeless teenaged boys?

Sarah and Josh try to get into Holtooth Hall to speak to Butley but are turned away by his security officer. They get the name of the other person in the house though, Mr. Ronald Sharp.

Sarah does interview a master of Taoism, who explains something of the philosophy to her. Sarah sees it as a search for eternal life, though the master explains it is the life of the spirit, not the flesh.

She, with help from Josh, also investigates the clinic. There is a lab in the clinic, where bodies are having their life forces drained away. And when one of the clinic’s new clients arrives, they are told to drink a mysterious draft of “concentrated Chi”. Yes, that doesn’t make sense.

When Sarah finally is able to contact Butley, she finds out Mr. Sharp has cut off his supply of this mysterious draft until he learns the secret to the Dark Sorcery incantations. But there is no secret.

Unfortunately, Butley kills Sharp but then succumbs to extremely advanced old age because Sarah declines to give him more of the draft. This mysterious essence is made by draining the lifeblood of young teenaged boys, who do not survive the procedure.

I first purchased the first few CDs in the Sarah Jane Smith from Big Finish a few years ago and I listened to The Tao Connection and Comeback; however, though I collected the entire series, I didn’t listen to them right away for several reasons. Now I’m re-listening to the few I listened to before and I intend to listen to the rest of the series. A long commute helps. Anyway, the hit-or-miss nature of The Tao Connection is probably one major reason I stopped when I did. The performances in this story are very strong, but it also has things like a fist-fight, which doesn’t work on audio (even after the fight it’s hard to figure out what happened), but the major negative is the way the audio treats oriental religion/spirituality. I’m pretty sure the essence of Taoism is not a search for immortality. I understand it to be more about balance and “going with the flow” instead of fighting nature. But I’m no expert. Still, as this is part of an on-going series, it’s worth at least a single listen. Not one of the best Big Finish audio plays though.

Oh, and yes, this is a full-cast audio play – all the actors perform their roles (often to the hilt, with relish), and the audio includes music and sound effects.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order The Tao Connection on download only click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Comeback

  • Title: Comeback
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Terrance Dicks
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner, Nicholas Briggs, David Jackson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/05/2018

Spoiler Alert

Comeback is a full-cast audio play in Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith original audio adventures line. It is a single disc full play with music, sound effects, a full cast performing all the parts, and it is a play. It is not an audiobook, with someone reading the story, nor is it one of Big Finish’s limited cast presentations. I quite enjoyed listening to a full-cast audio again, as it has been a while (I’ve been listening to and enjoying the limited-cast Companion Chronicles for a while now.)

Comeback opens at the funeral of Sarah Jane’s Aunt Lavinia. After the funeral and celebration (Aunt Lavinia would never call it a wake) the story picks up with Sarah working as a cashier at a bank. She’s trying to convince an older customer that she needs to see his ID to cash a check when the bank is robbed. The robbery is foiled, though a young man who foiled the crime is almost arrested because he is holding a gun (which he took off the robbers) when the police arrive. The young man is Josh, and Sarah takes him under her wing. It turns out that Sarah is in a bit of a jam. She was working for Planet 3 doing an investigative news series, but when the last piece in the series aired – Sarah was accused of making it up. Evidence is produced that proves her research “false”, the people she interviewed disappear, Sarah loses her job, and her television network is sued by the corporation she “attacked”. To make matters worse – Sarah becomes a target of identity not so much theft as identity assignation – her reputation is smeared and ruined, her bank account disappears, her passport is canceled. Sarah is persona non grata – she has nothing. With only a few friends to help, she’s trying to pull her life back together. Sarah had gotten the job at the bank to try and find out what happened to her bank account. But with the robbery, she’s put out of a job again and needs to find a new house.

Josh joins Sarah, and after contact with her friend, Natalie, they decide to investigate the quaint village of Cloots Coombe. Natalie had said their mutual friend, Ellie Martin was there to organize a “protest” against some new company that was behaving suspiciously. When Sarah and Josh arrive they find out from Ellie that she’s suspicious because the “new company” is producing no waste, at all. While Natalie investigates using her computer and contacts in London, Sarah and Josh investigate on the ground in the village. Ellie also mentioned that two people from her advance guard, Jenny, and a young man had left for the village and never returned.

Sarah and Josh go to the village – they run into the vicar, who refuses to answer questions. Sarah notices something odd about the village but Josh doesn’t realise what’s off. Natalie discovers that the village’s promise to never have any “MOD land” (or land used by the Ministry of Defence) is a result of an experiment that went wrong some time ago. Sarah ends up getting the details – the Ministry had opened an experimental lab researching chemical warfare outside the village in the woods. Unfortunately, the chemicals leaked from the lab, into a tunnel, and from the tunnel to the local Wiccan Well (now a shrine named after a saint). The water from the well was used by the church and the entire village for ceremonial uses. However, even with limited exposure – the poisoned well caused everyone in the village to become sterile.

Meanwhile, a new squire has brought a new company to the village. The squire is promising the villagers something but we don’t know what. When Sarah finds out about the village being sterile she also finds out what the company is researching: human cloning. Unfortunately, they haven’t had much success – only breeding a monster in the tunnel that absorbs anything that gets too close. It was this monster that killed Jenny. The story ends in a bit of a stalemate – the company agrees to stop its experiments and destroy its monster – but Sarah can’t go public with her compromised reputation. This makes the story feel more like a pilot – promising much more, later, than a completed story.

I did enjoy Comeback very much though. It was good to listen to a full-cast audio again, and I like the shorter (1-disc) format because it’s easier to listen to in the car on my commute. I also found this to be an intriguing start. The story itself moves swiftly from Sarah’s Aunt’s funeral, to the bank, to the iconic mysterious English village with a secret. It’s a good story and an excellent first volume.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

For further details about Comeback click the link. Unfortunately, this story from 2002 is currently out of stock on the Big Finish website.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Castle Season 8 Review

  • Series Title: Castle
  • Season: 8
  • Episodes:  22
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  ABC (US)
  • Cast:  Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Seamus Dever, Jon Huertas, Molly C. Quinn, Susan Sullivan
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD

The final season of Castle is very uneven. When the best part of the season is the section of the season where the show returns to “normalcy” there’s an issue, and season 8 is even more uneven than season7. The opening two-parter shows the same case, for the same couple of days, from first Richard Castle’s point-of-view and then from Kate Beckett’s point-of-view, skipping the scenes where the two of them run into each other for the second go-around. In part one, Castle and Beckett start their morning together, then Kate is supposed to start her first day as the captain of the 12th precinct. Castle shows up at Ryan and Esposito’s multiple shooter homicides and finds Kate’s bracelet that he had given her that morning – in a pool of blood. It becomes obvious Kate was kidnapped or something is going on. From Kate’s point of view we find out Kate’s early morning call wasn’t a telemarketer like she told Castle (lie number one) but a warning, and as Castle discovers quickly Kate didn’t have a meeting at 1PP about being a new captain (lie number two). The first lie frankly is forgivable, – the call was a warning, having to do with Kate’s time in the Attorney General’s office, and by her oath and various “security things,” she literally couldn’t tell Rick about the warning or threat. The second lie is a little less forgivable – Kate didn’t need to lie to Castle about where she was going – and he quickly found out about the lie.

Kate is given a warning – a serious one. She meets a new analyst for the AG’s office, who tells her every person in her former team is now dead. In a conspiracy-theory laced plot that spans the two episodes, Kate discovers someone called “Lockset” is behind the deaths of her former team, Senator Bracken in prison, Bracken’s own conspiracy, meaning also her mother’s murder, oh – and eventually, Castle’s disappearance for two months during the previous season. The conspiracy isn’t the focus of every episode of the season, but it is an underlying element that rears its head fairly often. There are episodes almost entirely focused on Lockset, and episodes where it’s barely mentioned but the plot is advanced a bit. And there are episodes where it’s not really present at all.

The worse part of the Lockset conspiracy is that Kate, is convinced that if Rick knows anything about it, he will die trying to protect her, so she decides to walk out. She asks Rick for a trial separation and the two act like a couple on the verge of divorce. Castle decides he has to win her back. About halfway through the season, the two are forced back together by circumstances, the lying stops, and the series is a lot like it normally is: fun, light, romantic, crime-fighting. It’s Rick who discovers Lockset is tied into his missing two months, that somehow he learned information about it in Los Angeles, his actions or lack of action caused the death of Kate’s team, and Rick was so terrified by what he learned that he asked his “CIA handler” to erase his memory (last season’s umbrella theme). Rick also underwent having his own memory erased to protect Kate. To give Rick credit, and Kate too – they decide to stop lying to protect each other. Good move.

This season also introduces Hayley, a British detective and former MI6 operative who knows Rick’s step-mother and whom gets involved in Rick’s detective business. Hayley gets along very well with Alexis who is now working at her father’s detective agency. I liked Hayley, and I liked that she was portrayed as Rick’s friend and business partner – but never as a possible romantic interest, even when Rick and Kate were split up.

Kate gets her own partner, the analyst, who assists her in all things Lockset.

The second to last episode of the season is Castle’s annual Halloween episode, with no ties whatsoever to Lockset or even any of the other on-going themes of the season.

The finale, as promised, is all about wrapping-up Lockset. It’s a bit of a confusing mess. Castle is captured and interrogated under a truth serum. To make things worse, his interrogator asks simply yes or no questions as to who Castle and/or Kate have told about Lockset: his mother (yes, earlier in the episode), his daughter (yes, earlier in the episode), Ryan and Esposito (yes, earlier in the season), Kate obviously. Notably, he does not ask about Hayley or the young man helping Kate. Castle is crying that he had betrayed everyone. The police arrive, but they all get pinned down by an army of troops in the room. Castle breaks the wall, and gets to the basement, to rescue Kate from Lockset – someone she thought she would trust. Castle succeeds and there’s a celebration at the precinct. But when Kate and Rick are celebrating at home, someone they thought had died shows up. He shoots Rick. Kate shoots the man, but not before he gets shots off – at Kate. The camera hovers over the bodies of Rick and Kate, holding hands. Then we hear Rick’s voiceover about “finding his muse” that we haven’t heard for several seasons. And we see an unconvincing flash forward to seven years later, of Rick, and Kate with several children.

It’s a very strange and spooky ending. The “seven years later” additional bit could very well have been all in Castle’s mind, especially as I can’t see Kate have six or more children. One or two, yes. But six? And we know Rick’s a great father, and he’s always seemed to want more kids, though he doesn’t seem to pressure Kate about it. Which begs the question: if the last couple of minutes never happened, or only happened in his head, how much of the episode, the season, or even the last eight seasons was Castle’s “I’m dying hallucination”? And last season had an episode where Castle gets an artifact which transports him to a place where he and Kate never met – and Kate was a captain. He “returns” to this “universe” but it makes one wonder. There have also been several very psychological thriller type episodes in the last two seasons: the one with the twins who were tortured by their psychologist parents (which is very unrealistic), Castle’s whole losing time thing, and believing he had good reasons for it when he starts to remember last season. Even the Halloween episode has a psychological bent to it. So the last episode of season 8 is very, very unsettling.

The best parts of the season were the stories that didn’t mention Lockset at all – or barely did. This season also features two Kate-less episodes, the only time in the entire series she doesn’t appear. And three of Fillion’s former colleagues from Firefly show up. Sigh. I can see why the show was canceled, rumors of fighting co-leads aside. But I actually did enjoy the season more than I thought I would, so there’s that. And even with the final episode being a bit of a mess, I can still say, it’s worth watching, especially if you’ve been watching the entire series.

Read my review of Castle Season 7.

Read my review of Castle Season 6.

Book Review – The First Men in the Moon (Audio)

  • Title: The First Men in the Moon
  • Series: Big Finish Classics
  • Discs: 2 CDs
  • Authors: HG Wells (original novel); Jonathan Barnes (adapted screenplay)
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Cast: Nigel Planer (Professor Cavor), Gethin Anthony (Bedford), Chloe Pirrie (Maria Bell), Alan Cox (Shapps/Bartoli/Selinites), David Horovitch (The Grand Lunar)

This is the third adaptation of HG Wells’ classic novels by Big Finish that I have listened to. It’s an excellent adaption, but I’m beginning to find Wells extremely depressing. This novel begins with Bedford in Italy where he runs into a woman who introduces herself as the younger sister of a friend. They get along well – having coffee and then dinner together. But she also seems to be pumping him for information.

Bedford tells Maria that he was an accomplished and successful businessman but one of his investments had failed, so he had gone to a small village to relax, escape his creditors, and “write a play in ten days” to recoup his losses. In this small village, he meets a professor, with whom he strikes up an unusual friendship. The professor, Cavor, is obsessed with the question of overcoming gravity. But not with thrust, but rather by “repelling” gravity. Just as oil repels water, or two magnets repel each other, Cavor hopes to discover or create a substance that repels gravity.

Bedford sees immediately that a great deal of money could be made from such a substance, so he supports Cavor – both encouraging him, and helping him financially. Cavor is able to manufacture such a substance and he builds a sphere out of the stuff and announces his plan to go to the moon on a mission of exploration. Bedford, at first, intends to go with him – but suffers an anxiety attack in the sphere. He leaves but runs into one of his creditors in the local pub. Bedford sets the locals on his creditor and runs back to the sphere where he and Cavor set off.

The sphere rises into the air, and soon they land on the moon – and simply walk onto the surface of the moon, without spacesuits or even diving suits. At first, Bedford complains about the lifeless and boring surface of the moon, but as the sun rises above the surface – plant life erupts quickly, enveloping the surface. Cavor and Bedford run off. They also see what’s described as “moon cows”, which Cavor stares at in amazement. Bedford first considers them as a point for making money – by rigging big game hunting of the animals or even killing them for meat to sell on Earth.

They are then set upon by the moon natives. The insect-like natives, whom Cavor calls “Selinites”, after the goddess of the moon, take Cavor and Bedford underground. The insects communicate in a chittering voice which the two Englishmen cannot understand. Slowly Bedford becomes more and more panicked. He calls the Selinites, “monsters”, and when they are led through what appears to be a slaughterhouse for the moon cows, he grabs a stalagmite and starts swinging. Much to his surprise, the merest hit on a Selinites cause them to explode. Bedford kills the lot and he and Cavor escape. Once back on the lunar surface, Cavor says he should look at the stalagmite in his hand. Bedford does and discovers it’s gold. He and Cavor decide to split up and find the sphere. Bedford finds it, returns to the spot where he left Cavor, and finds evidence of foul play but no body. Bedford returns to the sphere and to Earth, where he uses the gold to pay off his debts and pay for his Italian vacation.

Meanwhile, he and Maria are getting along famously, and she encourages everything he says. This constant agreement, however, makes Bedford suspicious, so he questions Maria. He finds out she’s a British spy, sent to find him and get information about the professor. She takes him to Bedlam to meet a man who, due to an accident that saw him fitted with an iron plate in his head, is picking up messages from the moon. It’s Cavor – warning of an invasion.

Although there is a definite adventure story in, The First Men in the Moon, the story really feels like a debate. And it’s a debate between Business (Bedford) and Science (Cavor). Professor Cavor, is kind, optimistic, sees the best in people (and other beings), and wishes to use his intellect to help others and for the betterment of all humankind. Bedford is greedy, harsh, selfish, and mean. He wants to make money and doesn’t care who or what he has to exploit to do it. Upon landing on the moon, his first reaction is that it’s ugly, desolate, and boring. Cavor nails it when he points out, “You mean there’s nothing you can sell.” Bedford is also deeply suspicious (when Cavor, who is very much alive, not dead like Bedford thought, works out a method of communication with the Selinites, and ends up talking to their leader, the Grand Lunar, Bedford insists to Maria that Cavor, “doesn’t realise he’s being interrogated”.) Bedford also is claustrophobic – he panics in the sphere and no doubt being far below the surface of the moon adds to his reaction against the Selinites as much his own prejudice against a species he finds ugly.

Bedford and Maria are very suspicious, they worry the Selinites will attack. Unfortunately, Cavor had emphasized British military advances and conquests, especially of indigenous species in his discussions with the Grand Lunar. This does not go well and appears to lead to the invasion that Bedford warns of and Maria is preparing for.

However, if you look at it from the Selinite point of view – Bedford and Cavor appear from nowhere, doing considerable damage to their crops. Taken captive, the native “agricultural caste” cannot understand these strange, dangerous creatures. The farmers were probably bringing them to some sort of authority, though we never find out for sure – because Bedford goes on a killing spree. Once Cavor works out a communication method, and Selinites learn English, the leader interviews Cavor and finds to his horror he’s dealing with an extremely war-like species who exploit or even kill every other native group they come across. The first strike seems almost justified. – Just from a devil’s advocate point of view.

So, the story, itself is a bit depressing – Bedford, as the lead character, has his own point of view, which is presented as the “right way” even though it is flawed. For example, Cavor brings the Complete Works of William Shakespeare along on the trip for reading material. Bedford dismisses it as “worthless junk” with nothing to apply to modern times. Bedford, likewise, also thought he could whip-up a play in ten days and make tons of money – ignoring how much work writing is, or how unlikely it is that a first play would be a bestseller (so to speak). Cavor may be a bit naive at times, but he isn’t entirely at fault for the conflict, considering it was Bedford who attacked and killed a bunch of Selinites, to begin with. We also only see Cavor through Bedford’s eyes, and to a certain extent, Maria’s, as she reads off the messages they are receiving from the man with a plate in his head.

Also, as Victorian/Edwardian SF – The First Men in the Moon, has a few issues just from the modern viewpoint and knowledge of the moon. The one that threw me the most was Cavor and Bedford stepping out of the sphere – without spacesuits, or even diving suits or a diving bell. It reminded me of the bit in Galaxy Quest, “Is there air out there? Do you know?” We know there isn’t air on the moon, and the pressure is very great. If they’d only used a Victorian diving suit I would have been OK with it, but being completely unprotected, on the moon, threw me out of the story for a few minutes. The rest of the fantasy elements: the quickly blooming plants, the moon cows, the underground city, and the Selinites should have been just as impossibly fantastic, but the presentation was so good I found I could enjoy it anyway. Basically, if it had been a different planet with an atmosphere I would have found the whole story acceptable. I don’t need a lot of science in my SF or Science Fantasy after all – but people breathing somewhere without atmosphere is tough to swallow.

Still, it’s a good story, overall, which I can recommend. It’s a bit depressing at times, but the cast is brilliant. This is a full-cast audio play with music, special effects, acting, and performances – not a reading of the original novel (as in an audiobook). Recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click this link to order HG Wells’ The First Men in the Moon on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!