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.

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Castle Season 7 Review

  • Series Title: Castle
  • Season: 7
  • Episodes:  23
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  ABC (US)
  • Cast:  Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Seamus Dever, Jon Huertas, Molly C. Quinn, Susan Sullivan
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD

Season 7 of Castle picks up from where Season 6 left off, with Kate in her wedding dress looking in horror at Castle’s crashed car in flames. Yet another of Kate’s wedding dresses is ruined by water, mud, and smoke, but she, Ryan and Esposito realize that Castle escaped the car and was kidnapped. The 12th precinct crew enlists the help of the FBI and other agencies to find Richard Castle, but all they find is evidence that he intentionally walked away from his life. Kate, Alexis, and Martha Rodgers (his mother) refuse to believe it, even as the other agencies drop the case. After two months, Rick is found in a small fishing boat (what everyone on the show insists on calling a “dingy”) suffering from exposure and with no memory of the last two months. The investigation into what happened to Castle doesn’t turn up any leads, and in the end, Kate is happy to have him back.

Castle travels to Montreal on a lead to find out what happened to him during his disappearance. He discovers videos from himself to Kate, Alexis, and his mother, and a man who tells him that he was made to forget because he said he didn’t want to remember. The man gives Rick a message, and Rick drops it. The season also drops the mystery.

Kate and Rick are married in a small, sunset ceremony with family only (just Alexis, Martha, and Kate’s father). Kate wears a flowing white pantsuit rather than a dress (after having two dresses destroyed, she probably thought they were bad luck for her). After the wedding, they gather together with friends from the 12th and let them know they are now married. When a recent murder leads to a poisoning at a dude ranch in Arizona, Rick and Kate combine business with pleasure, investigating the murder and staying on for a honeymoon. During the rest of the season, Castle introduces Kate as “his wife”, and Kate slowly becomes used to the idea that she is really married to him. The rest of the season also is more “typical Castle“.

After resolving the cliff-hanger from the previous season, getting Kate and Rick married, sending them on a honeymoon, and having them return to New York, the season settles into typical Castle-style mysteries. The stories, though for the most part set in New York City, cover a variety of settings, people, and places. At one point, Castle gets in trouble with 1PP due to a story involving mobsters (it’s basically West Side Story without singing) when the guilty party is murdered in police custody, Castle is partially blamed due to his friendship with one of the mobsters (a friendship that led to the case being solved). For the next few episodes, Castle works as a PI while Kate continues her job as an NYC police detective. However, when Dr. Kelly Nieman and the Triple X killer show up again, in the mid-season two-parter, solving the case ultimately means Castle is welcomed back as a consultant.

The back half of season is even better, as the series returns to its roots, of Kate and Rick solving crimes together, and enjoying it. The rest of the characters: Kevin Ryan, Javier Esposito, Capt. Gates, Dr. Lanie Parish, Alexis, and Martha, all get a bit more to do in the second half of the season. All the actors also seem more comfortable. Again, the stories are set in different locales, which keeps the season from getting too repetitive.

Overall, though season 7 of Castle is definitely showing its age as a long-running TV series, it’s still fun, and I enjoyed it. I really liked seeing Kate Beckett and Richard Castle finally married. In their first case together after the ceremony, as he approaches the body, says, “It’s like we’re Nick and Nora Charles,” which of course he would – referring to Dashiell Hammett’s married detectives. Kate responds with, “Hart to Hart” and then “Turner and Hooch” referring to an earlier joke in a previous season where she had brought up that movie and said Castle reminds her of Hooch (the dog). And this season of the show has that lightness of touch that made the Nick and Nora Charles films (aka “The Thin Man” series) films fun. Season 7 is enjoyable and fun. Recommended.

Read my review of Season 6 of Castle.

Castle Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Castle
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes:  23
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  ABC (US)
  • Cast:  Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Seamus Dever, Jon Huertas, Molly C. Quinn, Susan Sullivan
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD

Castle Season 6 picks up immediately upon where Season 5 left off – with Castle proposing to Beckett and Beckett telling him she’s decided to take the job in DC. Kate accepts his proposal, and Rick Castle accepts her decision to go to DC. In DC, Kate finds herself frustrated by her job. Always striving for justice, especially for nameless victims, Kate hates being in a position where expediency trumps justice. Rather than having Kate quit though – she’s fired, for leaking information to the press (that would insure the justice she seeks rather than something embarrassing being swept under the rug.)

When I started watching Season 6 – I enjoyed the spark and humor, and even original-seeming twisty-turny plots. It felt like the Castle I knew after the extremely disappointing Season 7 I’d just watched (never fear – I’ll buy the season DVD set anyway to keep my collection up to date). Yet, I also felt that a lot of false drama was made from the idea of Kate being in DC and Castle being in New York. First – it’s not like they are a bi-coastal couple (and those exist in the real world). DC and New York are what – two hours apart? That’s not insurmountable – it’s a commute. I mean really! Second, Castle is a writer – he can work from anywhere. Yes, he’s supporting his mother and his daughter, but Alexis has moved out to go to college – and Martha’s returned to a successful acting career. Besides, as is always pointed out, Castle is wealthy – I’m sure he can afford a small apartment in DC as well – or even to stay in hotels when visiting Kate. (And Kate isn’t going to be living on the streets – she’s got to have a place.) And neither of them sell (or even rent out) out their own places in New York – as Kate goes right back to her apartment. So the whole argument about DC and the new job felt very, very false. That Kate didn’t like her new job I was OK with. It’s very seldom in the aggressive, ambitious, American lifestyle to see a movie or TV show where someone says a “better” job isn’t for them and goes back to something that makes them happier. (I’ve seen that idea occasionally on British TV shows – Hamish MacBeth for example.) It would have been nice after the two-part season opener for Kate to turn to her female boss (played by Lisa Edelstein) and said, “You know what? I quit. I thought this was for me, but it’s not. Sorry for the short notice.” But the series instead takes away all of Kate’s agency and has her get fired instead. Now, in part that was Kate’s choice – she released the information knowing it would get her fired. But I would have liked to see, just once, a strong character admit, that just because society says a certain job is better doesn’t mean it’s better for them. I think it would be the same if Kate was offered the job of police captain (which I think she turned down once, very early in the series).

The rest of the season is actually pretty good. I loved the time-traveler episode (including the Doctor Who reference), the fire episode was great, and the 70s episode was hilarious! Actually, I got even more out of the 70s episode this time around than the first time – picking up on more in-jokes, especially in the station (the cop with the lollypop!) and the somewhat subtle but oh so perfect “moral” of the episode of the two gangsters in unrequited love (God, “Gangsters in Love” it sounds like the title of a musical!). Overall, the season felt more like the earlier seasons of Castle. Also, “Like Father, Like Daughter” was a wonderful Castle and Alexis episode – and I really missed her at the end of the season (it’s like – Where’d she go? All of a sudden she’s never there.)

The “B plot” of the season was Castle’s engagement to Beckett. For the entire season – they are teasing us, and teasing us about the wedding. The bits and pieces of “character moments” that would often be about Castle and Alexis, Castle and Martha, or any of the other characters interacting – were taken up with Castle and Beckett looking for a wedding venue, agreeing on “their song”, Kate finding a wedding dress (by luck she gets a haute culture dress after a case!), choosing the guest list, etc. And I was OK with that – it actually felt realistic to watch two very busy people trying to fit wedding planning into very busy lifestyles. But after all that teasing (and watching the planning) I wanted a payoff.

When I saw the last episode of season 6 when it aired – I felt like I was robbed. And, I think that even played into my reluctance to watch it.  I waited a solid week between watching episode 22 and watching episode 23 today. Now granted, for part of that time I was out of town sans computer for a long weekend, but still – I didn’t watch it when I first got back or for several days after. Watching the final episode today, as much as Kate’s sudden “college spree marriage in Vegas” seemed like a very silly plot device – I enjoyed the episode. It was fun, and light – not nearly as dark as I remembered – and Kate’s old boyfriend / husband and his girlfriend were actually kinda’ cute in a way. I liked that they got a happy ending. Logically, I wondered that an unconsummated marriage where the parties hadn’t ever even lived together would be legal. And I also wondered why there was no “no fault” divorce in New York – or any way for Kate to get out of her situation. But then, I’m no divorce attorney – maybe that part of the plot made more sense than it seemed to me.

BIG SPOILER BELOW

Finally, the last bit of the episode. Sigh. OK – as far as season 6 goes, it’s not quite so bad – but it sets up stuff for season 7 that upset me so much it’s hard to separate the two. But I’ll try. And I’ll save my season 7 rants for when I get the DVD set and can watch the whole thing.

Here we go. So – we have a full episode of basically excuses preventing Kate and Rick’s marriage. And running around solving those problems. Even Kate, in character, breaks down, crying, that she feels like the universe is trying to prevent her marriage. Castle gives a wonderful speech – but he does it as if he’s talking to just her (as he should). Castle talks about overcoming obstacles and that all the fairy tales have them. Kate looks at him and says, “That’s why I love you.” In the midst of the craziness of the episode – it’s a great moment. The penultimate scene has Kate in her wedding dress, talking to Martha, when Castle calls – he tells her everything went fine with the judge (dissolving her marriage), he has the wedding license, and he’s on his way – then Castle says, “I love you.” At that moment, my heart sank. And the very last scene is of Kate, in her wedding dress, looking at a wrecked car through flames and smoke. And we cut to end credits – with somber music instead of the typical bouncy Castle end credit theme.

So after an entire season of build-up to what should have been the ultimate fairy-tale wedding, what do we get? Castle in a ditch. And the audience knows he can’t really be dead – because he’s the lead of the series, which has been renewed for the next year. It felt like a cheap trick. Like the series creators were playing with their audience. I remember when I saw that episode originally I was mad – simply angry more than anything else. I was robbed of the wedding I’d wanted to see for six years! For crying out loud, even Luke and Laura actually got married on their wedding day when even as a 12-year-old I expected some intervention to prevent it (that’s a General Hospital reference, which I watched when I was in grade school.) This… this… this was just maddening! A whole season teasing us with wedding plans, a whole series that’s basically a romantic comedy straight out of the 30s or 40s slightly updated for modern times – and the creators deny us, the audience, the happy ending? Yeah, I was angry.

I’m still not happy with the end of the season. But the season as a whole? That was pretty good. I’d still give Castle Season 6 a good recommendation.

Justice League Throne of Atlantis

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title:  Justice League:  Throne of Atlantis
  • Director:  Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2015
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Matt Lanter, Sean Astin, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Sumalee Montano, Sam Witwer, Sirena Irwin, Juliet Landau, George Newborn, Khary Payton
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Not all heroes wear capes.” – Sub Captain

“Death by collateral damage in a surface war does not comfort me. They kill our race, they poison our oceans, they will destroy this planet and take Atlantis with it. We must protect our people and attack!” – Prince Orm (aka Ocean Master)

“You speak to me of betrayal – you who spilled Atlantean blood and blamed it on the surface world! I have eyes everywhere Orm and you will pay for your treachery!” – Queen Atlanna

“This coup is over!  I am Queen and war is not in my plans!” – Queen Atlanna

I really enjoyed this DC Animated Feature — and it’s the first time in several DC Animated films I’ve been able to whole-heartedly say that. Although technically a Justice League movie, Throne of Atlantis really concentrates on the character of Arthur Curry and his journey to becoming Aquaman, and part of the New 52 Justice League.

The teaser for the film has a sub near the Marianas Trench responding to an SOS call. The sub is attacked and all aboard are lost. Cyborg is called in to investigate, and he calls in the rest of the Justice League.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man is in a seaside bar in Maine, getting drunk and sharing his troubles with a live lobster in a tank. The bartender cuts him off the booze. When the same bartender takes the lobster out of the tank to make it into someone’s dinner – the man, Arthur Curry, gets in a fist-fight. He’s very strong and a good fighter, despite being drunk. He rescues the lobster, keeps in in his vest, then escapes outside. Defeating several guys from the bar who attack him again, as well as one man armed with a knife, Arthur releases the rescued lobster, sans rubber bands on its claws, back into the ocean.

Cyborg holds a meeting of the entire Justice League, with Flash convincing everyone to show up, though it’s Green Lantern who brings in Batman. Once everyone arrives he shows him the information about the attack on the sub. Wonder Woman recognizes the writing on the weapons as Atlantean. Shazam (Captain Marvel, Billy Batson) suggests contacting an expert in Atlantis and it’s lore. Superman and Batman go to investigate.

Meanwhile, Arthur Curry is living in his father’s lighthouse.

Prince Orm, in league with Black Manta, confronts Queen Atlanna, his mother, whom he blames for his father’s death. His father, the king was warlike and was considering a war plan to “cleanse” the surface dwellers. Atlanna, by contrasts, wishes to abandon their isolationist practices and contact the surface to broker a peaceful co-existence. Atlanna sends Meara to find Arthur, her older son.

Black Manta talks to Dr. Shin, the expert on Atlantis, on the phone, then sends his troops after the scientist. Dr. Shin arrives at Arthur’s door to give him some information about his father. Arthur is very hung-over and takes awhile to get to the door, he agrees to let Dr. Shin in, but when he closes the door to take the chain bolt off, Dr. Shin is attacked and killed by Manta’s troops. At the same time, Black Manta’s troops, under orders from Prince Orm, attack and kill Atlantean farmers.

Meara rescues Arthur from Manta’s troops. She takes him to Atlantis and sees the dead villagers who have been attacked.

Superman and Batman investigate Dr. Shin’s lab – but everything’s been destroyed. They find enough to lead them to Arthur Curry.

Prince Orm uses the attack on the Atlantean villagers to stir up hatred and war. Queen Atlanna tries to arrange a meeting between herself and the Justice League. Meara explains to Aquaman that he is the son of Queen Atlanna and a human, his father, Thomas, this sequence uses flashbacks. Meara shows Arthur his armor. He wears the orange and green body suit but not the outer armor.

Meara and Arthur are attacked by Trenchers (sea creatures). The Flash arrives to help Arthur and Meara. A few minutes later, Green Lantern, then the rest of the Justice League arrive to help.

Prince Orm, who shares his dead father’s hatred of the surface world, again confronts his mother, Queen Atlanna. However, she knows he was behind the attack on the farmers, and she insists they will not go to war. He kills her – then blames her death on a surface dweller. Orm and Manta will lead the Atlanteans to war.

Arthur and some Justice League members go to Atlantis. They meet an old woman who says the city is empty because Queen Atlanna is dead, at the hands of a surface dweller, and Atlantis prepares for war.

Arthur, Meara and the League investigate, and run into Orm in his Ocean Master uniform. He brags that he killed his mother, the Queen. He then uses the Trident, the symbol of royal power and a powerful weapon, to attack and imprison the League.

Meanwhile, Batman, the Flash, and Shazam who have stayed behind get an alert that a tidal wave is heading for coastal cities, including Metropolis.

Arthur uses his royal power to break out of the cocoon Orm trapped him in, then uses his telepathic power to call sea creatures to help. He gets the Leaguers free and defeats the sea monster guarding them. Arthur also rescues Meara.

A tidal wave heads for Metropolis, the National Guard arrives, and sirens go off in the city causing panic. An Army General orders the Atlanteans, led by “King” Orm to stand down. Orm orders his troops to attack. The army attacks back. The entire League joins the fray, both those who had gone to Atlantis, and those who had stayed on the surface, including Aquaman and Meara.

The League keep getting defeated in battle. Finally, Batman finds Cyborg and reboots his systems. He finds out from Cyborg that Orm killed Atlanna. Cyborg has computer recordings of this. He plays the recordings a couple of times to the Atlantean troops. When Orm claims it’s a trick, Meara backs up the recording, swearing it’s a true depiction of what happened. The Atlanteans lay down their arms and stop fighting.

Arthur makes a speech that he will guide his people. A little while later, Arthur is “knighted” as king, takes his place as ruler and king of Atlantis. The League meanwhile decide they need to meet on a regular basis, and Arthur is invited to join the League as Aquaman.

I really enjoyed this film. It’s an origin story for Aquaman and explains how he became part of the Justice League. The film also had some great touches – the flashback scene of Arthur and his father when Arthur realises he can swim underwater without difficulty and he also sees his mother, the flashbacks explaining the ill-fated romance between the Atlantean Princess Atlanna and Thomas Curry, and my favorite – the scene at the beginning of the film of Arthur pouring out his heart and troubles to a lobster in a tank, then rescuing the lobster.

The Justice League are not the real stars of this film – it’s Aquaman’s movie. But they are all present, and they do have things to do. I also felt each character was in character and their individual tasks and actions suited their characters.

Overall the film was highly enjoyable and it’s highly recommended.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next film:  The Third Man

Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox

  • Title:  Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox
  • Director:  Jay Oliva
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Justin Chambers, C. Thomas Howell, Michael B. Jordan, Kevin McKidd, Kevin Conroy, Sam Daly, Dana Delany, Cary Elwes, Nathan Fillion, Ron Perlman
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“They’re motivated by greed. They lack the commitment, the absolute focus…” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)
“…to kill me.” – Flash
“To erase you.” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)

“Brake the sound barrier and there’s a sonic boom. You broke the time barrier, Flash, time boom. Ripples of distortion out from the point of impact, shifting everything just a tiny bit – but enough. Enough for events to happen slightly differently.” – Professor Zoom (Reverse Flash)

Justice League The Flashpoint Paradox starts with what we quickly realise is a flashback or memory. Young Barry Allen and his mother are stranded at the side of the road with a broken car. Another car passes but fails to stop to help them. Barry is incensed that the person in the car didn’t care enough to do what’s right and stop to help them. Nora, Barry’s mother, urges him to not worry about it – then spots a gas station close by, they decide to walk there to find a phone.

The next flashback finds Barry coming home from school – only to find that his mother has been killed.

In the present, Barry and his wife, Iris are putting flowers on his mother’s grave. Barry expresses his regret that he wasn’t there to save his own mother. He and Iris are interrupted when Barry gets an emergency call, there’s been a break-in at the Central City Flash Museum. As Flash, Barry arrives and confronts The Top, Mirror Master, and eventually Captain Cold, Captain Boomarang, and Heat Wave. It soon becomes obvious that the person in charge of the break in is Eoband Thawne, aka Professor Zoom, aka the Reverse Flash. He uses the distraction of the Rogues Gallery attack to place small but powerful bombs on each Rogue as well as on Flash. He also traps Flash in a gooey substance he can’t escape. Flash manages to trap Professor Zoom, but he can’t get free. The Justice League arrives, and each takes a Rogue to get rid of the bombs, without hurting anyone. The various plans that each Justice Leaguer uses, work and all the bombs are destroyed harmlessly and the Rogues sent back to prison. Meanwhile, Flash is still trapped. Professor Zoom taunts Flash, but Flash manages to disarm the explosives on himself and Thawne.

Next, Barry wakes at his desk. He’s a little confused by the news headline on his computer screen – and even more confused when he exits the building and meets his mother. Things go from bad to worse, as Flash realises he’s in an alternative world that never had a Flash. A world that’s in the midst of War. Barry goes to the Wayne Mansion just outside Gotham City – but the place is a wreck. He gets inside the Batcave and meets Batman – a very violent Batman, who uses guns, and has no problem with killing. Barry quickly realises that this Batman is Thomas Wayne, and it was Bruce who died That Fateful Night. To make matters worse, the death of her son, and seeing her husband become a violent vigilante has turned Mrs. Wayne into the Joker. Though it takes some doing, Barry not only convinces Thomas that his world is “all wrong” – he convinces him they have to re-create the experiment that turned Barry into the Flash. The resulting scene brings to mind various filmed versions of Frankenstein. The first try fails, but, the second try works. The Flash, however, is unable to get enough speed and theorizes there’s another speedster out there also tapping into the “speed force”.

Since using his own power won’t work, Barry’s next idea is to ask for Superman’s help. Batman tells him, though, this world has no Superman. Barry, however, from his own nightmares of the divergent timelines, gets an idea. Batman calls in Cyborg, who works directly for the US Government, and convinces him to hack every computer system he can, looking for information. Eventually Thomas Wayne/Batman convinces Cyborg to hack government and military records. This leads them to find a warehouse that holds the little baby rocket from Krypton. Superman is locked-up, and very weak because he’s been kept in a room with red light and hasn’t experienced the Earth’s yellow sun. Batman, Flash, and Cyborg break Superman out of the military cell.

In Europe, which has been flooded by Aquaman, then taken over by Queen Diana and the Amazons, Lois Lane is about to be killed by Amazons. She’s rescued by the Resistance, another group of Heroes, like Cyborg’s group. Lois swears she saw a yellow-clothed speedster, but the Resistance Group tells her that no speedster works with them. When Batman sees the footage, he tells Flash, who realises it’s Dr. Zoom.

Lex Luther, Deathstroke and Clayface work together on a US Military Carrier to attack Aquaman and attempt to find his doomsday weapon. They fail.

The Military also find Hal Jordan and offer him the chance to fly a captured alien spaceship. Hal jumps at the chance. (The ship’s pilot is dead and enclosed in a glass tube.) The air force general tells Hal that when he died, a glowing green ring flew off his hand and into space. Hal has trouble believing that part of the story. However, Hal has no trouble flying the ship. He too goes after Aquaman, specifically attacking a giant octopus-like creature. Unfortunately, Hal and his ship are swallowed by the creature and Hal is presumed dead.

At that point, the President fires Cyborg, stating there’s nothing left to be done. Cyborg goes to Batman and the Shazam kids and tells them it’s over. Flash talks everyone into not giving up. They all go to Europe. In Europe, they meet Lois and the Resistance group. However, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are in the midst of their final battle. There’s a huge fight, and one by one, most everyone is injured or killed. Finally, Reverse Flash arrives and confronts Flash – explaining that everything that’s happened is his fault, he changed things – and created the mess.

There’s more destruction and heroes, Amazons, and Aquaman’s troops dying. Superman arrives, and cuts off Aquaman’s arm to save Cyborg. However, severely injured, Cyborg dies. Diana goes to kill Aquaman, but he launches his doomsday weapon, Captain Atom. Barry’s absorbed the info from Professor Zoom. Batman kills Zoom, and gives Barry a letter for Bruce. Barry runs and runs, barely escaping the Doomsday weapon, and catches himself.  He prevents himself from changing the past.

Barry again wakes up at his office – and everything is back to normal. He visits Bruce and gives him the letter. Bruce recognizes his father’s handwriting and is moved to tears by Thomas Wayne’s letter.

The first time I watched this film, I really didn’t like it. It seemed so unfair to Barry that he’d have to sacrifice his mother and his happiness with Iris to save the world (in the alternate reality – she’s married to someone else and has a child.)

Watching it a second time, I liked it slightly better, but the film still has some issues. First, Barry, The Flash, is thrust into the altered reality suddenly, and with no explanation. We don’t see him time travel, or Professor Zoom trying something, or even a strange portal. There’s no visual or other indication that somehow time has changed. So the audience is as much in the dark as Barry Allen. And, although in some films, that technique of utter confusion can work, because the audience has faith that All Will Be Explained, in a short, animated film, it becomes wearying to have no idea what is going on. The film is full of action sequences, that sometimes make sense and other times don’t – because so little is explained in the film. And the only explanation is at the end, and from the villain – who places the blame squarely on Barry’s head. Really? How did Zoom know? If he was from the altered reality – he shouldn’t know anything about Barry Allen, because Barry never became the Flash in that reality. Not to mention, if Zoom tapped into the Speed Force by copying the accident that made Barry the Flash – how could he exist without an accident to copy?  (A non-invention paradox.) Meanwhile, Barry actually brings up the other problem – how could his interfering with his mother’s death have affected events before that event? Professor Zoom’s explanation is inventive, but not quite convincing. My guess is he actually lied to Barry – and it was Zoom who messed with things to create the Really Messed Up world then dumped Barry into it. Or, caused a version of Barry to exist that never became Flash. It certainly sounds more like a plot put together by a supervillain.

The other issue was the animation – which I thought was crude, and frankly, pretty bad. The Justice League in the opening barely looked human – or, Kryption or whatever they may be. And in some scenes, the animation was OK, in others, especially the opening flashbacks – it looked very much like Japanese anime, and it others the humans/heroes just didn’t look right – at all. (Diana / Wonder Woman looks awful in nearly every shot she’s in.) It really was quite messy – and there seemed no reason for it.

I will say, it was nice to see a story about Barry Allen, The Flash, but this particular story was dark, and the execution wasn’t very successful.

Recommendation:  For die hard DC fans only, otherwise skip it.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  No idea – I have, The Prestige, Inception, Superman Unbound, Justice League War (New 52 Origins)”, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on deck.

Green Lantern Emerald Knights

  • Title: Green Lantern Emerald Knights
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2011
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, SF
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Jason Isaacs, Elisabeth Moss, Henry Rollins, Arnold Vosloo
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“He held the first construct, no longer a scribe, now a warrior, the First Lantern.”— Hal Jordan, Narrating

“When you shape the light of your ring, you walk in the footsteps of the First Lantern.”— Hal Jordan, Narrating

Emerald Knights is really six short stories interwoven into an arc-plot. Each of the separate stories are written and directed by different people, though this is part of the DC Animated Universe, so Bruce Timm produces and Andrea Romano is the voice director for the entire thing. The stories are pulled directly from the DC’s Green Lantern Corps comic books. I loved the movie. In many ways, I liked it better than the live-action Green Lantern movie, which was only so-so. This film really showcased the rich history of the Green Lanterns, bringing in several characters and plot lines. And because Hal is telling these tales to Arisia, a new Green Lantern recruit, it’s like he’s explaining the history to the audience. Nathan Fillion does an excellent job of playing an older, more experienced, Hal — who still remembers his younger days and wishes to help a fellow recruit get her feet under her.

The six stories are:

  • The First Lantern
  • Kilowog (based on “New Blood”)
  • Mogo Doesn’t Socialize
  • Abin Sur (based on “Tygers”)
  • Emerald Knights
  • Laira (based on “What Price Honor?”

My favorite in terms of pure story was “The First Lantern”, just because it was so awesome to see how the Lanterns first came to be — and I love how Avro wasn’t willing to give up, and thus figured out how the rings were supposed to be used. I also loved the visual image used to show the first Lantern’s ring being handed down from Lantern to Lantern throughout the centuries, and finally to Abin Sur and from him to Hal. That was awesome!

“Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” was amusing. It’s a great story, and probably would have had more impact if I hadn’t had it spoiled for me.

“Kilowog” gives background and a bit more of a human side to the Lanterns’ drill sergeant by showing us his own drill sergeant. Still, it’s the same old “new recruit is terrorized by the drill sergeant but learns to love the tough love approach” story we’ve seen many times before.

“Abin Sur” is weird because it shows he and Sinestro working together, and also the criminal that Abin Sur arrests and jails makes several predictions, which I’m guessing come true in the GL continuity. Abin Sur, of course, doesn’t believe the predictions, especially of Sinestro, his dear friend, going rogue.

“Laira” is probably the darkest of the stories — but it’s fascinating and highly, highly enjoyable. I really liked that one too.

Finally, “Emerald Knights” is the name of the wrap-around story and the finale. Yes, it’s excellent. The entire film is extremely well done, enjoyable, and I just loved it. I highly, highly recommend this movie.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Justice League Doom

  • Title: Justice League Doom
  • Director: Lauren Montgomery
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2012
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Nathan Fillion, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Claudia Black, Paul Blackthorne, Olivia D’abo, Alexis Denisoff, Phil Morris, Robin Atkin Downes
  • Format: Widescreen, Color animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“When we fought before, I broke the bat; today I break the man.” — Bane to Bruce Wayne

“No, you weren’t afraid, not really. You were dosed with a synthesized version of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. Because will is the source of your strength.”— Batman
“And fear is the enemy of will.” — Green Lantern, Hal Jordan

Justice League Doom brings back most of the original cast from the original Justice League animated television series, only substituting Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern Hal Jordan, rather than keeping Phil LaMarr as GL Jon Stewart or introducing Guy Gardner. There is also a stellar cast of “guest stars” as the Leaguers greatest foes.

Vandal Savage uses Mirror Master to obtain secret files from the Batcave – files that Batman created containing plans on how to bring down any of the main Justice League members in case they went rogue. The villains then begin to attack and defeat the League members. Mirror Master gets Flash to put his hand inside a Schrodinger’s cat box to rescue an old woman. Flash ends up with a bomb in his wrist that will explode if he stops, de-accelerates, or does nothing when the timer runs out. Cheetah fist-fights Wonder Woman, but poisons her with her finger nails so everyone she sees looks and sounds like Cheetah. Green Lantern Hal Jordan is sent to a Salt Mine to rescue some hostages from a militia group and the rescue goes wrong – a woman who is a dead ringer for Carol (Hal’s former girlfriend) is killed. Even running into Star Sapphire doesn’t help Hal realize he’s been set up. Martian Manhunter is slipped a poison that caused him to sweat Magnesium, which bursts into flame, even under water. Superman is shot in the chest with a Kryptonite bullet. Bane takes Bruce’s parents out of their graves. A groundskeeper (not Alfred) reports this to Bruce, who goes out to investigate in civilian clothes. He’s jumped by Bane, who beats him up, then drops him into his mother’s (new) grave, and buries him alive, with her skeleton in her coffin.

Bruce, stranded underground, takes the keys out of his pocket and starts to pummel the coffin lid. He’s about to give up, when he turns and sees his mother’s skeleton staring at him — and he renews his attack and escapes. It’s a very eerie and spooky image — but it’s also something that is just “so Batman” and “so Bruce” — he cannot ever give up on the oath he swore to his parents that faithful night when he was only eight years old.

Once he’s escaped, Batman contacts the other Justice League members to get them out of their immediate danger, then they meet to find out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Vandal Savage has gathered the villains together to take out the Justice League, so he can put a secondary plan into motion. Once the various villains report their success — they insist on joining Savage in his plans. Savage’s plan is to fire a missile into the sun, causing a massive solar flare which will destroy the sunward side of the Earth as well as send out an EMP that will fry anything electronic. The Justice League arrives, and each member fights his or her opposite number villain. However, despite the assistance of Cyborg, Savage’s missile is fired. Superman and Green Lantern attempt to stop the missile at the sun, but fail, giving the League seven minutes to figure out what to do. They come up with something — and Earth is saved.

I really liked the first part of  the story — that Batman would have contingency plans for taking out everyone in the League (though his plans were non-lethal) is both scary, and yet fitting with his personality. I would have liked to see more of a sense of the League’s sense of betrayal though — not only that Batman would do that, but that he’d keep detailed records of his potential plans. After the Justice League saves Earth, they discuss what to do with Batman, and it’s Clark who tells Bruce that he was right, then asks what safety valve exists for Bruce — Bruce responds, “The Justice League”. In other words, he’s created an equal and balanced system. But, I would have liked more. More storyline, more background, especially for the villains, even more dialogue between the Leaguers (and between Alfred and Bruce. Alfred appears and then suddenly disappears, before just as suddenly appearing again. It was very frustrating). With six heroes and seven villains, including Savage, plus the opening gambit with the Royal Flush Gang, the film really should have been longer than 76 Minutes, and more flushed out.

I also felt the film fell a little flat at the end. It sort of turns into, “Of course the Justice League will win,” and really loses momentum. There’s some great stuff with Superman and Hal in space as they try to stop the missile and fail, but there’s still no real sense of danger — in part because Savage’s plan is just too big. I like the more subtle villains with subtle plans (like Lex Luthor becoming the US president — which he did in the DC Universe).

Still, it was great to see the re-united Justice League cast together again. I’d like to see Doom as the pilot for a new Justice League series, but I doubt it will happen. Still, one can hope. I will admit it was great to see the Legion of Doom appear threatening instead of as a joke, though. If you’re a DC fan you’ll enjoy this!

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a DC fan.
Rating: 4 out of 5