'Rick and Morty' S1-3 DVD & BD: Emmy-Winning 'Back to Future' and 'Futurama' Mash-Up Is Fanboy Fantasy
The Adult Swim/Warner Brothers separate February 12, 2019 DVD and Blu-ray releases of S1-3 of the Swim series "Rick and Morty" provides a chance to ensure that you "get some" on Valentine's Day from the fanboy in your life. Discovering the full-sized collectible poster is even more exciting than finding a toy in a cereal box.
This brainchild from Dan Harmon of "Community" fame and Justin Roiland of the kinder and gentler ready-for-primetime Cartoon Network series "Adventuretime" essentially transports Doc. Brown and Marty McFly from "Back to the Future" to the more subversive and surreal world of once Cartoon Network staple "Futurama." The strong "screw you, Leonard" vibe of "Rick" provides much of the fun.
A weekly mission substitutes for the concept of a delivery on "Futurama." The concept of benign or hostile aliens threats bringing mankind on the brink of destruction remains the same, IMDb describes "Rick" in more general terms by stating that it is about "the exploits of a super scientist [Rick] and his not-so-bright grandson [Morty]." Roiland successfully pulls off a MacFarlane by voicing both leads.
The Ricktastic accolades begin with a 9.3 IMDb rating and a 97-percent Rotten Tomatoes result. IMDb also lists "Rick" as the Number 9 Top-Rated Show; "Seinfeld" and "The Twilight Zone" do not make the Top 10. The 14 official wins include the 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.
The its funny because its true concept of "Rick" is that Rick Sanchez is a brilliant inventor but a barely functional alcoholic and lousy grandfather and father; this is not to mention a largely unrepentant scoundrel who would sell his mother just for the fun of it. His two creations that primarily facilitate the aforementioned escapades with emotional dim-bulb Morty are a flying car that is capable of space flight and a portal gun that creates wormholes to other dimensions.
The rest of the story is that S1 begins a year after Rick moves in with daughter/horse surgeon Beth Smith (Sarah Chalke of "Roseanne" and "Scrubs.") The abandonment issues of Beth are behind condoning her father repeatedly causing destructive chaos in their home and even more frequently putting her son and other family members (including herself) in harm's way.
The dysfunction continues with wimpy unemployed advertising guy Jerry (Chris Parnell) showing that the mushy apple does not fall far from the worm-infested tree. Hilarity often ensues as Rick gleefully emasculates the purported man of the house. We also are regularly reminded that our not-so-happy-couple results from a portal-gun wedding after Jerry knocks up Beth with oldest sibling/typical big sister Summer (Kelsey Grammer daughter Spencer Grammer).
The bigger picture is that "Future" fans will see elements of the McFlys from that franchise in the Smiths. A related cool note is that a comment by Roiland in a two-part "Origins" home-video special-feature notes that he gives Morty at least a semblance of testicles to avoid him entirely being the bitch of his grandfather.
This family dynamic provides the fodder for the best "Rick" episodes. A personal fave has Rick bringing Beth and Jerry to an alien marriage-counseling center. The therapy there includes outfitting each spouse with a device that physically manifests the image that that person has of his or her significant other.
Hilarity ensues with Jerry conjuring a vicious heartless monster version of Beth, and she shows that she views her husband as a slug. Those creations breaking loose and wreaking havoc is not even the end of the story. The Smiths are left to fend for themselves against their own worst enemies. The outcome that reflects that love conquers all is not much kinder or gentler.
A similar episode has Rick paying the price for extreme measures to avoid a family counseling session, Suffice it to say that he finds himself in a constant pickle while proving that he remains a bad ass regardless of what he faces.
We also get Rick and Morty dropping off Dad at a very customized alien daycare center, the family surviving by discovering that any happy memory is false, and an especially hilarious Christmas episode in which Jerry learns that his parents have a new special friend; the fact that his dad primarily is a spectator further reflects the dynamic of our central family.
Another highlight takes the hackneyed concept of a love spell gone wrong to an awesomely extremely perverse level. Rick trying to help Morty "court" dream girl Jessica quickly gets out of bounds to the extent of creating an aforementioned world-threatening sitch. The manner in which Rick resolves this is one of the most dark and cynical in television history; it also reminds us that everyone is disposable.
Roiland and Harmon also especially delver regarding the season-ending cliffhangers. This begins with an S1 season finale that has Rick and Summer gang up against Morty to throw initially separate wild parties while the 'rents are away. Suffice it to say that rowdy teens and quirky aliens have plenty in common.
This leads to Rick using his tech. to provide plenty of time to rebuild the house before Jerry and Beth walk in the door; the rub is that squabbling that skips a generation brings the entire universe on the brink of destruction.
The S1 finale also sets the stage for the epic S2 season-ender. The family attending a wedding with a tie to the aforementioned festivities leads to one of many cases in which it seems that Rick will be held accountable for his crimes against humanity and seemingly every other species in parallel dimensions. This leads to a hilarious battle of wills in which Rick once again shows that lacking much of a conscience while also not hesitating to exploit the vulnerability of an enemy is effective. It also allows this madman with an evil mind to face off against his foes that comprise the Council of Ricks.
The epic S2 season-finale has the president (who clearly is not Trump) call in Rick and Morty to exterminate an alien in the White House. Rick adopting an extreme "Screw you, Leonard" attitude of course makes a bad situation much worse. We simply will need to wait for the S4 premiere sometime in 2109 to see how things fully shake out.
The copious home-video extras extend well beyond the aforementioned "Origins" feature. We get commentary and animatics for every episode, deleted scenes, a look at Parnell rocking it during a recording session, and other treats.
The CBS Home Entertainment December 18, 2018 S1 DVD release of the Showtime animated-series "Our Cartoon President" proves the adage that you can laugh or you can cry. Unlike his subject, executive producer/Trump nemesis Stephen Colbert is not guilty of hyperbole in stating that this three-disc set of the 17 regular-season episodes and the November 14, 2018 musical "Election Special 2018" includes "world-class amenities."
Although the themes of "President" are similar to the 43-era live-action sitcom-parody series "That's My Bush" and the animated-program "Lil Bush Resident of the United States," the current series is more hard hitting and sticks c;loser to actual events. Being on a premium cable network provides the additional bonus of being able to say all of the seven words that George Carlin reminds us are unfit for broadcast networks.
The topics in "President" include the Mueller investigation, the threat of a federal government shutdown, the controversy regarding Confederate statues, funding for the wall, etc. We further get to see what fools these top administration officials and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle be. This includes the Chuck and Nancy Show sans a tinkling contest.
The following YouTube clip of the Showtime trailer for "President" is a sad reminder that it is funny because it is true.
The episode introduction by the creative team for the pilot provides a good sense of the evolution of the series; the insights include a last-minute makeover for one character, The aptly titled "State of the Union" centers around the angst of Trump regarding his obligation to deliver that speech.
The especially amusing "Media Strategy" has Melania struggling to suppress her "plaid-shirt guy) impulse to roll her eyes during Trump speeches. This relates to the overall "President" theme of the first couple having a loveless marriage; a meeting in which they seek the advice of the Clintons is hilarious.
"Wealth Gap" is pure Trump; this one has POTUS going to great lengths (and absurd expense) planning a second wedding ceremony for his third wife. Much of the humor relates to a desire to show off his assets motivating the event. Cartoonishly dim-witted Eric "Beavis" Trump taking the brunt of his father overextending himself is particularly hilarious.
The aforementioned special truly pulls out all the stops beyond having a few musical numbers. We get Team Trump desperately trying to keep their majorities in both house of Congress and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer proving their inability to relate to everyday folk. This is not to mention Trump trying to have his cake and eat it too, and Hillary literally going on rampages. In other words, business as usual in Washington.
Jared Kushner steals the show as the only attractive male in the inner circle and as the whipping boy of the group. Having this advisor-in-law dress up in humiliating costumes and enduring abuse from Eric and Donald, Jr. is only the tip of the wonderfully comedic iceberg.
The aforementioned amenities include a table read and a few episode introductions. We also get a clip of animated Trump appearing on "The Late Show."
The creative success of this political satire shows Colbert that revenge is a dish best served globally.
Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Tops Holiday Gift Guide in DVD/Blu-ray Renaissance
The response of studios great and still great but small to increasing incursion of streaming into the DVD/Blu-ray/4K market reinforces the belief of Unreal TV that physical media rules and online content drools. The primary principle is that having something physical facilitates being able to watch what you want when desired.
Discs eliminate any chance of buffering, content slowing down other devices, or a streaming service pulling the content. You additionally do not have the aggravation of having to subscribe to multiple services to get the desired content.
The aforementioned defense to the offense of streaming, which has value when you are away from home, is to make physical releases more special. On a basic level, this involves designing new packaging to makes a release look cool and to incorporate it into a series of releases, This marketing may apply to the '80s teencoms, classic horror films, or the CGI-animated movies of a a studio.
Holy Hi-Def, Batman!
The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment October 30, 2018 Blu-ray release of Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition is a PERFECT example of the renaissance in the home-video industry. WBHE has expertly remastered every episode in this 1992-95 series. We also get Blu-ray versions of the equally well resurrected (reviewed) "Mask of the Phantasm" and the (also reviewed) "Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero."
The set packaging is very stylish, and there are special features galore. WBHE goes further by including three mini-figures, placing the discs in a collectible hard-cover book, and providing 7 lenticular cards with "original animation artwork." This is not to mention limiting the run of the sets to 69,048; I scored the relatively low number of 11,601.
A brief diversion into Blogland is that the TAS set is personally particularly special. It is reminiscent of the even-more special WBHE numbered limited-edition Blu-ray release of the Christopher Nolan "Batman" trilogy, which has better packaging and includes toy cars. This set was the first Christmas gift from the highly significant other who has tolerated your not-so-humble reviewer for six years and counting.
Olive Films Garden
Purveyor of Hollywood classics, cult films, and art-house fare Olive Films takes top honors regarding taking art-gallery-worthy DVD and Blu-ray packaging to the next level. The Olive Signature division of this company does particularly well regarding collector's editions that put a highly arrogant competitor to shame.
Many posts on Olive releases can be found in the Olive section of this new-and-improved site; several more are slowly but surely being copied over from Unreal TV 1.0.
The beautifully remastered collector's edition Blu-ray releases from Signature feature aptly high-end art. Olive supplements this with picture-perfect (no pun intended) remasters. The extra-rich icing on the cake is the copious PBS-worthy documentaries and other features in Signature releases The additional awesomeness is these being limited editions that make them that much more special.
Warner Archive Awesomeness
Archive always will have a special place in my heart. Lovers of television and film can thank Ted Turner buying the video libraries of several studios to provide his fledgling basic-cable networks content for Archive having a seemingly bottomless pit of resources 40 years later. These riches include classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, all-time favorites and forgotten big-screen gems from every 20th-century era of Hollywood, and some of the best sitcoms and dramas to hit television from the early days of that medium to the present.
Archive reflects the trend toward enhanced packaging by reproducing the theatrical posters for films on the DVD (and increasingly Blu-ray only) releases of those movies. Archive is even more fully getting with the times by fully stepping with special features.
The bigger picture is that Archive is embracing the idea of leitmotifs that scream for bundled gifts . A few of many examples include releasing Christopher Lee "Dracula" films. Hitchcock movies, Silver Age musicals, etc. within several weeks of each other.
Most new releases of Golden Age fare provide a full night at the movies by including a cartoon, a newsreel, and a short from the era. We also often get footage of the premiere of the main feature. Archive releases of films from the '40s through the '70s typically have wonderful making-of documentaries that feature film experts such as Robert Osborne, Leonard Maltin, and Peter Bogdanovich.
The Archive section of this site provides a taste of these releases, including the aforementioned sub-genres; copying over the other 100s of reviews on Unreal TV 1.0 will require years.
Mill Creek Entertainment Springs to Life
Mill Creek Entertainment earns a completely sincere and equally heartfelt "Most Improved" award. No one loved the MCE collections of public-domain content more than your not-so-humble reviewer. Getting to see childhood favorites, such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" was great fun. This is not to mention the glee associated with watching less-frequently syndicated classic sitcoms that include "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Burns and Allen."
MCE began stepping up in 2017 with Blu-ray complete-series sets of programs such as "Quantum Leap" and "That '70s Show."
MCE built on the foundation of "Leap" and "Show" by fulling with other awesome complete series Blu-ray sets in 2018. The MCE section of this site includes posts of the Showtime series "Masters of Sex," the especially good release of the Hulu animated series "The Awesomes," and the one-of-a kind Denis Leary NYFD firefighter series "Rescue Me."
MCE also is getting into the enhanced packaging/awesome special features game regarding classic '80s and '90s films. The current catalog includes the original star-studded "Flatliners" and the rising-star-laden '90s teencom "Can't Hardly Wait." Mid-January "retro" releases include the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy "Last Action Hero" and the John Candy slapstick-comedy Who's Harry Crumb."
Aptly for this time of the year, the above discussion of the featured studios is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the gift-worthy releases from them. Everyone from a hard-core cinephile to an amateur sofa spud will delight in the initial thrill of seeing an artful set, will love the high-quality production, and will delight in learning more by watching the extras.
'Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1' 1st Release of 14 Technicolor Adventures of Spinach-Loving Strongman
The Warner Archive December 11, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume i' is the latest example of Archive coming to the rescue. This first-ever release of the first two-seasons (1943-44 and 1944-45) of Technicolor "Popeye" cartoons comes several years after Warner Prime only takes this series of those theatrical shorts up to 1943 in three volumes. This is one of numerous examples of Archive "adopting" abandoned film and television series.
The titular squid is an everyman who temporarily develops super-strength and speed on ingesting spinach. The prelude to this typically involves Popeye stumbling into a bad situation and getting along without his 'roid until he finds himself badly defeated. This setback often comes at the hands of nemesis/antagonist Bluto (sometimes Brutus). The source of their conflict regularly is their concurrent courtship of lanky Olive Oyl.
"Her Honor, The Mare" is the first of the 14 beautifully remastered shorts in Volume One. This somewhat change-of-pace adventure has the Huey, Dewey, Louie, and my other brother Louie style nephews of Popeye first sneaking a horse into his house and then trying to coerce him into letting him keep their new pet. This arguably is the most cute one in the set and establishes that the first several cartoons are the "missing link" between the more crudely animated black-and-white offerings and the more polished color cartoons that many folks remember from after-school airings.
Up next is the "Marry Go Round." The notable aspects of this one include featuring Navy buddy Shorty and a "don't ask, don't tell moment" that is surprising for the '40s. The plot this time is Shorty helping his buddy wok up the nerve to propose to Olive.
This leads to the technicolor-popping "We're On Our Way to Rio." This first Bluto cartoon in "Volume One" has him and Popeye competing for nightclub performer Olive. This time, spinach helps Popeye by turning him into a dancing fool.
One of the strongest offerings comes fairly late in the set. "For Better or Nurse" is one of the first with the more polished look. This especially amusing tale has Popeye and Bluto simultaneously trying to get injured and prevent the other one from getting hurt. Their motive is to be admitted to the hospital where Olive is the titular health-care provider.
"Nurse" is notable for a few twists that all are too good to spoil.
The first side note is that these war-time productions surprisingly have virtually no propaganda; the second side note is that Pop-pie ala Mode sadly more accurately reflects the era. Insensitive depictions of stereotypes can be dismissed as reflecting less enlightened times; however, the presentation of dark-skinned cannibals who are duping Popeye with an eye toward feasting on him pushes the envelope even for the '40s.
The aforementioned vintage animation style and unique characteristics of the early 40s fully prove that they don't make 'em like that anymore. Sets like "Volume One" show we have reason to be glad that Archive brings 'em back.
'2 Stupid Dogs' V1 DVD: '90s Neomodern Approach to Retro Cartoons Proving Ground for Best 21st Century Animators
The Warner Archive August 14, 2018 three-disc DVD release of "2 Stupid Dogs" V1 coinciding with the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Blu-ray S2 release of the current CW edgy teen drama "Riverdale" is an iota of the buckets of proof that the Archive catalog extends far beyond DVDs of Golden Age films. As the "Warner Archive" category of this site shows, that distributor truly has something for everyone.
A post on a past Norman Rockwell Museum exhibit of Hanna-Barbera animation provides includes information that enhances appreciation for "Dogs." The gist of this is that the concept, the style, and the format of the 1993-95 TBS series "Dogs" pays homage to the Hanna-Barbera mid-60s "talking animals" fare with three shorts, as least one of which features the star anthropomomphic critter. This give ways to super hero fare that includes reviewed sets of "Space Ghost" and "Bird-Man" that the "Architects of Saturday Morning" produce in response to Spider-Man and his amazing friends invading the turf of Secret Squirrel and his peers.
Speaking of Squirrel, updated adventures of this cool 000 gadget inspector from the Golden Age of Bond occupy the center square of "Dogs." The tales (pun intended) of the titular talking canines sandwich the exploits of Squirrel.
The general idea of "Dogs" is that these nameless pals have hilarious misadventures that typically ensue as a result of the dachshund, who is the excitable "Little Dog," seeking food. Future "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett puts his trademark deadpan style to good use as the very chill sheep dog "Big Dog." For his part, Squirrel continues his tradition of battling the Bond-style super-villain of the week.
The retro vibe commences in cold opens in which legendary narrator/"Laugh-In" star Gary Owens announces developments that fit right in with the clips from that episode but that have nothing to do with the plots. Further retro fun comes via essentially "We'll be right back" and "We're back" bumpers that appear immediately before and after commercials during the broadcasts.
The following YouTube clip of the opening credits for "Dogs" illustrates (pun intended) the '50s/early '60s animation style of the series.
The animation-yet-to-come aspects of "Dogs" is just as amazing as its nod to the past. Creator Donovan Cook goes on to bring us the edgy and subversive "Duckman" starring Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld." The other "Cooks" include Genndy Tartakovsky of subsequent "Dexter's Laboratory" fame and "Powerpuff Girls" "dad" Craig McCracken, The influence of "Dogs" on these series extends beyond the similar drawing visual style and overall tone. "Powerpuff" fans will recognize the exaggerated sound effects that are more prominent in the later series.
The modern sensibility is apparent right at the outset with "Door Jam" in the first episode. The tin can of Big Dog rolling behind an electric eye door of a department store leads to Little Dog concluding that getting the door to open requires wearing shoes. The genuine hilarity that ensures includes a trip to a strip club in which Little Dog urges the human "exotic dancer" to take off her high heels,
A notable later change-of-pace episode has a geeky elementary school boy bringing the dogs in for Show and Tell. The absurd approach of Little Dog regarding getting down off a coatroom hook demonstrates how our boys get labelled as stupid. A later back-view scene in which the aforementioned dork proves to his peers that Little Dog is a boy in a manner that traumatizes the pooch establishes that these are not your father's Hanna-Barbera cartoons; not that there is anything wrong with that.
One more typical outing has the dogs having an incredible winning streak while in Vegas for a hot-dog buffet. One with a nice bit of edge with a great surprise ending has pursuit of ice cream leading to our temporary far-out space nuts launching a space shuttle.
The primary manner in which Squirrel shows that he is all grown-up is that his sadistic treatment of nerdy sidekick Morocco Mole is much more overt than in the earlier incarnation of their adventures. This begins with making fun of a temporary lisp and coercing him into donning a wig in their initial adventure. Their nemesis this time is Goldflipper, who is using a very powerful magnet to extract gold teeth from victims.
A "nuts" joke is apt regarding Squirrel facing Queen Bea involving an effort to pollinate. A tamer but very clever outing has 000 using his brains rather than his toys to outwit a subatomic bad guy named Quark. The outcome should endear "Squirrel" to both Trekkies and Trekkers.
The special feature is a series of "2 Stupid Facts Collection" that are amusing short shorts that provide filler.
'The Awesomes' DVD/Blu-ray/Digital: Seth Meyers and His SNL Buds Give 'The Justice League' Animated Series the 'Drawn Together' Treatment
The awesomeness (pun intended) of the June 5, 2018 releases from Mill Creek Entertainment includes the separate DVD and Blu-ray (both of which include codes for digital copies) complete series sets of "The Awesomes." This 3-season 30-episodes 2013-15 animated Hulu series joins (reviewed) DVD and Blu-ray releases of the fairy-tale-influenced mini-series "The 10th Kingdom" and a (soon-to-be-reviewed) DVD set that includes the complete first seasons of "Knight Rider" and "Miami Vice" as hot-off-the-presses additions to the Mill Creek catalog.
"Awesomes" is the brainchild of SNL alum and current "Late Night" host Seth Meyers and his long-time collaborator Mike Shoemaker with tons of voiceover help from friends who include Ike Barinholtz and Bill Hader. The end result is success where many others fail regarding a superhero spoof. The winning formula this time is placing the guardians of our galaxy in a setting that is very reminiscent of the 2004-07 Comedy Central animated faux reality show "Drawn Together" that has virtually every central casting type from Saturday morning cartoons and video games under one roof "Teen Titans" style.
The following YouTube clip of the "Awesomes" series trailer provides a good primer on the lore and the humor of the show. The even better news is that the Blu-ray version of the show looks much brighter than this promo. The best news is that the trailer includes the top moment from the series.
The pilot begins with Mitt Romney superpowered lookalike Mr. Awesome (Steve Higgins) announcing his retirement after 50 years of leading the titular league. Son Jeremy "Prock" Awesome (Meyers) convincing Dad to let him take over the family business leads to a unanimous walkout by the current squad with the exception of childhood friend Muscleman (Barinholtz). The only other leftover is low-level administrator Concierge (Emily Spiveey).
Desperate times in the form of losing federal government funding and other support if he does not rapidly form a new team prompts Prock (Professor plus Doctor) to recruit misfits who have exceptional abilities but are in the "reject" file because of severe flaws.
Frantic (Taran Killam) is an excitable boy who can run 500 m.p.h. Having the mother of all mommy issues strongly affects the ability of Impresario (Keenan Thompson), who can conjure up any tangible image with his mind. Eleven year-old Asian boy Tim (Bobby Lee) hulks out to a 600-pound Sumo wrestler with the slightest provocation. The remaining problem child is Gadget Girl (Paula Pell), who is a golden girl with a magic bag full of tricks and a lack of understanding that what is appropriate in the '50s is unacceptable in the 21st century.
A need to fill one more slot leads to hiring Hot Wire (Rashida Jones), who can manipulate electricity ala Static Shock. The issue regarding her is the strong possibility that she is a Trojan Horse.
Each group of episodes revolves around a season-long threat. This begins with Awesomes nemesis Dr. Malocchio (Hader) deciding that the retirement of Mr. Awesome provides a good chance for escaping from prison to implement a grand evil scheme. The fun of this includes that plot involving discrediting Awesomes 2.0.
Season 2 finds the surviving team members battling a Legion of Doom that another foe spends the season assembling from individuals whom our heroes offend in one manner or another throughout this season. An example of this is the team learning the truth regarding the saying that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
The series winds up with the final season-long foe hitting very close to home on many levels. The episodes remain strong, but the underlying premise of the story arc is weak in that the final episodes of the season (and the series) reveals that the wolf in spandex clothing goes to a great deal of unnecessary trouble to achieve his penultimate objective.
The most hilarious episode in the series is the S3 season premiere "Seaman's Revenge," which starts with the standard story of a day off leading to a mission to save the day. The aforementioned glee largely relates to an oblivious Gadget Girl responding to questions about her experiences with Aquaman clone former Awesomes member Seaman. One missed opportunity is not asking her whether she finds Seaman hard to swallow.
The next strongest outing is an S2 one in which The Awesomes agreeing to make a "Drawn Together" reality show goes comically horribly awry. A highlight this time is a team member making a coming out announcement to boost his profile on this show within a show.
Other fun episodes parody scifi and/or superhero staples. These include the gang meeting alternate superpowered versions of themselves, and Meyers and Shoemaker provide a strong outing in which the gang obliviously is leading normal lives. The only disappointment is that evil versions of the good guys lack goatees.
The series finale achieves the modern show ideal of serving equally well as a season finale or the last hurrah for the characters in the event that the series is cancelled. In this case, all is right with the world until a new threat appears in the final seconds. This creates hope for three streaming seasons and a direct-to-DVD movie.
The special feature primarily consist of a one-shot ComicCon panel and trailers and promos for each season.
The Warner Archive March 27, 2018 Blu-ray of the 1998 animated movie "Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero" comes on the heels of Archive rocking the 2018 WonderCon in Anaheim and a few months after the spectacular (reviewed) Archive BD of the 1993 theatrical release "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm." All of this precedes the rumored Archive BD release of "Batman: The Animated Series." One can only hope that the picture and sound quality of the BAS release equals that of the two film releases.
"Subzero" stands on its own even for non-batfans. However, the good folks at Warner provide a primer and other context in the form of two BAS, a "New Batman Adventures," and a "Batman Beyond" episode from the "Subzero" era. We also get the "Subzero" theatrical trailer and a lesson in drawing Batman.
Veteran Batman voicer Kevin Conroy stars as the titular Dark Knight; his co-star is Man of 195 IMDb titles (and former Mr. Barbara Eden) Michael Ansara. Fellow Batvets Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Of "The F.B.I." fame) and Robert Hasting respectively voice Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.
"Subzero" opens with titular mad scientist Dr. Victor Fries (not to be confused with Captain Cold) happily going about his business in his literal Arctic lair when the outside world equally literally crashing in creates the crisis that sets the action of the film in motion.
Desperate times in the form of disrupting the cryogenic state of ill spouse Nora Fries requires the initial desperate measure of kidnapping cryogenic expert Dr. Gregory Belson (George Dzundza), who is experiencing his own desperation, and forcing him to treat Nora.
This leads to the subsequent desperate measure of kidnapping Batgirl/Commissioner Gordon offspring/Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin) love interest Barbara Gordon ("South Park" voicer Mary Kay Bergman) because of her suitability as an organ donor for Nora. Barbara not being dead is a minor technicality in the mind of the grieving almost-widower.
The abduction, which occurs while Barbara and Dick are on a date, leads to one of the best scenes in "Subzero." Dick takes off in daring hot pursuit of the kidnappers and goes out on a limb in an effort to save his boo. The Boy Wonder ending up in the hospital in contrast to his guardian/partner-in-crime-fighting walking off comparable injuries in the Batcave is one of many subtle separations between the men and the boys in the film.
Another notable element relates to early 20-somethings Dick and Barbara planning a weekend getaway. This leads to the explicit language and almost equally graphic sexual activity in the 21st century direct-to-video DCU films. This includes the incarnation of Robin in the 2017 future classic "Batman and Harley Quinn" having very kinky S&M sex with a titular character.
This nabbing leads to Barbara fending off her captors as The Dynamic Duo tries to locate her.
The extended climax occurs when our heroes arrive at the lair of Freeze. The ensuing battle royale strongly reflects the Batcode of not allowing either innocents or those whom no one would blame the heroes in fetishware leaving behind to perish. This culminates in a fairly literal cliffhanger that contributes to the Batguilt that shines in live-action and animated 21st century Batfare.
The aforementioned good production values and above-summarized interesting story makes "Subzero" well worthy of this release that shows the film proper regard. The bigger picture is that Archive gives DCU fans a chance to add to their home-video collection at a time that Warner Prime is producing copious new material and the good folks who purvey the classic material are giving us new chances to either revisit or to discover that which comes before it.
Giving the Warner Archive July 25, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1993 animated theatrical film "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" a portion of its due requires an extended review. The condensed version for the short-attention span readers who are used to 140-word news reports and six-second videos borrows a catchphrase from another unsung cult classic. Trust me, I know what I'm doing. Buy the fucking Blu-ray!
The numerous awesome aspects of "Mask" warrant starting from the general and narrowing in on specifics about this feature-film quality story that highlights the evolution, angst, and conflicting emotions that makes the highly damaged Bruce Wayne such a compelling and complex character.
"Mask" fulfills the pure purpose of a Blu-ray; to provide a (in this case spectacularly) enhanced version of a previously not widely available quality film or television series. The only criticism regarding this is that Archive deserves a tap (rather than a slap) on the wrist for not including any extras about this stylish and literally orchestrated film.
Warner Prime deserves credit for deciding that releasing "Mask" theatrically in an age that included direct-to-VHS movies was a chance its gotta take against all odds of the film breaking box-office records. The better news is that look at "Mask" nearly 24 years later verifies that the suits knew Jack back then.
The errors that contributed to "Mask" not having much of an opportunity to succeed back in the day included having incredibly limited marketing that neglected to spread the word that the wholly original "Mask" was not a re-release of episodes of the television series "Batman: The Animated Series" (by Batgod Bruce Timm) that spawned (pun intended) it. Further, releasing underdog (pun intended) "Mask" on Christmas Day 1993 pitted it against films that included "Schindler's List," "Philadelphia," and "The Pelican Brief."
"Mask" additionally suffered from coming out in a pre-widespread-web era in which that Al Gore invention was mostly being used for its intended purpose of sharing the fruits of scientific research. Word-of-mouth largely was limited to that means of spreading the news about the latest and the coolest out there.
Millennials must remember as well that it was not quite hip-to-be-square in the early '90s. San Diego Comic Con was much more limited in scope and popularity; further, having a "My Other Car is the Batmobile" bumper sticker was not entirely off the risky scale that plastering a pink triangle or a rainbow flag on the rear window of your car represented.
Society-at-large had not greatly embraced fanboy or gay culture at that point. That was one reason that many gay folks turned to fellow outcast fantasy aficionados for a sense of community. They too did not let being considered "queer" deter them from being themselves.
The following YouTube clip of the "Mask" theatrical trailer highlights both the above and the following aspects of this "must-own" release.
Readers who are still here now get the reward of learning specifics about "Mask." It is richly and vibrantly drawn with apt sharp angles. Further, the deep rich orchestration is appropriate for the operatic themes of the film (and evokes great thoughts of the quality music of the Looney Tunes theatrical shorts). As mentioned above, this production is ideal for a Blu-ray release.
The high concept of the film is that the titular grim reaper style specter with the literally chilling voice is hunting down and eliminating mob bosses on the Gotham home turf of our hero. The Rodney Dangerfield aspect of Batman (and Marvel counterpart Spider-Man) is that he is not getting any respect. The rank-and-file members of the Gotham Police Department believe that the Dark Knight is the murdering vigilante, and they are dead-set (pun intended) on shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later because dead men tell no tales.
The simultaneous big event in the life of Batman/Bruce Wayne is that the one who got away comes back. Former coed/heiress/main bat squeeze Andrea Beaumont literally jets into Gotham after the requisite decade-long absence. One of several flashbacks in "Mask" shows how this pair initially meets cute when Wayne comes across Beaumont speaking to the grave of her mother.
Related scenes have a pre-bat Wayne talking to the grave of his parents. A truly Messianic moment has a happyish Wayne begging his deceased mother and father for permission to end his suffering by abandoning his pledge to avenge their deaths.
Uber-veteran Batvoice god Kevin Conroy does his usual superb job bringing this character to life; having equally prolific (and talented) "China Beach" vet/Lois Lane voicer Dana Delany is a slightly odd but highly successful choice.
Also-still-going-strong Joker voice actor (and current Jokeresque Trump impersonator) Mark Hamill once again steals every scene in which he conveys the utter madness of his character. He joins the action out of a survival instinct related to knowing that he in on the animated version of The List of Adrian Messenger. This aspect of his origin story is one of numerous highlights of "Mask."
These current events converge to keep Wayne on the typical edge of sanity that his limited human contact keeps him from fully going over to the dark side. His To-Do List includes coming to terms with saving the bad guys, capturing his competition who does not follow his capture-and-release to the police philosophy, avoid having the GPD gun him down while he is out doing their job, and seeing if he and Andrea can make it work the second time around.
The aforementioned flashbacks chronicle both the course of the Brucea courtship and the evolution of Wayne from grieving son to Dark Knight. (Many other critics note that "Mask" is one of the few Batfilms to show the period leading up to Wayne becoming Batman.) These scenes further provide present-day Wayne with clues related to the mystery of who is killing the great mob bosses of Gotham.
The past and the present fully merge in the climatic scene between the primary ensemble. This further avoids the Hollywood ending that typically eludes Batman.
It is no mystery that this Blu-ray is highly recommended. The flashback of this review is imploring readers to buy the fucking Blu-ray!
Fans of "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Scooby-Doo" and the scads of other Hanna-Barbera classic animated shows can relate to the not-so-youthful exuberance of your not-so-humble reviewer on recently visiting (and writing about) "Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning," which is open through May 2 2017, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Exhibit curator extraordinaire Jesse Kowalski inviting me to interview animator/vintage HB toy collector David Nimitz, who loaned 300 of the 4,000 items in his collection to "Architects," made me extraordinarily more ecstatic than the average bear.
Nimitz stating that his favorite HB shows included the "sweet ones" such as "Yogi's Gang" and "The Flintstones Kids" further illustrated his kind and gentle nature. Learning that he is the live-in caretaker for a 99 year-old friend (and delights in surprising her with HB toys that he finds at swap meets) fully makes the rest of us look like dirt.
Examples of the dedication of Nimitz to the exhibit included an offhand remark that he bought a "Speed Buggy" board game to supplement the small amount of merchandise from that (Unreal TV reviewed) series in his museum displays. He further spoke of the incredible effort that he devoted to those cases and expressed his disappointment that a Scooby-Doo bank could not be included because it was too tall for the available enclosure.
One of countless highlights of the nearly two-hour telephone conversation with Nimitz a few days later was his stating regarding the 18 months that Kowalski devoted to creating "Architects" that "he really put his heart into it, and it shows." An even more apt way of stating this is that Kowalski and Nimitz are the true dynamic duo of the HB universe, which includes "The Superfriends."
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Nimitz further demonstrated his deep love for HB in discussing his introduction to animation. He shared his excitement of being a 17 year-old intern on "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" after years of riding his bicycle to the HB studio and rummaging through the trash for discarded animation drawings and cels during his younger days.
His numerous subsequent projects included the films "Space Jam" and the cult classic "The Iron Giant."
Mother Knows Best
An advance apology to Nimitz for asking the same questions that he has answered 1,000s of time resulted in discovering the origin story of this righteous dude. The first trite inquiry related to asking when the collecting habit of Nimitz evolved from amassing cool stuff to becoming a vocation.
He initially and generally stated that "It just has always been there since I was about five." He added that "my mother was really into it because I was into it." Learning next that Mrs. Nimitz began packing away the toys to protect them from young David earns this mother of the century the gratitude of "Architects" visitors who get to see the museum-heist worthy contributions of her boy to the exhibit.
Nimitz next discussed that he did not become the literally museum-quality collector that HB fans know and love today until his 30s. His stating that that was when he began going into the garage of his mother to get his toys was highly relatable to memories of the numerous times that the parents of your not-so-humble reviewer told him that he could keep a few items and must toss the rest.
The awesomeness of this coolest mom in the neighborhood extended beyond her lovingly storing the aforementioned treasures for two decades; she had been adding to the collection by attending swap meets on her own.
Nimitz also shared a tale of an even more awesome milestone in his collection. He stated that the secretary of recently deceased Joe Barbera gave Nimitz a huge box of HB toys in 2008. He noted that that bonanza prompted him to inventory his collection.
Nimitz subsequently noting that "it took a life time to realize the destiny of these toys" demands an enthusiastic "Amen, Brother."
The Holy Grail of Collectibles
The next trite inquiry related to asking about the Holy Grail of collectibles. Nimitz stated he currently was into a line of Mexican vinyl figures, and that "nothing really gets me like old old Scooby stuff from the late '60s and '70s." On a more general note, he stated that many collectors looking for the same toys hindered efforts to acquire coveted items.
One that has eluded Nimitz for years and would drive lesser collectors stark raving mad was having every character in the Italian Mini Flexy "Jetsons" collection except Elroy. An odd note regarding this line (which "Architects" includes) is that the doll for the patriarch of this space-age nuclear family is identified as Chico, rather than George, Jetson.
Nimitz further shared regarding that series that "Astro is very hard to get [from any line] because everyone loves him so much." He stated on a related note that "without Astro, there would not have been Scooby-Doo."
Nimitz was unsure of the exact reason for the "Chico" error but noted regarding other anomalies that "the weirder the better," and "the cooler the toy." One of numerous examples was a doll of tow-headed Barney Rubble having green hair. Nimitz explained regarding errors of that nature that toy companies had to work off black-and-white versions of "The Flintstones" and other cartoons of that era and made their best guesses regarding colors.
To Box or not to Box, That is the Question
The rote questioning continued with asking Nimitz for his opinion regarding the age-old question of whether it is best to keep a toy in its box or take it out and use if for its original purpose. His reply was "I'm all for the boxes; boxes of older stuff often are worth more than toys." He went on to describe a find that was in its packaging as "a double score." That logic included that that packaging typically had characters on it.
This wisdom included that one never knew when one would need to sell a toy to pay the bills.
The conversation turning to the Cartoon Network era of television animation included discussing Seth MacFarlane, who arguably is the Howard Stern of primetime cartoons. The discussion of the work of MacFarlane on CN series such as "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Johnny Bravo" included your not-so-humble reviewer opining that the proposed MacFarlane reboot of "The Flintstones" would have been deplorable. Fears included crude lesbian jokes regarding the Wilma/Betty relationship and Fred being a clone of the crass Peter Griffin of "Family Guy."
Nimitz politely but strongly defended MacFarlane. The most ringing endorsement was that "the core of Seth is that he is a Hanna-Barbera kid; I know that for a fact." Nimitz stated as well that MacFarlane realized that the Flintstones characters were so beloved that anyone who attempted a reboot would be incur tremendous scorn.
Learning of Mariana Trench depth of love that Nimitz has for his collection and the shows with which that treasure is associated required asking about his plans for his legacy to continue. He responded that his ideal would be to purchase the "Flintstones" themed campground/RV park/diner/gift shop Bedrock City near the Grand Canyon and turn it into a museum that would display his 4,000 and growing items. He noted that a spontaneous road trip there several years after he last visited the park has led to making that journey an annual pilgrimage.
You Oughtta Write a Book
The conversation then shifted to Nimitz discussing a book on which he was working; it was a catalog of his collection that organized his toys by the company that made them and the year that they were produced.
Nimitz pointed out that his method made more sense than the approach of others who organized comparable books by character of series, rather than by product line. He expressed the opinion of HB fans everywhere in noting that we wanted to see everything that was in a collection on the same page.
Exit Stage Left
The exhaustive chat with Nimitz and the stab at sharing all of his insights in this post require wrapping things up with sincere thanks to Nimitz and his mother for preserving such an enormous portion of '60s and '70s pop culture. Nimitz deserves additional thoughts for being so kind and generous regarding discussing this labor of love.
'Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning' Exhibit at Rockwell Museum is Yabba Dabba Doo Worthy
[EDITOR'S NOTE: An article on an interview with world-class animator/Hanna-Barbera toy collector David Nimitz, who provided the museum every toy for the exhibit, also is on Unreal TV.]
Children of the '60s and the '70s (and other lovers of Saturday morning cartoons) must raise a bowl of tasty sugar-laden cereal that comprises the delicious part of a delicious nutritious breakfast in tribute to Norman Rockwell Museum curator Jesse Kowalski.
This former exhibitionist at the Andy Warhol Museum bringing both his curatorial talent and his love for the Scooby gang and the 1,000s of other Hanna-Barbera creations to Stockbridge, Mass. is why your not-so-humble reviewer and 1,000s of others who have uttered "yabba dabba doo" at least once in their lives have had the privilege of seeing "Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning" at the Rockwell Museum. Having Kowalski guide me through the exhibit was like personally seeing Willy Wonka show off his chocolate factory.
The copious information that Kowalski shared included that the exhibit has been incredibly popular. He noted that it set a record for Fall shows and blew an exhibit of the work of comic book artist Alex Ross "out of the water."
One Scooby-worthy mystery that Kowalski cannot solve is why the late-'50s H-B cat-and dog series "Ruff and Ready" is a "lost" treasure. The historic significance of this first television effort by "Tom and Jerry" creators Hanna and Barbera includes it being the first Saturday morning show that is all cartoons, rather than a primarily live-action series in which a flesh-and-blood host incorporates cartoons that begin life as theatrical shorts in the program. Speculation regarding "Ruff" not achieving the same status as later H-B offerings is that our animation gods use this show to work out the kinks that their classics lack.
Alas, the exhibit tour did not end with owning the 100s of drawings, animation cels, video clips, and case-smashing worthy vintage merch. that comprises the exhibit. The exhibit catalog, which has reprints of much of the aforementioned art and photos of the aforementioned collectibles, is a nice consolation prize. Buying Funko-style toys of Daphne and Velma of "Scooby" fame when exiting through the gift shop is another highlight.
Folks who have not visited the exhibit have until May 29, 2017 to do so. Parents of K-12 kids particularly have the option of making this an April vacation week activity that the whole family truly can enjoy,
The exhibit fulfills the same ideal as a documentary film in that it equally entertains and informs. The scope extends from the early days of this 60-year partnership/friendship to the near present. Highlights are early rejected sketches of the Flintstones and other classic characters and concepts, such as "Josie and the Pussycats 1,000,000 BC," that never see the light of day.
Awesome verification that your not-so-humble reviewer is in sync with the exhibit is writing the caption for the below image of "The Flintstones" preceding Kowalski telling the tale of a female reporter who responds on seeing it in a pre-exhibit promotional campaign that it deplorably depicts whom your not-so-humble reviewer calls "sexy Wilma." Kowalski states that his respectful response to the real-life Lois Lane includes asking her to consider that this image is from the relative caveman period of the early '60s compared to the more enlightened "Jetsons" era in which we live.
Another highlight of the show (and a Herculean labor of love by Kowalski) is an interactive touch-screen exhibit with a homepage display of thumbnails of 96 HB characters. Touching a small image opens a page that allows you to read about that character, see video clips with him or her, and listen to related sound effects.
Light-hearted personal disappointment regarding not seeing Goober the disappearing dog of the Scooby clone "Goober and the Ghostchasers" prompted Kowalski to good-naturedly share that he was told to pick 96 characters. He and I both understood that that limitation precluded including the favorite HB creation of every visitor.
An underlying theme of the exhibit that is awesome for folks who suffer from the current big studio practice of producing films that blatantly sacrifice art for commerce is that Hanna and Barbera maintain both quality and the bottom line. The primary technique is the cost-saving practice of limited animation that the exhibit describes. An obvious element of this is the oft-repeating backgrounds on "Flintstones" and other Hanna-Barbera productions.
The audience additionally sees how Hanna-Barbera are true pioneers of television and how they successfully adapt to changing regulatory and cultural environments. This explains how "talking animal" Hanna-Barbera offerings lead to superhero and other action-adventure shows, which leads to animated versions of prime-time hits, which evolve into series such as "The Flintstones Kids" and "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo." (Nimitz began his animation career as a 17 year-old intern on "Pup.") You also will learn how the combination of governmental and consumer influence ultimately kill off Saturday morning cartoons.
Kowalski further proves his entitlement to induction in the Fanboy Hall of Fame in sharing at the end of our sadly less than three-hour tour that he will continue curating animation exhibits for the Rockwell museum. His reasoning that these shows further the objective of the institution to educate the general public about the legendary The Saturday Evening Post illustrator for whom the museum exists makes sense.
The statements of Kowalski that he wants to keep classic cartoons and other animation in pop culture (and that many young visitors do not know about Scooby-Doo) endears him to the heart of your not-so-humble reviewer. Readers of early manifestos know that Unreal TV owes its existence to larger sites rejecting coverage of "TV Land shows" that does not generate enough income to satisfy the suits. The specific founding principles of this boutique site include keeping Lucy Ricardo and Ralph Kramden in the public consciousness.
On a larger level, it is nice to learn that Hanna and Barbera are guys with whom you would want to share a mug of cocoa while watching their creations do the things that endear these men to all of us.
Unreal TV 2.0 evolves from http://classictvdvdreviews.blogspot.com/ (which stillis up.) Both sites are labors of love dedicated to preserving the golden and silver ages of television and film and celebrating new content that values art over commerce. The same principle applies regarding boutique hotels.