Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shakespeare in the Park: Macbeth

As an English major and teacher, I have always had a huge respect and love for the works of William Shakespeare. Although I have read many of his plays and sonnets, and seen several film adaptations of his works (i.e. Julius Caesar starring Marlon Brando, Roman Polanski's Macbeth, or Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet), I have rarely had the opportunity to experience Shakespeare in it's true form, that of live theatre. Fortunately, Dallas has had a long tradition of the performing arts since 1971 with their popular "Shakespeare in the Park" series. Thursday night I got to experience an extraordinarily unique performance of one of my all-time favorite Shakespeare plays...Shakespeare Dallas presents: MACBETH at the Samuell Grand Amphitheatre. Directed by Stefan Novinski and starring Chris Hury as Macbeth and Joanna Schellenberg as Lady Macbeth. This production of Macbeth presents us with a more modern setting, utilizing modern military uniforms and gear like that used in the Iraq War. Even the stage has a Middle Eastern/desert feel to it with most of the stage covered in sand. The most unique characteristic of the stage is the slanted or "raked" appearance of the backdrop, a Middle Eastern-like building with six doorways. Throughout the entire play this unique setting made for an interesting and skewed look which complimented the theme of the play. The production also utilized an impressive combination of lighting, special effects and music to enhance the performance, even so far as to replace the weaponry with realistic machine guns and sound effects such as explosions and helicopter sounds. Being an outdoor performance, there were certain elements (some beyond the control of the production) that did not benefit the experience. While a seemingly quiet park area, Samuell Grand Park in Dallas is very close to a busy street as well as Love Field Airport, where frequent disruptions from both traffic noise and airplanes flying overhead were very distracting. Unfortunately, through most of the first act of the play, the sound system was experiencing technical difficulties with the actor's microphones, but thankfully the problem was fixed long before the intermission. The most outstanding performances came from both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, as well as actor Steven Young who plays King Duncan and Mentieth, who was delightfully loud and boisterous, and reminded me of Brian Blessed. Like many independent stage plays, several of the actors and actresses also played dual-roles. The play also includes a number of child actors who played Macduff's children as well as the apparitions during the famous "Double, double toil and trouble" witches scene (one of my favorite scenes!). Aside from the military costumes, one of the most striking costumes was that of Lady Macbeth who had many costume changes, starting with a very sleek and sexy red dress and then later in a long black dress for most of the play. It is always disappointing in the climax of the play that Lady Macbeth, who is definitely the main antagonist in the play, gets an off-stage death as we only hear her scream from behind stage. I particularly loved the scenes involving the drunken Porter and of course Banquo's bloody ghost when he appears at the banquet. I was surprised to see the actress who played Lady Macduff (Donjalea Chrane) as she seemed convincingly pregnant, but as she also played one of the witches, I realized it was part of her costume. The scene in which the assassins Mentieth and Cathness murders Lady Macduff and her children is disturbingly brutal! One of the most fascinating props in the play is a large round table on the right of the stage which served both as the table in the banquet scene and as the cauldron during the witches scene which was equipped with a rising platform in order for the apparitions to appear. The final battle between Macbeth and Macduff was especially exciting as they fought in a stylized-choreographed style incorporating swords and a modern martial-arts style of hand-to-hand combat. The play was an amazing experience. I was worried that the modern/military setting would take something away from the performance but as the lines and dialogue were not changed it was just as impressive as a traditional performance. Shakespeare Dallas presents Macbeth is continuing through September 22 - 29 at Samuell Grand Amphitheatre and October 3-October 14 at Addison Circle Park. If you have an opportunity to see it, I highly recommend it!

Macbeth, Image courtesy of The Dallas Observer
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more." - Macbeth

LINKS: ShakespeareDallas.orgShakespeare Online

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Big Bang Theory - Top 10 Episodes

The Big Bang Theory, Season 6 premiers on Thursday, September 27th! Since Season One aired in 2007, The Big Bang Theory has become THE nerdiest show on TV! When a group of friends and fellow University scientists living in California meet an attractive new neighbor, she shows them how little they know about life outside of their nerdy, socially-awkward little world! The group including: Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) and of course Penny (Kaley Cuoco) have all kinds of nerdy adventures about life, love and the universe! After five hilarious seasons the cast has added a few new friends including Howard's new fiancee Bernedette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch) and Sheldon's "girl/friend" Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik). With the last season featuring huge  milestones and special guest stars such as the voice of Leonard 'Spock' Nimoy and an appearance by Professor Stephen Hawking, not to mention Howard's marriage to Bernedette before he rocketed off to the International Space Station! CHERNOBOG'S BLOG is Proud top Present, in celebration of the premier of The Big Bang Theory's sixth season: The Big Bang Theory - Top 10 Episodes! Enjoy!
#10 The Zarnecki Incursion (Season 4, Ep., Aired: 3/31/11) - Sheldon's World of Warcraft account is hacked and the gang team up to find the culprit! Funniest Moment: Sheldon confronts the thief brandishing a Klingon bat'leth!
#9 "The Middle-Earth Paradigm" (Season 1, Ep., Aired: 10/29/2007) - Penny puts on a Halloween party and Leonard almost gets in a fight with her muscular ex-boyfriend! Funniest Moment: Sheldon tries to explain his costume as The Doppler Effect.
#8 "The Staircase Implementation" (Season 3, Ep.22, Aired: 5/17/10) - Leonard recounts the story of how he came to live with Sheldon to Penny. Funniest Moment: Leonard experiments with a new kind of rocket fuel and almost destroys the apartment, if not for Sheldon, who puts it in the elevator thus saving their lives!

#7 "The Justice League Recombination" (Season 4, Ep.11, Aired: 12/16/10) - The guys dress up as the Justice League of America for a New Year's Eve party/contest at Stewart's comic book store with Zack as Superman and Penny reluctantly as Wonder Woman. Funniest Moment: The gang, dressed as superheroes, witness a carjacking and consider helping but then slowly walk away.

#6 "The Transporter Malfunction" (Season 5, Ep. 20, Aired: 3/29/12) - Penny buys Leonard and Sheldon vintage Star Trek MEGO transporters to make-up for freeloading. Sheldon has a decision to make to open or not to open and play with his despite hearing the voice of Leonard 'Spock' Nimoy telling him to. When he finally relents, he breaks his and tries to switch his with Leonard's! Funniest Moment: A Gorn scares Sheldon in his dream after he talks to his Spock toy.
#5 "The Nerdvana Annihilation" (Season 1, Ep., Aired: 4/28/08) - After the gang buy a life-size replica of The Time Machine online, Leonard considers getting rid of all of his collectibles. Funniest Moment: The gang pretend to move forward in time while Leonard turns on the time machine.
#4  "The Excelsior Acquisition" (Season 3, Ep.16, Aired: 3/1/10) - Following the events of "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency" (Season 3, Ep.8, Aired: 11/16/09), Sheldon is fined for running a red-light when he took Penny to the emergency room. Problem is, he has to appear in court the same day that Stan Lee will appear at the comic book store! Funniest Moment: Sheldon and Penny appear at Stan Lee's front door for an autograph!
#3 "The Precious Fragmentation" (Season 3 , Ep.17, Aired:3/8/10) - The gang find "The One Ring!" from The Lord of the Rings at a garage sale and each of them compete for ownership. Funniest Moment: Sheldon sees himself as Gollum when he finally gets the ring!
#2 "The Einstein Approximation" (Season 4, Ep.14, Aired: 2/1/10) - Sheldon has a psychotic break while trying to wrestle with an equation. Funniest Moment: When Sheldon is hiding from Leonard in the ball-pit! "Bazinga!"
#1 "The Pancake Batter Anomaly" (Season 1, Ep., Aired: 3/31/08) - Sheldon is sick and the gang try to avoid him at a theater with a "Planet of the Apes" marathon! Funniest Moment: Leonard tries to navigate his apartment blind while Howard guides him with a webcam.

"Live long and prosper... \\ /, Bazinga!"

LINKS: The Big Bang Theory on CBS, The Big Bang Theory on TBS, The Big Bang Theory on Facebook, The Big Bang Theory on Twitter

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Movie Review: DREDD 3D

In the near future, most of America is a nuclear wasteland. The only refuge are huge Mega-Cities. Mega City One lies on the east coast from Boston to Washington D.C. Overrun with violent crime, the city has only one defense: they are the police, judge, jury and executioner all in one, they are: The Judges! And the most feared and best of all the judges is...Judge Dredd! If it seems like you've heard all this before, then your right...but this time, it's different! Dredd 3D is the latest film adaptation of the comic book character Judge Dredd, who first appeared in the British comic book magazine 2000 A.D. in 1978. While this is not the first time he has appeared on the big screen, back in 1995, Sylvester Stallone played Judge Dredd alongside an annoying, comic-relief sidekick named Fergee (Rob Schneider) battling the evil Rico (Armand Assante).
This new Dredd is so completely different in every way, but I still can't help comparing it to the original, seeing Stallone loudly proclaim in his trademark way: "I am the law!" The new Judge Dredd movie is dark, gritty, serious and ultra-violent...and that's just the way I like it! The original was very campy with an original, science-fiction feel. This new Dredd reflects more of the violence in our own society by presenting the idea that we are not too far away from this future. In this post-apocalyptic world, the modern concepts of law and justice have gotten so out of hand that the only way society can enforce the law is go to extreme levels by having police officers that can dispense justice by any means necessary.
Judge Dredd, played by Karl Urban, is cold, calculating and very good at his job! When he is teamed up with rookie-Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) it seems like it's going to be another typical veteran/rookie cop team-up but with one distinct difference, cadet Anderson is a mutant and psychic. Her talents will soon come in handy when Dredd and Anderson respond to a triple-homicide in the Mega Block known as "Peach Tree", a huge, 200-story tenement/slum that has been taken over by a gang of criminals who have been manufacturing and selling a new drug known as "Slow-Mo" (which looks an awful lot like an asthma inhaler?). Led by a scarred, ex-hooker, known as 'Ma-Ma' (Lena Headey), the gang take complete control of the building and declare war on the two Judges. Now Judge Dredd and Anderson must survive as they make their way to Ma-Ma and end her reign of terror!
Karl Urban as Dredd
Dredd 3D is not necessarily a reboot of the Judge Dredd movie nor is it a sequel. While the original movie was both a box-office bomb and an embarrassment to director Danny Cannon who was so discouraged over creative disputes with Stallone, that it remains one of the worst comic book movies of the 1990's to many fans. Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point (2008)) presents Dredd 3D in RealD 3D which adds some interesting visual elements to the movie along with the somewhat over-used slow-motion scenes courtesy of the effects of the "Slo-Mo" drug. Along with the drug-scenes and multiple bullet-flying action, almost a third of the movie is in slow-motion! The main setting of Dredd 3D is this huge tenement building called "Peach Trees", which not only adds to the feelings of confinement and claustrophobia (i.e. Pandorum (2009)) to the movie but also has a strong, video game-like feel to it as the Judges literally have to move from level to level à la Bruce Lee's Game of Death (1978).  
The character of Judge Dredd is portrayed as very cold and unemotional, very much like the original comic book character.With his gruff Batman-esque voice Karl Urban, who is a popular character actor (who got his big break playing Eomer in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and as the new Dr. 'Bones' McCoy in the new Star Trek movie franchise) acts very much like RoboCop which coincidentally is also being remade, set to be released in 2013. The biggest difference in the old and new Dredd movies is the fact that in the new one, Judge Dredd never shows his face. Just as originally intended by comic book writer and co-creator John Wagner, who said "It sums up the facelessness of justice − justice has no soul. So it isn't necessary for readers to see Dredd's face, and I don't want you to." With that, this Judge Dredd seems more true to it's source material which is always an important aspect to any comic book adaptation (i.e. Marvel's The Avengers).
Olivia Thirlby as Anderson
In Stallone's version, Dredd wears his helmet/costume only for a short time in the movie. This always seemed very narcissistic and old-school action movie-star-like to me, as with many of Stallone's action-roles in the 1990's like Demolition Man (1993) another future-cop movie) in seeing the actor's face. With the new one, Dredd's costume/ and armor is much more practical and functional, not like the 1995 one where his costume/tights were very impractical as well as his cumbersome and awkward shoulder armor. The new Judge Dredd's armor is more closely akin to modern day riot gear or military body-armor. Gone are Judge Dredd's gaudy, golden shoulder ornaments and chain but he still retains his famous (although subdued) and iconic name-badge. The movie also keeps two important aspects to Dredd's weaponry and gadgets such as his "Lawmaster" bike which is really just a souped-up motorcycle (that thankfully doesn't fly in this one!) and of course, his signature side-arm, his "Lawgiver" pistol which provides a number of useful projectiles and is programmed to only recognize the DNA of a Judge. Both elements come heavily into play in the movie. The character of Judge Anderson (a fan-favorite of the comic since the 1980's) is presented as a very strong heroine/sidekick and provides sympathetic side as well as a moral insight to Judge Dredd's otherwise cold and unemotional demeanor. DREDD 3D was BADASS!!! It blew me away...literally! I was really impressed with it, originally skeptic that this "reboot" of such an obscure comic book character would be successful but I was dead wrong! It is nothing like the Stallone movie! The action is brutal and intense, the story is very simplistic but straight-forward. It's serious and not campy at all with very little comic relief aside from the occasional dry remarks from both Dredd and Anderson which do not take away from the mood. The villain is so sadistically evil and manipulative of her devoted followers that you can't wait until Dredd takes her down! Screenwriter Alex Garland has already made remarks on a proposed sequel and I hope it will include the villain Judge Death, another fan-favorite, from the Judge Dredd comics. "DROKK IT!" Go see DREDD 3D or you WILL be judged!
 LINKSDredd 3D Official Website, 2000 AD Online

Monday, September 17, 2012

Movie Review: Resident Evil: Retribution 3D

Ever since the 2002 release of the first Resident Evil movie, Director/Writer/Producer Paul W.S. Anderson has consistently given us the most extreme and totally over-the-top action/horror movie experiences in the last decade. The Resident Evil movie franchise (based on the highly popular Capcom video games) has continued to deliver a steady dose of blood, guts and mayhem courtesy of flesh-eating zombies and a scantily-clad heroine named Alice (Milla Jovovich)! Now ten years later, Alice returns to take on the undead and the powerful Umbrella Corporation...but it definitely won't be the last!
Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth installment in the Resident Evil movie franchise, starts right where the last movie (Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) left off. Alice is on board the Arcadia where Umbrella stored it's human guinea pigs. After defeating Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and rescuing 'K-Mart', (Spencer Locke) (and yes, that's her name); Umbrella shows up with an army led by the now enslaved and brainwashed (also blond?) Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), who completely blows the place to smithereens!
In the aftermath of the battle on the Arcadia, Alice finds herself a captive of Umbrella in a high-tech, underwater, research facility, complete with huge replicas of major city centers as well as a re-creation of a seemingly-happy, normal suburban area. Now Alice must fight her way to freedom alongside a group of resistance fighters which include some familiar faces: Luther West (Boris Kodjoe) and a few new allies: Barry Burton (Kevin Durand) Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Ada Wong (Bingbing Li). The problem is that Umbrella has also brought back some old friends and turned them against Alice including: Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez), and James 'One' Shade (Colin Salmon, from the first movie!). Together, Alice and the team fight off the hordes of the Las Plagas/T-virus infected/undead and a few other surprises like giant Lickers, Russian Ganados and huge sledgehammer-wielding Executioners!
Bingbing Li as Ada Wong
It can be said that the plot of the Resident Evil movies has gotten increasingly convoulted ever since the end of the second movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004). Much like the games, the movie franchise is full of colorful, stock characters, both major and expendable. While in the first movie, both Alice and all of the human characters were created solely for the movie, it wasn't long before video game characters entered into the movies as with the sequel which included Jill Valentine ((Sienna Guillory), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and Nemesis (Matthew G. Taylor). Later, in Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), we we're introduced to Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and Albert Wesker (originally Jason O'Mara). Then in Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) we were got to meet Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller), Claire's long-lost brother. Now with Resident Evil: Retribution, they have added even more characters with fan-favorites: Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), along with Barry Burton (Kevin Durand), whose character appeared in the first Resident Evil (1996) game along with Chris, Jill and Wesker. With so many characters and plot points, it seems as though the franchise is trying too hard to please the Resident Evil fans, as well as keep the movie cast fresh with new faces. But when is too many, too much? The Resident Evil movies are notorious for forgetting about characters from previous movies. If they haven't already killed them off, which even if they did, they'd just bring them back! And lest we forget about the characters that Alice has tried to save over the years such as Angella Ashford (Sophie Vavasseur) in Apocalypse and 'K-Mart' (Spencer Locke) in Afterlife. Not to mention Claire and Chris Redfield, who aren't even mentioned in the new movie! Whatever happened to them? Who knows? Who cares? Apparently director Paul W.S. Anderson doesn't!
Johann Urb as Leon Kennedy
While RE: Retribution revisits many of the same locations and/or scenes from Afterlife, like the Arcadia in a bizarre rewind sequence and even the rainy streets of Tokyo that we saw in the title sequence of Afterlife, it's a wonder why they are two separate movies! The director could have easily combined the two, so instead of two short 90-minute movies, it could have been an impressive two and a half hour spectacular! Milla Jovovich has continued to play the super-powered heroine Alice from the beginning and it seems rather convenient that she married director Paul W.S. Anderson in 2009 after having a daughter, Ever, in 2007. Although it is interesting to note that she was previously married to Luc Besson, (French director of The Fifth Element (1997) where Milla got her big break.) from 1997 to 1999. After having a kid, it's noticeable how Milla has somewhat lost her unusually slender-form. Yet she can still manage fit into a tight, black-leather outfit, which also looks suspiciously a lot like Kate Beckinsale's costume in the Underworld movies (another action/horror movie franchise past it's prime). In regards to the 3D aspect of the movie, (which was also featured in the last movie) it provides an extra, albeit unnecessary, element of over-heightened action with various things flying at the audience (i.e. bullets, knives, blood and gore, etc).
Sienna Guillory as Jill Valentine
While the 3D craze shows no signs of slowing down, it is becoming an overused element in many recent action, Sci-Fi and horror movies. While Resident Evil: Retribution does have some exciting entertainment value as well as adequate fan-service to those devoted fans like me who have been playing the games from the beginning. The fifth installment to this franchise definitely shows signs of wearing down, although the ending (which I will not spoil) does leave it open for a sixth and hopefully final movie. But like the ravenous zombies that populate the Resident Evil multi-verse, this franchise keeps coming back from the dead for more flesh (and more money!) and will NEVER die until the movie-going masses put the proverbial bullet-in-the-head to Paul W.S. Anderson's undead opus. I for one, will be reluctant to sit through another Resident Evil movie unless some real changes are made (and/or if they include Jack Krauser or Sheva Alomar in the next one!). As I am writing this Resident Evil: Retribution is currently #1 in the box office earning over $20 Million!

LINKS: Resident Evil Movie Official Website, Resident, Resident Evil Wiki

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Batman Animated Series 20th Anniversary - Top 10 Favorite Episodes

After the success of director Tim Burton's Batman films (Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992)) on September 5, 1992, Fox Kids aired one of the best and most beloved animated series in the last twenty years: Batman: The Animated Series! From 1992 to 1995, Batman was the most popular animated series on Saturday morning sparking a renewed interest in Batman, especially for kids. By its third season in 1994, the show changed its name to The Adventures of Batman & Robin, (although originally, the show never featured a title until then which was very unusual for an animated series) as Robin (Loren Lester) was featured more prominently in the show, along with Batgirl (Melissa Gilbert). The show's remarkable creative team which included writer/producer Paul Dini and artist/producer Bruce Timm helped to create the unique, dark/deco, style of the show. Some of the best and well-known voice actors like Kevin Conroy (Batman), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Alfred), Bob Hastings (Commissioner Gordon), Adrienne Barbeau (Catwoman), Richard Moll (Harvey Dent/Two Face), Paul Williams (The Penguin), Ron Perlman (Clayface) and of course Mark Hamill (The Joker), also added to the shows quality and immense success.
When the series ended after three seasons, The WB Network aired a continuation with The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999) featuring a slightly different animation style including a younger Robin (Tim Drake) with Dick Grayson as Nightwing. The show's success also led to a spin-off: Batman Beyond (1999-2001), a futuristic Batman animated series and the creation of Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000) later the highly popular Justice League (2001-2004) and Justice League: Unlimited (2004-2006) animated series on Cartoon Network. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Batman - The Animated Series, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PROUDLY PRESENTS: My Top 10 Favorite Episodes! (Note: These Top 10 episodes focus only on the original run of the Batman Animated Series with some commentary)...Enjoy!

#10 "Trial" (Aired: 5/16/1994) - Many of Batman's deadliest villains including Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and The Mad Hatter kidnap Batman and put him on trial at Arkham Asylum for creating them with The Joker as the judge! With Janet Van Dorn (Stephanie Zimbalist), a shrewd attorney representing him, she proves that they in fact created themselves without Batman's help! I was always excited when the show involved the infamous Arkham Asylum, where all of Batman's villains resided at one time or another. It was always a popular location in the comics and was even later featured as part of the highly popular video game Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009).

#9 Perchance to Dream" (Aired: 10/19/1992) - Bruce Wayne wakes up to discover his parents are still alive, he's engaged to Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman) and someone else is impersonating Batman! Soon he discovers he is trapped in a dream world created by The Mad Hatter (Roddy McDowall). This was a very different episode giving us a look into what Bruce Wayne's life would be like if his parents had never been murdered and he had never become Batman. You really feel for Bruce when he finally accepts his new life and just want him to be happy but feel just as frustrated when he does realize that it's all a dream.

#8 "Dreams In Darkness" (Aired: 5/3/1993) -  Batman is exposed to The Scarecrow's (Henry Polic II) fear toxin, driven insane, Batman is locked up in Arkham Asylum, where he is haunted by terrifying visions of his parents' murder. This was a considerably frightening episode full of disturbing imagery, especially seeing Batman at his weakest point tied in a straight-jacket! The Scarecrow was another one of my favorite villains, and was usually the most frightening. This wasn't so however in his first appearance in the episode "Nothing To Fear" (Aired: 9/15/92) where the Scarecrow's mask was very simple. In "Dreams In Darkness" we are introduced to Scarecrow's new mask which is much more shocking, featuring a distorted burlap face with jagged teeth and straw hair.

#7 "Night of the Ninja"/"Day of the Samurai" (Aired:10/26/92 & 2/23/93) - These two episodes go together perfectly as they both feature the ninja Kyodai Ken (Robert Ito), who was once Bruce Wayne's rival while he trained in the martial arts in Japan under Yoru Sensei (Chao Li Chi). In "Night of the Ninja" Ken tries to destroy the Wayne fortune and ultimately kidnaps him and reporter Summer Gleeson (Mari Devon). Wayne cannot reveal his martial arts talent while Summer watches without a little help from Robin. In "Day of the Samurai" Ken kidnaps a student of Yoru Sensei and challenges Batman to a duel on the slopes of an active volcano. However Ken believes he has an edge as he has learned an ancient, forbidden martial arts technique that can kill with a touch! I have long had a fascination with Japan and the Samurai ever since I saw the Sean Connery/James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (1967) with my Dad. Since then I have been a fan of the Japanese samurai and Jidaigeki/Samurai films, especially those of Akira Kurosawa (i.e. Seven Samurai and Yojimbo). Batman has always had both a certain ninja appeal to his character (as in the movie Batman Begins (2005), he trains in a ninja style with the League of Shadows under Ra's Al Ghul.) But in "Day of the Samurai" Kyodai Ken says to Batman "You would've made a good ninja." Batman replies: "I would prefer to be a Samurai!" Also, the addition of using real Japanese dialogue added to the episode's atmosphere.

#6 "Tyger, Tyger" (Aired: 10/30/1992) - Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) is kidnapped by Dr. Emile Dorian (Joseph Maher), a mad scientist experimenting with cats, who transforms her into a real Cat-woman! When Batman tracks her to the doctor's island to rescue her, he has to battle the doctor's favorite creation: Tygrus (Jim Cummings), a huge humanoid-cat creature! This episode always fascinated me. Batman had several episodes dealing with animal transformation particularly with the character of Man-Bat ("On Leather Wings" and "Terror In the Sky" or Woman-Bat) and even werewolves ("Moon of the Wolf"). This episode had a very strong Island of Dr. Moreau vibe which I loved and seeing Catwoman in her feline form thrilled me! The reference to and the excerpt from the poem "The Tyger" by William Blake also added a special touch of class to the episode.

#5 "The Demon's Quest" (Aired: 11/3/1992) - Written by Dennis O' Neil and based on his story "Daughter of the Demon" (Detective Comics #232, June 1971). When Robin and is kidnapped, Ra's Al Ghul (David Warner) reveals himself to Batman/Bruce Wayne and embarks on a world-wide quest to rescue him and his daughter Talia (Helen Slater). Batman was unaware that Ra's Al Ghul was the one responsible for the kidnapping and wished to test Batman to see if he was worthy of becoming his heir. Batman denies and later foils Ra's megalomaniacal plot to destroy the world using the power of the Lazarus Pits which has granted him longer life. Ra's Al Ghul quickly became my favorite Batman villain and I sought out older stories including "Tales of the Demon" by Dennis O'Neil, who also became my favorite Batman writer. This episode has such an epic feel, right out of the comics it is almost like the original story somewhat condensed. The climactic sword duel between Batman and Ra's Al Ghul is a particularly exciting moment!

#4 "Almost Got 'Im" (Aired: 11/10/1992) - The Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Poison Ivy and Killer Croc gather to play Poker and reminisce about the times they "almost got" Batman. This is a delightful, although very far-fetched episode. It allows for an interesting look at the villains in an almost normal but comical setting. The only one who doesn't get a vignette is Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) whose very short story always makes me laugh:
Killer Croc: "He [Batman] was getting closer... Closer...!"
Poison Ivy: "And?"
Killer Croc: "I threw a rock at him!"
[Awkward Silence as they all stare at him.]
Killer Croc: "It was a big rock..."

Harley Quinn
#3 "I Am The Night" (Aired: 11/9/1992) - During a botched stakeout, Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) is shot by Jimmy "The Jazzman" Peake (Brian George). Meanwhile Batman helps a young drifter named Wizard (Seth Green) turn his life around. This was a very emotionally powerful episode. We see Batman at his ultimate low having failed Commissioner Gordon and basically throwing a fit, even smashing his own equipment with outbursts of rage! As he contemplates whether or not being Batman is actually helping the police he comes the closest to actually quiting. Gordon recovers and Batman has a renewed outlook on his purpose.

#2 "The Laughing Fish" (Aired: 1/10/1993) - Based on "The Laughing Fish" and "Sign of the Joker", (Detective Comics #475-476, Feb./Mar. 1978), The Joker chemically enhances all the fish in Gotham, luring Batman into a death-trap with a Great White Shark! This episode features Harley Quinn (a.k.a. Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Arleen Sorkin) who was created specifically for the show and was first introduced in the episode "Joker's Favor" (9/11/92)  as Joker's hench-wench, who quickly became a fan favorite and soon appeared in the regular Batman comic books, achieving her own title.

#1 "Beware the Gray Ghost" (Aired: 11/4/1992) - During a series of bombings, Batman/Bruce Wayne is reminded of a TV show from his childhood: "The Gray Ghost". When he tracks down the star, Simon Trent (Adam West), now a has-been actor, Batman teams up with his child-hood TV hero to bring a the mad bomber to justice! This has always been my favorite episode, most obviously for the reason that Adam West, the Batman of the '60's made an appearance (who I instantly recognized).  The fact that it always spoke to my love of nostalgia, I have always related to it. I can always see myself when it shows a flashback of a young Bruce Wayne watching "The Gray Ghost" on the floor in front of the TV, clutching his Gray Ghost action figure and wearing a Gray Ghost hat and cape.

PERSONAL NOTE: The Batman animated series came at a perfect time in my life when I was growing up. I was already a big Batman fan, having seen reruns of the older 1970's Batman and Super Friends and '80s Super Powers cartoons and of course, I enjoyed the "Batman" (1966) TV show starring Adam West. I distinctly remember seeing the 1989 Batman movie on or around my 10th birthday and from then on I was a Bat-fan for life! I began collecting the Batman comic books and when the new animated series aired, I was extremely excited. I felt that the '90s animated series was MY Batman, and I have enjoyed it for many years. I even own all 4 of the DVD volumes and still watch them to this day. See you next time fellow Bat-Fans, "same bat-Time, same Bat-Channel"!

NOTE: Be sure to check out the wonderful book Batman: Animated by Paul Dini and Chip Kidd!
LINKS: Watch full episodes of Batman: The Animated Series on The, Batman: The Animated Series is currently airing late-night on The Hub cable channel.