These belated thoughts on the Pixar film "Soul" streaming on Disney+ commence with sharing the joy as to this film exceeding every expectation. The starting point is the film looking visually stunning viewed on a Sony 4K television; this is compared to the meh video quality of (reviewed) "Wonder Woman 1984" on HBO Max.
A related note is that "Soul" is the COVID-19 era equivalent of appointment TV from the era before widespread VCR ownership. A personal coping mechanism as to a virtual lockdown is to anticipate a special movie and watch it while eating a favored theater-style snack. Not having to smuggle such treats in a cineplex is a bonus.
The bigger picture (no pun intended) is that the tale of frustrated middle-aged jazz pianist Joe (Jamie Foxx) facing enormous obstacles as to fulfilling his life's ambition truly appeals to kids of all ages. If anything, the existential issues are a little over the heads of toddlers and tweens.
The too-numerous to individually mention accolades for "Soul" include 45 awards.
The following "Soul" trailer provides a good sense of the concept of the film while highlighting the superb animation that shames the other exceptional Pixar titles.
The "fun-for-all-ages" concept commences with the opening scenes of middle-school band teacher Joe, who is an exception to the rule that those who can't do teach, trying to get his untalented, and/or/lazy, and/or unmotivated students to develop a "you're in the band" proficiency. The insult that is added to this injury is that Joe has never made it as a working musician.
The game-changer comes in the form of a former student getting Joe an audition as the fill-in pianist for the renowned Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) Quartet. Although this is music to the ears of Joe, his running to tell Mama is a letdown in that she feels that never having made it as a musician supports sticking with the security of the stability of the teaching gig.
Joy on being selected to join the Fantastic Four leads to a distracted Joe emulating '20s silent classics in the form of obliviously narrowly avoiding fatal accidents until dropping in on the workplace of Ed Norton of "The Honeymooners." This leads to an out-of-body experience on a moving stairway to Heaven.
Believing that Heaven can wait, Joe attempts a great escape. This results in his ending up in the Great Before.
This limbo has elements of the MUST-SEE 1991 Meryl Streep comedy "Defending Your Life" in which the recently departed face a hearing that determines that whether the place from which they can check out any time but can never leave will be Heaven or Hell, Pixar borrows from its literal emotion-laden tween angst film "Inside Out" by having Before be the place that adorable blob-like souls are prepared for entering the bodies of newborns.
The process begins with a blob seemingly randomly assigned to a hive that establishes a general personality. Folks who recall the pre-VCR era will find particular humor in an observation that an undue number of these future essences end up in the self-absorbed community. The final stage before sending a soul to inhabit an infant is a deceased person serving as a mentor to a soul to provide the spark that drives that future meat suit.
Fugitive Joe is assigned problem-child 22 (Tina Fey), who has defeated Mother Teresa and many other historic figures in her quest to avoid going to earth. Not-quite hilarity ensues in a manner that leads to emulating the MUST-SEE Carl Reiner 1984 comedy "All of Me" in which the soul of the character whom Lily Tomlin plays possesses the body of the character whom Steve Martin portrays.
In typical Disney fashion, both Joe and 22 receive enlightenment and figuratively if not literally live happily ever after. The "Kobayashi Maru" style cheating to thwart an anal bureaucrat greatly adds to the joy of the conclusion. The final film homage is a stinger that directly pays homage to the end-of-credits clips in "The Muppet Movie" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
The appeal of "Soul" extends beyond candy-coating deep thoughts in an entertaining story. This film, like "Inside Out" and the Pixar film "Coco," aptly shows that its audience is maturing to a point that it can handle (and savor) more vegetable with its fluffy confections.
An upcoming DVD release from aptly named Indican Pictures shows that two films that are awesome in their own right can form a righteous unlikely friendship. "Zombie Bro," which is available on streaming platforms and that has a January 26, 2021 DVD release, successfully unites two very different worlds.
Non-musical "Bro" combines the best of the all-singing all-dancing Disney "Zombies" franchise that reflects "ARGH v. Board of Education" and (personal fave) 1995 dark-comedy "Welcome to the Dollhouse."
"Dollhouse" centers on the trials and tribulations of hysterically awkward (aptly named) seventh-grader Dawn Wiener. Dawn having to contend with a "little princess" younger sister is one of several common elements as to "Bro."
The fantastic four festival wins for "Bro" include a Best Feature Film award at the 2019 Indie Gathering International Film Festival and "Best Young Actors" honors at the 2019 Shart International Comedy Film Festival.
The following "Bro" trailer PERFECTLY conveys the dark humor as to the dysfunctional nuclear family dynamics that are at the center of arthouse Blumhouse film.
The opening scenes show that writer/director May Grehan strikes the ideal balance between exposition and getting down to business. Tween Francine (aka Frankenstein) provides voice-over narration to accompany crayon drawings of her family that clearly is not the Cleavers.
The action shifting to a family dinner at which Francine is considered the problem child despite comically gory evidence that titular sibling Teddie is not like other boys. The blissful ignorance that is characteristic regarding the golden child in a family includes that Teddie merely has a form of virus. This pretense extends to having to throw a dog chew toy to lure him into the garage where he must be locked when he is home alone. An apt aside is that dogs love chew toys because the squeak sounds like the crushing of the bones of prey.
Another piece of this puzzle is that Francine is a loner/loser at school, where she is the regular victim of scene-stealing bullies. These boys being blatantly selective as to their offensive remarks is a film highlight.
A series of seemingly fortunate events lead to Francine and a fellow outcast attending a school dance; The 'rents granting the wish of Teddie to tag along fully sets things in motion. The "dancing" of Teddy is another memorable scene in this never-a-dull-minute movie.
The inevitable climax as to Teddie fully showing that he is an excitable boy further proves that the low kid on the family totem pole don't get no respect. Learning whether this extends to Teddie hating Francine's guts requires watching the film.
The appeal of this well-told tale extends beyond the aforementioned blending of genres. Most of us with siblings either are the Teddie or the Francine in the family. Grehan, who presumably is the Francine of her clan, shows that this directly reflects how the 'rents treat each kid. The "King Lear" element at the end of "Bro" is the icing on the cake.
The facts that the taglines for the Christmas film "Saving Santa" are "Adventures of a Time Traveling Elf" and "Boldly Go Where No Christmas Has Gone Before" indicates that this truly delightful tale is not your father's Christmas fable. Blu-ray and DVD versions of "Santa" hit real and virtual store shelves on November 1, 2013.
This scifi yuletide story centers around aforementioned time-traveling elf Bernard, voiced by "The Hobbit's" Martin Freeman. Bernard scoops reindeer poop at Santa's stables but strives to be an inventor at Santech, which provides Mr. Claus with the gadgets and gizmos that he requires.
The primary obstacle to Bernard achieving his desired career change is that his inventions, which includes a reindeer translation device that does not transmits in English, does not quite work. As is typical in this type of story, the other scientist elves somewhat cruelly exclude Bernard from their games. Rather than laugh and call him names, they toss him out on the street.
The crisis that prompts Bernard to (repeatedly) engage in the aforementioned time travel comes in the form of an invasion by the wonderfully named rapid package delivery company executive Neville Baddington. Tim Curry does a wonderful G-rated version of Dr. Frank-N-Furter from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in voicing Neville.
Neville's twin disclosed motivations are desires to acquire the technology that allows Santa, voiced by genuine comedy legend Tim Conway, to make worldwide deliveries overnight and to get Neville's oppressive mother and boss Vera off his back. Charlotte Rae arch-nemesis Joan Collins of "Dynasty" makes Joan Crawford seem like June Cleaver of the '50s sitcom "Leave it to Beaver."
Although Bernard must time travel to "put right what once went wrong," he has an advantage over "Quantum Leap's" Dr. Sam Beckett in that he gets the chance to keep returning to the past "time after time." Like the titular character in the Jean-Claude Van Damme film "Timecop," the time-traveling version of Bernard must avoid contacting any other version of himself.
No one with the literary skills that comprehending this review requires should be surprised that things work out in the end. The great fun relates to seeing how Bernard achieves his mission. Additionally, there a very nice twist at the end brings the story back to the opening scenes.
Even nicer aspects of "Santa" are that it is a holiday film that adults can truly enjoy. The CGI animation is very well-done and has awesome backgrounds and bright colors; the voice actors are well-known and perfectly cast; the story maintains a nice pace and has enough classic scifi (including a Scottish elf frantically stating a need for more power) and action-adventure references to entertain those of us whose current bedtimes do not require asking to stay up late to watch "Frosty" and "Rudolph," and the songs are genuinely catchy.
The final "naughty or nice" evaluation of this one is that it is a great option for stuffing a stocking and is worth popping in the Blu-ray or DVD. On a related note, being placed on Santa's naughty list for "encouraging" people who do not move at traffic lights or leave parking spaces because they are talking or texting on their phones to move should provide for an automatic appeal.
A review of the theatrical release of Disney flick "Toy Story 4" aptly notes that "Toy Story 3" ends the adventures of Woody (Tom Hanks) et al on a perfect note that should have been the end of the story. This evokes strong thoughts of "Crystal Skull" being such a huge (and inconsistent) follow-up to the sublime "Last Crusade" in the Jones trilogy. Both "4" and "Skull" make one yearn for the days when big-screen tributes would consist of bigger, bolder, re-releases of the classics.
One of a two related general notes is that the once groundbreaking but now mature Pixar technology does not hold the same thrill as it does as to "Toy Story" (1995), which is the first Pixar feature film. Although "4" looks spectacular in 4K, it seems that even folks who could not color within the boundaries or draw a straight line but now can suss out how to operate an Apple watch can learn the Pixar system and do as well as (if not better than) the "pros."
The next related note is that a combination of having 4k at home and Disney sinking to the level of merely shamelessly rehashing old ideas has led to no longer seeing Disney films in theaters; it does not take long for 4K sets to hit the $15 mark, which is not much more than the price of a matinee ticket.
One of the biggest narrative flaws of "4" is that it quickly abandons the fun (tinged with some darkness in "3") of the original trilogy. Speaking from the perspective of someone who largely shares the views of W.C, Fields regarding kids (but not animals), "4" preying on the deepest fears of children is highly disturbing. This is aside from the creepy aspect of "Story" lore that the toys play dead whenever a meat suit of any age is around.
The cold open of "4" lulls viewers into a false sense of security as to both quality and tone. It is a flashback to a simpler and kinder time nine years ago. Now college man Andy is a happy everykid, and his friends with active secret lives are a large part of his life.
Sheriff Woody leads a harrowing covert mission to rescue an RC car that is left out in the rain; the thoughts regarding "It" are moderate, Bo Peep plays a pivotal role just ahead of being boxed up and shipped out. Woody pursuing this soulmate provides foreshadowing of stranger things to come.
We then move to the present; the Freudian nightmare begins with a superficial room cleaning leading to an angsty Team Woody being locked in the closet of new owner Bonnie, The symbolism is apt as to Woody and his rival for the affection of Andy turned best buddy Buzz Lightyear. The horror continues when all but Woody, who aptly remains trapped in the closet, make a great escape.
Woody soon takes (and mostly retains) center stage when he stows away in the backpack of Molly to support her during her kindergarten orientation; the activities of that day lead to Molly making new kid on the block Forky. Forky is a spork with googly eyes, a pipe cleaner for arms, and Popsicle stick feet.
Forky being a dim-witted freak is perfectly fine, and the other toys welcoming him into the tribe sends a very positive message. The problems with this character extend well beyond his intense suicidal tendencies in the form of frequent aggressive attempts to throw himself into the trash.
Suspension of disbelief allows accepting that toys that at most are occasionally brought to school can articulately think and talk. The fact that they have ears allows accepting that they can hear. However, Forky can speak within seconds of his "birth" and does not have ears.
A more annoying issue relates to big brother figure Woody explaining to Forky that the latter is a toy (rather than trash) because Bonnie writes her name on his feet. The first flaw in this logic is that the "Story" kids and their real-life counterparts do not "mark their territory" as to all of their playthings. There is no personal memory of ever having done that.
The even more annoying aspect of this is that, per Woody, the food that I would bring to work would come alive in the refrigerator. This is not to mention the beer that I would put in the counselors' refrigerator when spending college-era summers at a camp. The "Story" logic provides that I drank my friends and ultimately subjected them to an even worse fate.
The illogical plotting fully take place when Bonnie takes her toys on a RV road-trip; Forky does not suffer any harm on jumping out of the window of a vehicle that is going at least 45 mph. The same is true as to Woody, who goes after his friend. Woody stating that he easily can catch up with the group when they stop 5.3 miles down the road builds on this frustration as to the lack of logic.
A less annoying aspect of this is the bigger plot point that the "good" toys repeatedly go to great lengths to prevent Molly from losing current favorite toy Forky. Once more returning to real life, I do not recall any soul-scarring trauma on getting separated from favorite toys. The angst of Molly relates to Millennials and the next generation always getting participation ribbons and having every whim indulged.
Things turn truly dark on Woody and Forky taking a detour on almost reaching their destination; Woody finding evidence of Bo Peep prompts him to drag Forky into a dark antique shop. This leads to a fateful (and potential fatal) encounter with evil queen of the shop Gaby Gaby and her even more creepy ventriloquist dummy minions.
The plot thickening agent at this point is that Gaby essentially wants to harvest a kidney of Woody in the form of replacing her defective voice box with his functional one. The rest of the story is that this plaything that makes Annabelle look like Raggedy Ann thinks that an ability to speak when her string is pulled will prompt someone to want to take her home.
Woody gets away at the cost of Forky becoming a hostage; this leads to a standard "Story" development of the toys embarking on a perilous mission.
The most disturbing event as to the ensuing lack of hilarity would be a major spoiler that evokes thoughts of a #MeToo villain. The toys subsequently putting themselves at great risk solely to help psychopath Gabby is slightly less upsetting but makes absolutely no sense.
Another bothersome aspect of trying to find Gabby a good home reflects the same nth degree of corporate greed of Disney under Czar Robert Iger as does the film itself.
Team Pixar clearly is trying to guilt parents into buying their little darlings every toy that they want; the idea is that the Forky (or the Sven the reindeer, etc.) on the shelf at the Disney store will be miserable until a child brings it home to love. Again, I still like toys and collectibles (and have shopped at Disney World stores) but have not blinked an eye as to leaving lion cub Simba collecting dust under harsh fluorescent bulbs.
The bottom line regarding all this is that the cult of Disney is so pervasive that the above observations will not influence many people; however, these musings reflect that this childhood favorite studio is loosing its grip on those of us smart and insightful enough to see through the mouses**t.
The Mill Creek Entertainment December 10, 2019 Blu-ray and steelbook Blu-ray CS sets of the 1967-68 series "Ultraseven" arguably is the best entry in the MCE very-strong series of "Ultra" releases. It is inarguable that this collection with spines that form a combined image will make the day of any fanboy (and the inner 12 year-old lad in everyone else) that finds it under the tree a in a couple of weeks. This will even be more so, as MCE shares, when Marvel launches "Ultraman" comics in 2020.
One aside is that (like he other MCE "Ultra" releases), the "Ultraseven" BD looks and sounds amazingly pristine. MCE also maintains the "Ultra" tradition of a booklet that almost goes to infinity and beyond as to supplementing detailed episode synopses with things such as monster and tech. profiles.
A second aside is that the "Ultraseven" theme is ultra addictive. You WILL find yourself shouting "SEVEN, SEVEN, SEVEN."
Although subsequent series (such as the reviewed "Ultraman GEED" and also reviewed "Ultraman Orb) offer copious "Power Rangers" style fun, "Ultrasevn" has a more mature and less frantic tone. It clearly reflects recognition that the (reviewed) "Ultraman" fanbase is becoming a little older.
The lore of "Ultraseven" is that our hero is a scout from the Land of Light in Nebula M78 who comes in peace at a time that the natives of many other planets are actively working to invade Earth. The latest nefarious scheme takes a page out of the scifi cult classic of the era "Mars Needs Women" by seemingly randomly beaming up humans while they are engaged in their daily routines.
A page out of "Batman" '66 comes when two members of the elite Ultra Guard of the Terrestrial Defense Force have just roared their version of the Batmobile out of their version of the Batcave when they almost rundown Dan Moroboshi, who (unbeknownst to his new friends) is our essentially robot in disguise.
Dan helping the men avoid a potential alien probe leads to this stranger quickly joining the band as he seventh member of the Ultra Guard. Of course, Dan covertly reverts to his true form at the 11th hour.
The next episode is one of two early ones with a Trojan Horse theme. It has a guard member return from an outer space mission only to soon discover that the man in their midst is an alien plant.
The fifth episode has the "Lost in Space" style villain-of-the-week get inside the head of a world-class scientist who is en-route to TDF headquarters to provide a tech. upgrade. The Cold War era fun extends beyond this automaton figuratively leaving the base with its pants down. He manipulates the team into thinking their member with the best chance of saving them is an alien spy.
All of this leads to the exciting two-part series finale with the spoiler title "The Biggest Invasion in History." Although he is in a highly vulnerable state, Dan insists on continuing to fight the good fight and push his limits beyond his endurance. Of course, our team (and fans) still get a Tokyo ending.
As indicate above, "Ultraseven" keeps the fun coming without resorting to stereotypical Japanese Jerry Lewis style overreactions and bumbling. The tight-knit Ultra Guard has that designation for a reason and are much more "Top Gun" than "F Troop,"
Cartoon Network provides another reason for which to give thanks as to the November 12, 2019 DVD release of "Steven Universe: The Movie" (2019). Series creator Rebecca Sugar brings the band back together after the end of S5 of this bright and bold series to do it once more with feeling as to the life of our half-alien half all-American boy in the future. One warning is that the theme of this all-singing all-dancing musical extravaganza WILL get stuck in your head.
Folks who either are unfamiliar with this creative series that appeals to kids of all ages or who simply would like a refresher on the lore are invited to read the post on the extras-laden S2 DVD giftset of the show, Team Sugar does include enough of the backstory in "Movie" to enjoy the film even for folks who have not had the joy of discovering this gem.
Our fable begins with our little prince on Homeworld, where he chooses to defend Earth, rather than ascend to the throne that is his birthright. His rookie mistake is having his speech that explains his reasoning broadcast throughout the universe. On returning to his home turf of Beach City, Steven has a gleeful (pun intended) reunion with his terrestrial and extra-terrestrial friends.
The sense of being excited and feeling so good because they are reunited is short-lived for our avenging holograms. Sister from another planet Spinel soon arrives to prove that Hell hath no fury like a gem scorned. The basis for her resentment is very relatable to all of us who have had a friend ghost us.
A very apt description is that Spinel is the close childhood friend of the pink diamond who is the mother of Steven. Spinel, who is a combination of a Powerpuff Girl and annoying big sister DeeDee on "Dexter's Laboratory," thinks that she is joining her friend on her trip to Earth only to be ditched long, long ago in a galaxy far far away.
The havoc that Spinel wreaks by messing with the mojo of Steven and resetting his gem friends to their defaults is nothing compared to her end-game that puts Thanos to shame. She is using a massive drill to literally poison the earth with a substance that kills all organic life on our planet. This is akin to the awesome documentary series "Life After People."
The Herculean tasks that Steven faces are curing the effective amnesia of his friends and also reaching Spinel so that she will abandon her evil ways. The former mission commences with staging Looney Tunes style threats to trigger a merging that is key to "Universe" lore. Stage Two involves using the power of music to jog the memories of the good gems to soothe the savage beast that threatens all. This includes having the show go on despite our heroes facing the end of the world as they know it.
The appeal of "Movie" is that, like Thanos, Spinel is looking to do the wrong thing arguably for the right reason. Although those of us who massively have been ditched in the worst possible way reasonably feel resentful, inflicting any (let alone global) collateral damage simply is not cool.
This being a cartoon by a major Hollywood studio for a basic-cable network ensures a happy ending for our Scooby gang and the planet. Seeing where our heroes go from here requires watching S6 when it premieres on Cartoon Network.
The best feature among the DVD bonus extras is the 27-minute "Behind the Curtain" documentary that starts with Sugar discussing how a "don't try this at home" mishap inspires the "Movie" plot. Thus leads to assembling her team, who go on a retreat to hash out that idea and take things from there. The feature "Rebecca Pitches Act 3" discusses the fruits of those labors of love. The fable here is that collaboration and respecting the input of all leads to very good things.
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate November 19, 2019 DVD and Blu-ray releases of (reviewed) "Ultraman Orb: Series and Movie" and topic du jour "Ultraman GEED: Series and Movie" continues the "be true to your school" MCE principle of faithfully continuing to make entries in a franchise available, Today's releases follow October 2019 MCE DVD and BD sets (including AWESOME steelbook BDs) of (reviewed) "Ultra Q" and (reviewed) "Ultraman." This is not to mention an MCE steelbook of sci-fi classic "Mothra" from the good folks who produce the "Ultra" titles.
Watching all four "Ultra" series in Blu-ray removes any doubt that the pristine (often vivid) images and crystal-clear sound of that format is worth the upgrade from DVD. However, consistent experience with MCE allows confidently stating that those "Ultra" versions also are well remastered.
Like all good sci-fi and offerings that keep franchises alive, "GEED" does not break what does not need fixing. It also borrows elements from the genre to which it remains completely faithful.
The highly flawed but most relatable "GEED" perspective for American fanboys is that "GEED" is a mash-up between the "Power Rangers" and the current "The Flash" series. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
The strong "Rangers" elements begin with the action sequences that almost universally pit comically odd and large monsters against one or more (often equally large) hero in "Rangers" style armor. The similarities extend to heavy doses of Japanese style juvenile comic relief. There are prat falls, excessive demonstrations of fear, and live-action anime antics galore.
"Flash" elements begin with our adorkable 20-something hero Riku Asakura initially having moderate meta abilities that he does not understand. He, ala Luke Skywalker, soon learns that his parentage blesses him with special powers that destine him for greatness.
The first member of Team GEED is cowardly snail-like alien Pega. Pilot episode developments lead to these friends/roommates discovering an advanced underground command center ala the headquarters of the titular "Torchwood" in that Doctor Who spin-off. This soon becomes their home with the help of their Gideon-style AI friend REM.
The "Rangers" aspect of "GEED" is especially strong in early episodes in which a possessor of a "little star" attracts the monster of the week by publicly displaying the power that that celestial object bestows on that chosen one. This leads to Riku transforming into the titular hero to come to the aid of the threatened innocent. This, in turn, culminates in the star transforming into a "super capsule" that Ultraman GEED adds to his utility belt as a tool against current and future evil.
These early episodes also have Riku assemble his avenging team of close friends that mostly are close to his own age. A strong "Flash" aspect of this is the group is his essential foster sister, who works for a covert "Men in Black" organization that eliminates alien threats with extreme prejudice. That woman reminding her potential rival of childhood shared baths with Riku shows the depth of her feelings for the group leader.
Bumbling corporate drone family man Leito "Cisco" Igaguri provides wonderful old-school elements and much of the aforementioned hilarity. Ala the "Ultraman" origin story, Leito severely injuring himself in a selfless heroic act is the start of a beautiful (and highly symbiotic) relationship with Ultraman Zero, who less selflessly needs a meat suit,
Leito is a classic Clark Kent down to the dorky horn-rimmed glasses. He stumbles and stutters through his daily routine until looming danger requires that this lovable humble shoeshine boy transforms into champion of justice Underdog.
The "GEED" film for the ones-season series follows the sci-fi spirit of seven seasons and a movie. This well-produced film provides copious "GEED" and Ultraverse lore. We see how it all began, witness one character have a change-of-heart, and have the treat of all of our heroes getting their chances to shine. This is not to mention Riku essentially hanging up his cape after an existential crisis that includes self-doubt after failing a "chosen one" test.
All of this tying into a literal earth-shattering threat and the Ultraverse version of The Green Lantern Corps helping out is a nice bonus. Of course, an epic final battle ensues.
The moral to this tale as old as time is to respect the voice of experience. The real-life Team Ultra has been doing their thing for 50 years when they produce this latest (but hopefully not last) entry in the franchise. They always do it right and are experts at respecting the past at the same time that they keep things fresh.
Mill Creek Entertainment once again proves itself to be a fanboy god by separately releasing DVD and Blu-ray sets of "Ultraman GEED" and our current topic "Ultraman Orb" (2016) on November 19, 2019. These come on the heels of MCE October 2019 "Ultra" releases that are the topics of prior posts that can be found in the MCE section of this site.
Part of the genius of these "Ultra" series, which relates to the genius of their American cousins "Power Rangers" series, is that that they purposefully target actual 12 year-old boys and the inner 12 year-old boy in all of us. This consists of bright-and-bold action, truly hilarious broad comedy, and always bringing something new to the table while incorporating fresh elements. This is why this 50 year-old franchise (ala "Scooby-Doo") still is growing strong.
Speaking of "Scooby," our central group of "meddling kids" investigate and report on X Files under the name "Something Search People." The game of three is easy as to this group in that one definitely would want to marry level-headed tomboy/den mother Cap, "mate" with adorable excitable boy Jetta, and snuff the brains/mad scientist of the operation Shin.
Unbeknownst to the gang to varying degrees for varying periods, their buddy Gai is the titular main man this time; his old-school elements include relying on a power surge that last for three minutes to rise to the occasion and vanquish the evil alien monster that is the threat of the week. Suffice to to say that the source of his needed boosts are elemental.
Gleefully evil arch-nemesis Juggler contributes ample amounts of campy fun. Not having watched every "Orb" episode precludes stating whether Juggler ever actually steals candy from a baby.
"Orb" evokes thoughts of the Ted Turner ecotoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers." The comparison begins with the elements of wind, fire, earth, and water separately being key aspects of the first several episodes. These begins with a variation of the films "Twister" and "The Wizard of Oz" as to the SSP crew getting caught up in a tornado in which they witness a battle between the monster behind that destructive force and a robot-like man whom they come to know as their superfriend.
The "fire" episode is one of the most clever and dramatic. Ultraman temporarily saves the day as to a "second sun" that is massively speeding up climate change. This leads to his crashing to earth and convalescing with more than a little help from his friends. A cute and funny epilogue has Jetta getting worked up over a universal sin of a roommate only to quickly find that the culprit is honorable.
The "water" episode is a pure delight. The foul brother from another planet in this one is making water supplies incredibly malodorous. Jetta finds this out the hard way while taking a shower. Very family-friendly hi-jinks in a Japanese bath house provide additional charm.
The lore-establishing episodes lead to a delightful tale in which an alien lures a clueless Cap into a trap that is designed to capture her friend Kai.
All of this culminates with the "Orb" movie that fulfills its duties to be even bigger and bolder than the series and to include an epic battle that results in an equally spectacular finale. An especially Scooby aspect this time is that much of the action centers around a mysterious mansion that provides the setting for a classic Scooby style chase through rooms and hallways.
That home plays a key role in an Earth-threatening plot by an evil alien sorceress, who essentially wants her precious. Juggler also plays a key and somewhat ambiguous role in the form of often doing the right thing while asserting that he is doing so for the wrong reason.
Our other key player is an Ultraman who has a "Tron" like existence in that he is living in the most advanced Gameboy ever. He sets much of the above in motion by seeking out the SSP team because of their association with Gai.
One of the most exciting scenes involves a revelation to which the boys have an infectious reaction.
The enthusiasm and skill with which the cast and crew produce these adventures make what could be cheesy effect and wooden acting a true delight that does the "Ultraverse" proud.
Warner Archive once more shows awesome follow-through in releasing "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s V3' on September 17, 2019. These theatrical shorts from 1948-49 follow (reviewed) 1940s V1 and (reveiwed) 1940s V2 from earlier in the titular decade. All three (to the extent possible) pristinely remastered sets are among the 1,000s of examples of Archive showing classic films, cartoons, and television their due respect.
The many spectacular aspects of these cartoons as both separate units and as a whole includes seeing how new technology and styles guide the evolution of the literal and the figurative themes of these timeless treasures.
The back-cover notes remind us of the prime example of the technology. A paramount (pun) intended effort to make a three-strip technique (Beta) an alternative to Technicolor (VHS) is fully on display. Archive delves into this in a preface to "A Wolf in Sheik's Clothing." That one has Popeye come to the rescue when the titular predator makes Bedouin eyes at Olive.
This set of 17 cartoons from the adolescence of Popeye begins with the self-explanatory prophetic outing "Olive Oyl for President," This best gal of our squid taking offense at his scoffing at the idea of a female president sets the stage for the extended "If I Were President" musical number.
Sexist hilarity ensues as Olive describes a '40s women's Utopia. This includes the men staying home while female executives dictate correspondence to hunky male secretaries. Another aspect of this Great Society is a tax system that greatly favors getting married over being a bachelor.
The first historical adventure is "Wigwam Whoppee" in which Pilgrim Popeye woos Indian maiden Olive to the great distress of the chief who has both eyes on that squaw; a highlight is Popeye making his foe look like a real turkey.
Our soulmates also attend the first Olympics in a self-explanatory adventure titled "Popeye Meets Hercules." This one has the competitors vying for gold in the form of Olive.
The arguably most ambitious short also is the longest; much of the additional three minutes in the highly meta and surreal "Popeye's Premiere" is devoted to Popeye and Olive attending the titular first screening of the Popeye version of the story of "Aladdin." Popeye is an embarrassingly excitable boy throughout that evening that proves to be enchanted.
The handful of times that arch-nemesis Bluto shows up includes the (sadly) relevant "Snow Place Like Home." Popeye and Olive are enjoying the beach of the city that's got style Miami when a sudden freak storm whisks them (ala "The Wizard of Oz") to the Great White North, which they find is not a beauty way to go.
It is par for the course when mountain man Bluto, sans any siblings or spouses, tortures Popeye in ways that include giving him a fur coat that a bear still is using. Of course, the rest of this story is that our #metoo offender succeeds in wooing Olive until it no longer is fun. This requires that Popeye 'roid up on spinach and put right what once went wrong.
The rest of these animated adventures are equally true to form and entertaining. They literally can't make 'em like that any more in this era in which killjoys have sapped much of the fun out of cartoons by forcing the removal of most of the surreal (and ABSOLUTELY harmless) violence.
Warner Archive makes one giant leap forward for fanboykind in releasing the 1962-63 ready-for-primetime first season of "The Jetsons" on Blu-ray on Sept. 10, 2019. The futuristic aspects regarding this extend beyond this enhanced format that brings the animation of the series up a couple of notches; "Jetsons" is the first series that ABC broadcasts in color.
This release is part of an awesome (and seemingly endless) animation domination by Archive. One Summer of Love addition to this homage to classic cartoons includes a (reviewed) Blu-ray release of fellow primetime series "Jonny Quest,"
Other highlights include putting right what once went wrong as to undue delays in releases of Golden Age of Hanna-Barbera series that include (reviewed) "Wally Gator" and (reviewed) "Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har" DVD sets. Hope remains high as to a "Touche Turtle" release before Columbus Day,
As an aside, your not-so-humble reviewer is among the first to have pre-ordered the epic collectible 50th anniversary CS BD set of (thankfully Scrappy-free) "Scooby-Doo Where Are You" from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. That back-to-school treat comes out on September 10.
"Jetsons," which uses the formula of wholesome family sitcoms as the template for an animated sitcom set in 2062, is one of many examples of the brilliance of Hanna and Barbera. They build on a winning format to create new fare for our fun and their profit.
In this case, fellow primetime series "The Flintstones" begats our titular space-age family of the future. A lesser known example is the (reviewed) '70s Saturday morning series "The Roman Holidays," which is set in the days of chariot races.
Of course, HB takes this business model to an even greater extreme as to the numerous "Scooby" series and variations on that theme of four teens and lovable mascot solving mysteries. Mystery, Inc. teaming up with Josie and the Pussycats to solve the mystery of the haunted showboat in an episode of "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" that also is fairly new to DVD is even more of a dream come true than the (also on DVD) made-for-TV movie "The Jetsons Meet The Flinststones."
The "Jetsons" Blu-ray proves that that series remains timeless at roughly the half-way mark between the original broadcast run and the era in which the family of the future resides.
The regular theme of that family being unduly lazy is now funny because it is true. This is coming from a guy who avoids even the minimal effort of Googling the spelling of words by asking his Amazon Echo Dot for that information; this is not to mention the nightly routine of spending more time repeatedly shouting to the Google nest in the other room to turn a light on and off than it would to get up and walk across the room to flip the switch.
This aspect of "Jetsons" is apparent from the first episode. The burden of highly advanced technology that includes a food preparation system comparable to replicators in "Trek" lore and Roomba vacuums in our own lives is fully stressing out typical housewife Jane Jetson (Penny Singleton of "Blondie" fame). Jane continues following this classic sitcom model by calling her mother for advice.
Our stereotypical TV Land mother-in-law suggests that Jane get a robot maid. The rest ironically is history in that this how Rosie (a.k.a. Rosey) the robot (Jean "Wilma" Vander Pyl) becomes a member of the family. The fun of that character extends to HB basing Rosie on uber-popular live-action sitcom domestic servant Hazel; these similarities extend to Rosie calling head-of-household George Jetson (George O'Hanlon) Mr. J.
HB doubles down regarding sitcom staples in this one by having the arrival of Rosie coinciding with boss Mr. Spacely (Mel Blanc) coming over for dinner. ANYONE who has seen ANY sitcom knows both that that evening does not go smoothly and that all works out in the end,
Another still-relevant aspect of modern life that "Jetsons" introduces in the first episode and continues throughout the series is George feeling beleaguered as to having to do his job of pushing the same button over and over for the grueling schedule of three hours a day three days of week. Of course, this evokes memories of the scene in the pilot of "Downton Abbey" that mines humor from the then-new concept of a weekend.
Similarly, many current college students likely are unaware that Saturday classes were common up through the '60s. Your not-so-humble reviewer is dismayed that his alma mater now does not hold any Friday classes or even open the cafeteria on that day.
This TV Land fun continues right to the 24th and final episode until the series is revived in the '80s. Innocent six yer-old everykid Elroy (Daws "Yogi" Butler) hooks up with some bad influences after a domestic crisis. This follows episodes in which George and Mr. Spcacely make strong efforts to sneak off to a football game, Jane comically tries to learn how to drive, George thinks that he is about to die, etc.
The truly special Blu-ray bonus features begin with cartoon-voice legend Janet "Judy" Waldo providing audio commentary on two episodes. A related backstory is replacing Waldo with then teen superstar/mall singer Tiffany in "The Jetsons Movie" and no treating Waldo very well regarding that entire matter.
We also get the aptly animated short doumentaries "The Jetsons: The Family of the Future" and "Space Age Gadgets." The latter compares the 1962 vision of the future with the reality of the early 21st century.
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 1972-73 Saturday morning cartoon series "The Roman Holidays" should remove any doubt regarding Hanna-Barbera (H-B) earning the title of "All-time King of Saturday Mornings." Like the similar recently released DVD set of "Help!...It's The Hair Bear Bunch," "Holidays" is even better than remembered.
Greater "Holiday" cheer is likely attributed to its primary target audience of Gen Xers having a much better understanding of the humor of this "Flintstonesesque" series set in 63 A.D. Rome than they did 40 years ago.
Many of these children of the '70s did not understand the joke "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" back in the day. The same is true as to the humor regarding a Centurion traffic cop asking "Where's the fire, Nero" when pulling over a speeder.
The great humor and lack of a laugh track in "Holidays" evokes memories of Alan Spencer of the hilarious '80s cop show spoof sitcom "Sledge Hammer!," successfully lobbying for removing the laugh track from the episodes in the DVD release of "Sledge." Spencer plainly stated that the audience did not need to be told when something was funny. Trust him; he knows what he's doing.
"Holidays" followed the highly successful "historical context" formula that H-B utilizes in "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons."
In the case of "Holidays," the middle-class nuclear Holiday family live an early '70s American style life in ancient Rome. Dad Gus mows the lawn and watches football, mom Laurie keeps house and guides Gus and the couples' two children through life. Teen son Happius (a.k.a. Happy) plays in a band and has a steady girl; tween daughter Precocia is the golden child who begs Laurie to allow her to wear a mini-toga.
Rather than a lovable dinosaur ala "The Flintsones" or a wonderfully dopey dog ala "The Jetsons," the Holiday family pet is a tame accident-prone lion named Brutus who loves Gus as much as Dino and Astro adore their "daddies."
"Holidays" also supports the theory that Hanna and/or Barbera have a thing for Gingers that may rival Alfred Hitchcock's preference for blondes. Laurie Holiday, Wilma Flintstone, Jane Jetson, Josie of "Josie and the Pussycats," Tina of "Goober and the Ghost Chasers," and Daphne of "Scooby-Doo" are all red-heads. This percentage of women in the H-B universe with that hair color far exceeds the norm in the general real-world population.
Just as the Flintsone family put a stone age spin on their vernacular and household possessions and the Jetson clan transforms everything into a space motif, the Holidays gear everything to the society of their days. This often takes the form of adding "ius" to celebrity names. Stefano McQueenius is a popular star, and Naderius is a consumer advocate.
Examples of tricking out everyday items Roman style include sundial and hour-glass watches, televisions that display numbers in Roman numerals, and newspapers coming in scroll form.
Similar to Fred Flintsone and George Jetson, construction worker Gus Holiday toils for a hot-tempered boss who regularly threatens to fire him and withdraws awarded raises and promotions. Gus has the additional woe of appropriately named Mr. Evictus, who is as tempermental as Gus' boss and often threatens the family with eviction from their home in the amusingly named Venus De Milo Arms apartment building.
Evictus' threats prompt one of the series' most amusing moments. Precocia asks during a ride in the family's chariot if they can take a detour through the park so that she can see where they will be living.
Like "Bear," "Holidays" also benefits from an awesome group voice cast.
Stanley Livingston, who provides the voice of Happy right after finishing a phenomenonal 12-year run as middle-son Chip Douglas on the sitcom "My Three Sons," is tied with veteran comedian Dom DeLuise for most recognizable name to Gen Xers. DeLuise does the same awesome job portraying Mr. Evictus as he does with his better-known roles.
H-B voice god Daws Butler, who brings Brutus to life, is almost as well known as Livingston and DeLuise. Butler makes this scene-stealing character a cross between "The Wizard of Oz's" cowardly lion and Butler's portrayal of classic H-B character pink mountain lion Snagglepuss.
Character actor Dave Willock provides Gus' voice; his other high-profile H-B gig is as the narrator of the hilarious late-60s series "Wacky Races." "Races" is notably for leading to the equally good spinoffs "Dastardley and Muttley in their Flying Machines" , which has the very catchy theme song with the lyrics "Stop that pigeon; stop that pigeon; stop that pigeon now, and "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop."
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions that I share are my own,]
The proper perspective regarding the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment August 27, 2019 Blu-ray/DVD combo. pack and separate DVD releases of the 2019 horredy film "The Banana Splits Show" is context. The first example is that setting a gorefest at the modern taping of a real live-action kids' show from the late '60s arguably is better suited to the '90s.
The Clinton years is when wholesome fare such as the "Splits" series and "The Brady Bunch" enjoys renewed popularity under the very flimsy guise that hipsters like such entertainment ironically, A common aspect of this is putting a dark twist on a childhood favorite ala the big-screen "Brady" films.
This is from the perspective of a guy who has had his Google home assistant repeatedly play the infectious "Splits" theme since learning of "Movie" several weeks ago. Whether this also prompts doing the spastic "Splits" dance requires pleading the Fifth.
The press materials for the film perfectly convey the above by describing "Movie" as "get nostalgic and horrified all at the same time while watching the trippy '60s characters in this all-new tale about fear, power, and an oversized puppet rock-band."
The following trailer for "Movie" further illustrates the nature of this creative take on a classic.
The next bit of context is that ANY mashing up of two disparate genres is almost certain to result in a compromise in the form of everyone getting something that he or she wants but hopes for more. A brighter aspect of this is that "Splits" fans get their first new material in decades.
"Brady" further plays into "Movie" by contributing to a more ideal premise than the one used.
Young and obliviously dorky Harley seems to literally be the biggest fan of "Splits" 50 years into their run. It is indisputable that he is in for misery (not to mention much more agony than ecstasy) when mom Beth sets him and the rest of the family on the road to Hell via her good intentions as to buying tickets to a taping of "Splits" as a birthday present for Harley.
The rest of the clan is 19 year-old slacker/loving half-brother Austin, and Harley dad/Austin step-dad Mitch. The one friend of Harley calling in sick leads to young girl Zoe being drafted to round out the group,
All of this turns out to be a textbook example of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The animatronic American Idols already are turning evil thanks to reprogramming when sudden news of an imminent cancellation of their series fully triggers their homicidal instincts and related Cylon-caliber glowing red eyes. A kinder and gentler version of this is the hilarious leaked photos of real Disney "cast members" engaged in adult behaviors while wearing the costumes of the characters whom they portray.
It seems that a "Brady" episode in which the bunch encounters the Splits and other Hanna-Barbera characters while at the King's Island amusement park in Cincinnati provides a no-brainer basis for "Movie." Even if the folks at the ironically named Blue Ribbon Content production company that makes this film could not get license right to use the Bradys, it seems that a "Westworld" tale (ala the Simpsons at Itchy and Scratchyland) of an all-American family having to flee the rampaging Splits at a theme park would provide perverse entertainment.
Although it would slightly distort "Brady" lore, many folks would perversely delight in seeing Cousin Oliver suffocate from having his head shoved in a cotton-candy machine. That, and his being why the family goes on the trip in the first place, would remove any doubt as to his being a jinx.
Returning to our actual movie, this Willy Wonka style adventure starts on a happy note both for our family and a self-proclaimed influencer and his girlfriend. Things are slightly less happy for the young daughter of the stage father, who is obsessed with using the taping to get his Honey Boo Boo discovered. Fans of "Wonka" can guess how things end for the folks who are not pure of heart and/or deed both in the audience and on the production team.
The creepy backstage area fully becomes the killing fields of our literally dead-eye murderers; highlights include an obstacle course of death and using a lollipop as a deadly weapon. This is not to mention a macabre banana split that costs an arm and a leg.
The rest of this plan involves providing a captive audience of children an endless show while the adults wait in the wings.
The most unintentionally amusing aspect of all this is that ignoring the elephant in the room allows keeping the body count from further escalating.
The DVD and Blu-ray extras include two "making-of" features; a memorable scene in those is seeing the actual guys in the costumes and hearing their tales of trying to navigate while dressed that way. An amusing fake news report can be considered a highlight reel.
The final act to all this is not a "rock out." it is a reminder that "Movie" should be judged in the context of entertainment in the form of distorting something sweet into something acidic for the sick pleasure of those who find such twists entertaining,
Warner Archive gives kids of all ages a special back-to-school treat regarding the August 20, 2019 blu-ray release of the 1990 Jim Henson adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's story "The Witches." The fun begins with casting future silver-screen Morticia Addams Anjelica Huston as Eva Ernst/Grand High Witch.
The typical bright and bold remastering by Archive is another bewitching element of this one.
The accolades for this BAFTA-nominated film include well-deserved Best Actress wins for Huston at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, and the National Society of Film Critics Awards.
It is a travesty that the incredible Henson Company effects are snubbed awardwise.
The following SPOILER-DRIPPING trailer for "Witches" will make you believe that a boy can squeal. This embracing of the story by all involved is the icing on the cake as to this tale by the author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach."
The proper mix of exposition and starting the action uses the same method as fellow literary classic turned awesome flick "The Princess Bride." Nine year-old Luke is in Norway, where his paternal grandmother Helga (Mai Zetterling) is telling him about her childhood experience with witches snatching her friend and imprisoning her inside a painting until this captive grows old and fades away.
Helga also provides good foreshadowing in the form of telling Luke how to see through disguises that witches don to blend in with us muggles. The additional lore regarding the dislike with extreme prejudice that characterizes the attitude of witches toward children provides Luke a hilarious excuse to not regularly bathe. Parents and significant others of adolescent and post-adolescent males are advise to try this technique as to using Axe body spray,
Subsequent events lead to Helga and Luke moving to England, where the training that the latter has received allows him to avoid extreme stranger danger,. He figuratively goes from the frying pan into the fire when a seaside holiday with Gram coincides with a surprisingly successfully covert witch convention at the same hotel owned and operated by Mr. Stringer (Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson).
While at the hotel, Luke befriends a Dahl stereotype in the form of pudgy gluttonous Bruno Jenkins. That problem child is staying there with his wealthy and demanding father (Bill Paterson) and mother (Bremda Blethyn).
The rest of this "Harry Potter" caliber British cast includes Jane Horrocks of "Absolutely Fabulous" playing to type in her role as the quirky assistant of Eva.
Luke is in the right place at the right time in that playing with his pet rodents in a meeting room allows him to listen in on the plan of the not-so-beloved sorceresses to transform all of this children of the world into mice. He is in the wrong place at the wrong time in that the attendees find their eavesdropper and use him as a guinea pig.
Our hero must now determine if he is a man or a mouse in that he either will beat tremendous odds in stopping the fagless hags from tuning his peers into rodents or will lean to accept his new normal.
Hilarity and chaos ensue in equal measure as to the climax regarding which (no pun intended) the objective is to give the villainesses a taste of their own medicine,
Henson and Dahl save some of their best for last as to the epilogue. We learn that staying calm and carrying on is not always required,
The larger truth is that the genius of the aforementioned collaborators is their skill in creating children's fare that appeals to everyone; "Witches" has plenty for anyone who qualifies as friend or family to love.
Warner Archive digs particularly deep into its figurative Vault of the Obscure to release the July 30, 2019 four-disc CS DVD set of ""Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero." (1967). It seems that many of us who grow up on the '60s and '70s Hanna-Barbera fare that is fueling the current Archive Animation Domination first learn of this "Speed Racer" caliber Nipponese anime cousin of fellow '60s action-adventure cartoon "Space Ghost" through this release.
This release roughly coincides with its unwarranted inclusion in a 2019 Comic-Con panel in which animation historian Jerry Beck labels "Cypher" as one of the worst cartoons of all time. The highly catchy theme song and the expression "evil dwarf scientist" in the opening narration of the pilot (no pun intended) alone earn this entertaining space camp more respect than that.
A major problem with "Cypher" relates to the lesson of the cult-classic scifi series "Firefly" a few decades later; that MUST-SEE show suffers from a CONSCIOUS decision to get right down to business without providing any exposition. That is a remedied misdemeanor in the case of "Firely" and a felony as to "Cypher."
The following description of "Cypher" is "borrowed" from the DVD back cover. This review is based on watching roughly 20 of the shorts in the set, and roughly 1/4 of the lore that the liner notes discuss is not covered in any of those episodes.
Archive shares "Johnny Cypher, brilliant scientist of the future, becomes humanity's greatest hope for survival when he discovers the incalciulable power of Dimension Zero, an indestructible force which enables him to travel through time and space in superhuman form. Hovering above Earth in his space satellite, Johnny maintains his space vigil with the aid of his beautiful assistant, Zena, and a friendly Martian named Rhom."
The liner notes do not mention that the hyperactive annoyingly voiced Rhom surpasses Scrappy-Doo in the Hall of Fame for Toxic Cartoon Characters, A little bit of Rhom goes a painfully long way.
The fun begins in "The Vulatarian" with the aforementioned evil little green man essentially using a dirty bomb containing a powerful sleeping gas that knocks out the population of the "Jetsons" like urban center "Sky City." He Cosbys these folks to facilitate his minions stealing all of the community wealth.
Our titular hero uses his titular power to travel a great distance to bring truth, justice, and the American way.
The aside this time is that the Archive August 2019 Blu-ray release of "The Jetsons" OS already has the aforementioned men (and women) children drooling in anticipation.
"The Doll Invaders" is an early "Cypher" highlight. Johnny investigating weird goings-on at a stately home that already attracts attention by virtue of being in a wasteland leads to the best-ever plot involving modern Trojan Horses. Ala many series (including "The Simpsons") in which an infectiously endearing doll is brought into every home for an evil purpose, Johnny discovers that the cargo that is being beamed into the house is far from what it seems.
"Gravity Belt Mystery" is particularly fun and includes a strong "Superman" vibe. (The Archive catalog includes A DVD set of the vintage "Superman serials.) Zena is a passenger on a skyjacked routine run of the Mars and Earth shuttle. As the title suggests, the plot revolves around why the skyjackers only take the titular "Jetsons" esque devices.
Ala Superman, Johnny initially flies in to rescue his best girl. His then tracking down the crooks reveals the real gravity of the situation that does not make any sense, This episode also is notable for Johnny using a clever means to access the dial on his belt that allows him to access the titular dimension, It is predicted that one of the unwatched episodes is the one in which the mad scientist du jour adequately subdues Johnny to remove his belt and store it beyond his reach.
As mentioned above "Cypher" is great nostalgic fun for veterans of classic after-school and Saturday morning cartoons. They also are short enough and filled with enough action to appeal to Millennials and Gen Zers who have been glued to their screens their entire lives. You "kids" are invited to say that you like "Cypher" ironically.
The Warner Archive July 9, 2019 2-disc DVD release of the complete series "Lippy the Lion and "Hardy Har Har" (1962) awesomely contributes to the ecstasy that is the Archive continuous and seemingly endless revival of its classic Animation Domination. This Renaissance arguably begins with the MUST-OWN (reviewed) June 2019 Blu-ray release of "Jonny Quest" OS and continues at least through an August 2019 BD release of "The Jetsons" OS.
The temporary agony as to this domination relates to "Lippy," along with the recent (reviewed) Archive release of "Wally Gator" only bringing literal and figurative children of the '60s and '70s 2/3 of the way toward owning all three series that make up the syndicated "The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series."
Pure instinct and youthful exuberance indicate that Archive will release "Touche Turtle and Dum Dum" before the end of September 2019. Buying "Lippy" and "Gator" will help make that a reality sooner rather than later. The bigger picture regarding this is that two out of three ain't bad, but a trifecta is much better.
The release of "Touche" also would allow Saturday-morning sofa spuds with three DVD players to recreate each episode of "Series."
Folks who are interested in learning more about the era of "talking animal" shows in this Golden Age of Hanna-Barbera are asked to please read the "Gator" review. That post provides some insight into the productions that begat the action-adventure fare that begat "Scooby" and his clones, and it all was good.
"Lippy" is notable for having two HB all-stars voice the titular king of the jungle and his ironically named hyena sidekick, Daws Butler voices Lippy, and Mel Blanc voices Hardy. The rest of the story is that Butler uses the same voice for Lippy as he does for time-travelling Peter Potamus, whose '60s series also is in the Archive DVD catalog.
Lippy is an always annoyingly gleeful optimist who almost certainly wears rose-colored contacts. His primary challenge is to get his equally always incredibly glum chum, who literally thinks that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train and often is correct, to be positive and to laugh. A semi-spoiler is that an episode in which Hardy laughs is the best moment in the series,
The concept of "Lippy" is a little broader than most HB shows from any era and arguably is one that is closest to the spirit of "Looney Toons." Rather than rely on a single concept, such as the Scooby gang stumbling on an X-File or Gator escaping from the zoo only to find that there is no place like home, "Lippy" shows a bit more variety and is even more rife with vaudeville-style slapstick.
Each "Lippy" starts the same with our animated George and Lennie travelling the globe. The variety comes in the form of the reason for their wandering and the catalyst for their action. It often is survival, but may be part of get-rich scheme that Lippy is just as confident will succeed as Hardy is that it will fail. The latter always is expressed by the catchphrase "oh dear, oh my." There also are times that the pair simply find adventure while on the road Kerouac style.
The "Lippy" pilot "See Saw" sticks to the basics. Our pair is stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Hardy is lamenting their imminent demise when Lipppy uses spotting an island as a reason for Hardy to be optimistic. The combined bad news is that this arrival coincides with a pirate burying his booty and leads to Lippy and Hardy being Shanghaied.
An especially notable cluster of episode air early in the "Lippy" run. "Smile the Wild" finds the desperate time in the form of extreme hunger lead to the desperate measure of Lippy passing off Hardy as an escaped wildman from a circus in order to claim a reward. Of course, the real McCoy shows up and imperils the jungle boys.
"Film Flam" finds Lippy and Hardy vacationing in Hollywood. A cartoon-staple form of misunderstanding finds a film director mistaking Lippy for an actor in a lion suit. Hilarity truly ensues this time.
"Gunflighter," which directly follows "Film," has Lippy passing Hardy off as the titular quick draw. The figuratively real McGraw showing up leads to an exceptional conclusion that highlights what Hardy brings to the table.
The "Hick Hikers," which is especially is especially looney toons in tone, finds Lippy climbing a previously unconquered mountain merely to accomplish that feat; Hardy is dead weight in tow and characteristically constantly bitching.
Our mountain-climbing lion achieves his objective only to find that a welcoming committee in the form of a ram is not at all sheepish about protecting his turf from interlopers. This leads to a hilarious game of king of the hill.
As virtually every post on animated and live-action Archive releases state, the fact that they do not (and will not) make 'em like that anymore provides reason enough to add "Lippy" to your DVD collection. This wonderful reminder of the era before killjoys take the highly entertaining violence out of cartoons is sorely needed in this era in which watching almost constant consequence-free knocks on the noggin is just what Dr. Patch Adams ordered.
The too-numerous-to-mention Warner Archive Blu-ray and DVD releases of classic Hanna-Barbera animated series has long made Archive the darling of literal and figurative children of the '60s through the '80s. Two relatively obscure examples that are especially close the heart of sugar-cereal loving sofa spuds are the 1972-73 Saturday-morning "Flintstones" clone "The Roman Holidays" and the ready-for-primetime "All in the Family" satire "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home" from the same era.
Archive particularly stepped up its animation domination game with several (and rapidly counting) 2019 releases. Standouts from earlier this year include the reviewed (1993-95) series "Two Stupid Dogs" V1 and the even more awesomely old-school (also reviewed) "Kwicky Koala" CS from the early '80s.
Archive is building on this by establishing a pattern of releasing several DVD or BD sets of HB series each month over the past few months. Standouts include a phenomenal reviewed BD set of "Jonny Quest" OS CS, and an (also reviewed) "Popeye: the 1940s" V2. Long-awaited upcoming releases include "Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har" CS AND the even more obscure "Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero" CS.
All of this is shared in the context of the Archive June 25, 2019 DVD release of "Wally Gator" CS. The broadest context of this 1962-64 series begins with these adventures of the anthropomorphic reptile being a prime example of the "talking animals" era of HB ahead of Spider-man and his amazing friends invading Saturday morning prompting HB to shift its focus to "Quest" and other scifi and/or adventures of humans. "Gator" also is similar in style and theme (down to the appearance and demeanor of the local beat cop) as the HB 1961-62 primetime series "Top Cat."
Each "Gator" episode centering around Wally either escaping from his Bronx Zoo habitat and experiencing comic trauma-and-drama that sends him scampering home or having events at the zoo cause him distress arguably helps inspire the HB 1971-72 series "Help, Its the Hair Bear Bunch." Other similarities include HB all-star Daws Butler (Wally) providing main characters in each series voices and Archive having a "Bunch" CS DVD. Further, a 1970s syndicated series teams up "Wally," "Lippy," and "Touche Turtle." Fairly safe money is on Archive pulling "Touche" from the vaults before the end of 2019.
"Wally" starts strong with "Droopy Dragon." This one pays homage to the 1932 classic film "The Most Dangerous Game" that involves hunting humans. Wally goes over the wall only to find himself being pursued by a senile nobleman who mistakes him for a dragon. "Dragon" also immediately establishes "Wally "as one that they won't make 'em like that anymore. Wally smokes cigars, is constantly shot at (as he is in several other outings), and is the victim of copious other cartoon violence that literally does not leave a scratch on him. Real-life buzzkills roughly a decade later ruin all this fun.
Another prime example of "Wally" not reflecting our modern times is an episode centered around a return to his native Everglades. Our star being a Florida native is not enough to avoid having a rough Confederate alligator (complete with a rebel cap) label him a Yankee and oust him from the swamp. This prompts several thwarted attempts by Wally to emulate General Sherman.
Other notable adventures include playing along to an extent with an Indian boy engaged in a rite of passage, being a key ingredient in a potion of a witch, and having a granted request for a wife lead to spousal abuse.
The appeal of this reflects the value of "Tom and Jerry" and many other classic animation series. The trick is finding fresh and entertaining variations on a tried-and-true theme.
The final thought regarding this lengthy discussion of Archive animation releases in the context of the "Wally" release is that NOBODY did Saturday morning cartoons better than HB in their golden era. These shows should be celebrated for their strong contributions to television history.
The Warner Archive June 18, 2018 SPECTACULARLY restored Blu-ray release of "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s V2" is part of a trifecta of June 2019 Archive releases of classic animation that aptly show pride in that dead art in this era in which computers do all the drawing. The other two releases are the (soon-to-be-reviewed) equally bright-and-vibrant June 11, 2019 BD of "Jonny Quest" OS (including awesome special features and the (also-to-be-reviewed) June 25, 2019 DVD release of "Wally Gator."
The first part of the rest of the story is that Archive also has re-released the separate three DVD volumes of earlier "Popeye" cartoons from Warner Bros Home Entertainment. The rest of the rest of the story is that "Gator" brings Saturday morning (and after-school) cartoon fans one step closer to having all their favorites included in the already extensive "Hanna Barbera Classic Collection" DVD series.
The bigger picture regarding these releases (and SO many more) is that they reflect one of many ideals that Archive and this unintentionally non-profit site espouses. Online friend of Archive and your not-so-humble reviewer Lucas states this principle well by commenting that he is glad that he is not the only younger person working to keep classic animation alive.
A manifesto that led to a sacking that led to "Matt Nelson Reviews" criticized the sacker site for being so corporate that it banned reviews of DVD releases of "TV Land" shows because they did not generate large numbers of hits. The aforementioned response to that policy expressed concern that future generations would not know who Lucy Ricardo and Ralph Kramden are.
"V2" picks up where (the reviewed) BD "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s V1" leaves off. This latest batch of 15 7-minute shorts are from 1946 and 1947. The note at the beginning of the self-explanatory "Popeye and the Pirates" that a figurative search of the seven seas for a print of the cartoon that lacks an obvious edit does not bear fruit further shows that Archive is in it for the love of the game.
"V2" starts with "House Tricks," which has every classic Popeye element. Our story begins with the titular sailor and fellow squid/enemy Bluto once again surprisingly strolling along together despite despising each other. They also once again come across object of their mutual affection Olive Oyl being a woman trying to do the job of a man.
In this case, the seemingly financially stable spinster is single-handedly trying to build a two-story house, rather than hire a contractor. The boys quickly take over the project and engage in their standard one upmanship in their individual efforts to get the girl.
Also as is standard, Popeye and Bluto escalate the conflict by either trying to sabotage the other or to get him to do the work of his friend regarding whom he obtains absolutely no benefit, A wonderfully hilarious dick move by Bluto in "House" has his tricking an oblivious Popeye to cut the wood that Bluto needs.
"House" remains true to form by having Bluto deliver Popeye a seemingly game-ending beatdown only to have that victim gulp down a can of spinach, turn the tables on his rival, and complete the primary objective of the cartoon, In this case, the task is completing the construction of the abode. The twist at the end provides a wonderful surprise.
"The Island Fling" is reminiscent of a similar "V1" offering. The earlier cartoon has Popeye and Bluto happily being the only humans on an uncharted desert isle when Olive Oyl comes along. A pact among the men to not romantically pursue the new arrival predictably comically falls apart.
"Island" has Bluto playing Robinson Crusoe, whose life changes when a shipwrecked Popeye and Olive come ashore. The efforts of Crusoe to woo Olive include the wonderfully period apt move of pulling out a book of etchings. Anyone who has ever seen even a handful of Popeye cartoons can predict both the nature of the hilarity that ensues and the outcome.
A few "V2" cartoons require social commentary. The highly offensive racial stereotypes (regarding which Archive provides its standard "chill out, Dude" disclaimer) are taken in stride ala the regular empty threats of spousal abuse in "I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners." However, another element of some Popeye cartoons is worth mentioning but does NOT provide a basis for boycotting them.
The source of criticism is the unduly rapey element of some "V2" cartoons; these involve outings in which Bluto drags off a literally kicking and screaming Olive while a pummeled Popeye minimally is dazed and confused until getting his hands on spinach. Seeing Olive just rescue herself just once by brutally kicking Bluto in his most vulnerable area would be epic.
"Amusement Park" starts out with Bluto using games to show his manliness only to have Popeye outdo him regarding every contest. This leads to our villain dragging our damsel in distress on a harrowing roller coaster ride until her hero in shining cotton saves her,
The even more bothersome "Klondike Casanova" involves a twist on "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Olive is a dance-hall girl at an Alaska saloon where Popeye wears many hats. Mountain man Bluto strides in and drags Olive off to his secluded mountain cabin. One spoiler is that efforts of Bluto to prevent Popeye from spoiling his fun does not include triggering an avalanche. Once more, the outcome is predictable.
As these musings illustrate (pun intended) the incredible appeal of Popeye and other classic cartoons is that they WON'T make 'em like that anymore. The violence against women and the racial caricatures are not good, but the comic violence is entertaining. Even a young child who does not realize that literally getting hit with a ton of bricks or that getting wrapped in chains and being dumped in the ocean is not ultimately harmless in the real world frankly is too stupid to be allowed to be unsupervised even in his or her home.
The Icarus Films March 27, 2018 DVD release of the charming 2014 French family comedy "Nicholas on Holiday" provides equally strong (and entertaining) reminders that spring is on the way and that the blessings and the curses of family summer vacations are universal. The bigger picture is that "Nicholas" joins the ranks of films such as "Dirty Dancing" that provide a look at resorts that cater to long-term stays by families. One difference is that nobody tries to put Nicky in a corner.
"Nicholas" opens with the titular pre-adolescent narrator about to be sprung from his Parisian elementary school for the summer. He learns early in this vacation that his family is going to break with their tradition of going to the mountains and are headed to the sea for a few weeks. Part of the cuteness relates to this trip requiring a separation from the figurative girl-next-door.
Copious amounts of the kid-friendly humor relates to "Granny" being an Endora-level thorn in the side of her son-in-law. One of the best scenes regarding this comes early in the film. "Mere" makes the argument regarding taking her mother on the trip that making an elderly person spend the summer in Paris is cruel; "Pere" responds that he is glad to take an old person with them, just not Granny. Mere winning by having Granny come along is predictable to anyone familiar with the relevant dynamics in the reel and real worlds.
More hilarity ensues when great frustration regarding a traffic jam en route to the resort prompts Pere to take an ultimately ill-advised shortcut. Incurring the wrath of the masses regarding his detour is only part of his problem.
On arriving, Nicholas joins a group of stock character young boys. These include the annoying know-it-all, the almost albino nerd, the kid who will eat anything, and the younger kid who is a cry baby.
The primary complication comes in the form of weird girl Isabelle. The threat of a pre-teen romance prompts Nicholas and his posse to implement several plans to deter her. The most amusing of these include a comically botched effort to present a bad boy image and a separate act of sabotage that is designed to send the girl and her clan packing.
For her part, Mere gets a taste of stardom that causes Pere great distress. This also requires balancing pursuing literal fame and fortune with being a housewife.
For his part, Pere hysterically obsesses about his relationship with his boss. This leads to sitcom staple of writing a letter in haste and repenting at leisure. The manner in which Pere resolves this is another highlight of "Nicholas."
One common element of all this is that Nicholas is an everykid whose efforts to influence anything that effects him epically fail. This, in turn, leads to a textbook example of something being tragic when it happens to us and hilarious when it befalls someone else.
In the end, our family returns to their everyday life. Like all real and reel tales such as theirs, the titular vacation influences some aspects of this but mostly is a fond memory.
Breaking Glass Pictures takes a short respite from releasing provocative in every sense edgy fare to offer the charming 2018 German family film "The Little Witch" on DVD. This joins the (reviewed) Disney Channel-like film "In the Doghouse" and the (also reviewed) tween-friendly scifi movie "Watch the Sky" as kinder-and-gentler items in the Breaking catalog.
The titular sorceress is the tender age of 127 in witch years and looks like a roughly 20 year-old muggle. Her Rudolph syndrome at the beginning of the film is that the adult witches are not allowing her to play their reindeer games. The issue is the determination that the witch is too young to join in annual festivities that include dancing.
Ignoring the advice of her talking raven friend Abraxas, the witch straddles her broom and flies off to crash the party. Everyone has fun until the powers-that-be discover the interloper, This leads to old-school punishment in the forms of giving the girl with something extra one year to learn the thousands of spells in a massive book "or else" and by essentially confiscating her wheels.
The comeuppances immediately lead to the ultimate walk-of-shame and more long-term transform our heroine into a more studious individual. Mild hilarity ensues regarding some of her efforts to cast spells going awry.
The literal rest of the story is that the rhymes-with-witch villainous Rumpumpel pops in several times intent on finding cause to cast out the little witch. This includes an equally amusing and child-friendly tense scene in which this unwelcome visitor shows up during the commission of the dual sins of entertaining children and casting spells in their presence. The general idea is that children should be scared (if not eaten) and not delighted.
Our rogue spellwoman further digs her figurative grave on using her powers for good, rather than evil, on another occasion on which Rumpumpel is lurking about.
This leads to the climax that is a year in the making; the little witch proves during her final exam that every little thing she does is magic. This leads to awesome in that she shows her tormentors to not fuck with her. Stating that this a game-changer is a massive understatement.
The first moral of this story are that being cruel to children and dictating your values to them is not the way to win their hearts and to keep the old ways alive. The second moral is that no one ever is to old to enjoy a cute movie.
The Disney March 26, 2019 DVD release of the February 2019 Disney Channel live-action "Kim Possible" movie does the 2002-2007 Disney Channel series of the same name proud. This includes excellent jobs recreating the unique exteriors of primary locations Chez Possible, Middleton High that the titular teen titan and goofy sidekick Ron Stoppable attend, and home of the naco Bueno Nacho. The homage continues with an awesome live-action remake (complete with Ron getting pantsed) of the series opening credits.
Although this tribute centers around scientist-turned-evil-genius Dr. "Drew" Drakken (Todd Stashwick) with a long history with the Possible family, other "Batman" '66 style villains also receive shout outs. Denying Lord Monkey Fist and Senor Senor Junior this honor is a travesty that the anticipated sequel hopefully will remedy.
The following YouTube clip of the "Possible" trailer includes a look at the Bond-style old open that also provides the origin story. This promo. additionally highlights the girl power vibe of the film.
Saying much more than that "Possible" is similar to the 2005 Disney Channel animated feature "Kim Possible: So the Drama" runs the risk of major spoilers. Suffice it to say that Draken (coiced by John DiMaggio in the series) again subjects Kim (Sadie Stanley of "Coop and Cami Ask the World") to specialized insidious psychological warfare.
The larger plot of Draken and henchwoman Shego (Taylor Ortega) is to swipe experimental government tech. with literally mind-altering potential,
The "B" story that truly is so the drama is straight out of "The Brady Bunch." Middle-school star/national hero Kim and Ron (Sean Giambrone of "The Goldbergs") are now lowly high-school freshman. Kim frienemy sophmore Bonnie does all that she can to add insult to that injury.
The "Brady" vibe continues with Kim and Ron befriending damaged new kid in town Athena; efforts to help this outcast fit in when she soon surpasses Kim on the soccer field, the classroom, and even on missions. This leads to the film moral that there is more to life than being the best.
Worlds collide when a mission to rescue Athena leads to a girls' night out on which Ron and a CGI Rufus the naked mole rat tag along. The ensuing highly Disneyfied Bond-style climax brings the main portion of the film to a satisfying end; the epilogue (including stingers) sets the stage for the aforementioned "Kim Possible II." We sadly have been waiting years for the PROMISED "Teen Beach Movie IV."
The copious short-and-sweet DVD extras begin with cute audition footage of our stars and goes on to a Q & A in which Stanley and Giambrone answer allegedly random questions from fans. We also get a music video of Stanley singing the infectious "Possible" theme. Be prepared to repeeately sing "call me, beep me, if you really want to reach me."
Warner Archive provides animation god Tex Avery an apt homage in releasing the complete series of "The Kwicky Koala Show" on DVD. Avery passed away while working on this swan song, which aired in the 1981-82 CBS Saturday morning lineup. The artistic success of this show relates both to it reflecting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude and by showing that the best of this genre is much more than anthropomorphic animated animal antics for cheap laughs.
The continuation of a proud heritage begins with the titular Australia native having the wimpy old-man voice that belies the beast within ala Avery creation Droopy Dog. The bigger picture is "Kwicky" following a variation of the format of the early '60s "talking animals" series of "Kwicky" producers Hanna-Barbera.
Our star is featured in the first cartoon of his show. We get additional shorts that include quasi-"Yogi Bear" homage/quasi-educational cartoon "Crazy Claws" and the "Top Cat" homage "Dirty Dawg." Fillers that consist of the Of Mice and Men style "two stupid dogs" duo George and Joey. Bungle. Their concept is constantly trying failed circus and vaudeville acts. (This site has a review of the Archive CS DVD set of "Dogs.")
"Scooby-Doo" legend Frank Welker brings the strongest VO star power to "Kwicky." Welker plays Dirty Dawg, whose partner-in-crime on the mean streets of their city being actual rodent Ratso adds a "Midnight Cowboy" aspect to this "Top Cat" style series about a couple of low-level hustlers constantly scheming while trying to evade hard-ass beat-cop Officer Bullhorn. All this arguably warrants a comparison to "Les Miserable."
The first outing for Dirty and Ratso essentially is a drag plot. Dirty convinces Ratso to masquerade as a small canine to compete in dog show that has a large cash prize. A "sit" that provides some of the "com" revolves around Dirty using classic cartoon tactics to eliminate the competition. Suffice it to say that that the other contenders for "Best in Show" do not react kindly to that sabotage.
We similarly see a scheme backfire on our pair when they succeed in obtaining entry into what seems to be a posh country club for dogs; they discover that karma can be the mother of all bitches. The same is true regarding a plot to chow down on hospital food.
The next best well-known name in the animation world is better known for his role on the classic sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Allan Melvin (a.k.a. Sam the Butcher) plays dim-witted Joey Bungle. His contributions to the continued failure of his act includes responding to George confessing mid-high-dive that he is afraid of water by moving the tub in which his brother is attempting to land.
John Stephenson is the Rodney Dangerfield of the animation world; this relates to his 254 IMDb credits including many classic cartoon series but most people at best knowing him as that guy that was in that thing. Stephenson channels the snarky effeminate persona that Paul Lynde uses for his predatory canine characters in other HB series to play Kwicky foe Wilford Wolf. The success of this sincerest form of flattery succeeds to the extent of untrained ears likely thinking that Lynde voices Wilford.
A "Kwicky" cartoon that appears in an early episode likely is the intended pilot. Our lead breaks the third wall by directly addressing the audience on coming out of his cute little house. He explains that most people incorrectly believe that koalas are slow. We soon learn that they are very fast.
The conflict this time is that Wilford wants to capture Kwicky to collect a large bounty that a hunter is offering for a koala. Wilford uses his cunning, rather than his Acme-style devices and his physical attributes, in his effort to capture his prey.
Last but not least is "Crazy Claws." The most notable aspect of this series about the titular wildcat with almost adamantium-caliber claws is the aforementioned educational element. Park Service employee Ranger Rangerfield works in botany lessons while trying to keep the peace as dastardly Yosemite Sam clone Rawhide Clyde and his snickering floppy-eared hound attempt to stop that feline. Examples of that schooling include how wild flowers grow and why leaves change colors each autumn.
All of this adds up to great nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember eating junk cereal and staying in our pajamas until noon every Saturday so as not to miss a minute of the joy courtesy of Hanna-Barbera and the Krofft Brothers. Thanks to Warner, Millenmials and Gen Zers can experience some of that magic.
The fun for all ages April 16, 2019 Cartoon Network/Warner Brothers DVD release of "Steven Universe" S2 (2015-2016) begins with the way cool puffy Garnet fusion keychain and the equally awesome cover art featuring that Crystal Gem new leader of the band. This anime lite series is a bright and colorful surreal joy ride that should thoroughly delight the primary target audience and amuse those of us with secondary sexual characteristics.
Additional glee is attributable to the newly released S2 soundtrack and the separate "Karaoke" release on your favorite platform. The "but wait there's more" aspect of this is the "Steven Universe: The Phantom Fable" mobile game that is coming out on April 18.
The perfect series description on IMDb nicely helps put words in the mouth of your not-so-humble reviewer. That site describes the show as "a team of galactic warriors fights to protect the universe, but the combination of three highly trained beings and one quirky young boy leaves the team struggling to overcome the dangerous scenarios that are put in front of them." The reasons that this variation of "Teen Titans" seems similar in style to fellow CN series "Adventure Time" include that creator Rebecca Sugar (who bares a passing resemblance to Steven) is the best brain behind both shows.
The S2 episode "We Need to Talk" provides an overview of the "Steven" lore. Then-guitar god in his own mind Greg Universe is rocking out to an audience of a girl with something extra when love at first sight leads him to discover the ancient beachside temple that she and her fellow guardians of the galaxy call home. This ultimately leads to the birth of our titular half-alien half-excitable-boy who inherits the gem in his belly button from his mother's side of the family.
Our first adventure, which is titled "Say Uncle," also reflects this proud heritage. Steven literally is contemplating his navel and experiencing pre-adolescent angst regarding his inability to trigger his power of forming a protective shield around his body. An ill-fated cry to the heavens results in manic Uncle Grandpa arriving and causing chaos.
The theory of this visitor with no impulse control is that the shield will form when Steven faces an adequately serious threat to his physical well-being, Uncle Grandpa then launches a hilarious beezooka and other weapons of mass hysteria at the lad. This homage to Looney Toon cartoons results in the style of life lesson that Steven and his viewers typically learn from each adventure.
Body issues also are the topic in "Reformed," which finds feisty Crystal Gem Amethyst trying out new holographic forms as she battles a gem monster that is running amok in the temple. One moral this time is if ain't broke, don;t fix it."
A personal fave is a more down-to-earth tale. A very proud Steven is the artist of a comically crude poster promoting guitar lessons by his father. A series of fortunate circumstances leads to this boy teaming up with the cool teen son of the mayor of their home turf of Beach City.
These unlikely friends make t-shirts with that image; the problem is that Steven thinks that the general populace appreciates his artistic talent, but all fondness is of the ironic variety. Even given that, Steven cleverly turns the table in a the student becomes the teacher manner.
The remaining 18 episodes offer similar fare that makes many young boys fantasize about being Steven and older folks getting more than a little badly needed joy in their lives.
The DVD release of "Shazam!: The Complete Live Action Series" provides lovers of good cheesy '70s shows another reason to thank the elders for Warner Archive. This release is nearly as exciting as getting the '70s Hanna-Barbera "Scooby-Doo" clone "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" from Archive a few years ago.
From a more objective perspective, "Shazam!" is similar to the late-80s low-budget syndicated series "The Adventures of Superboy," which has the college boy of steel and his buds battle a buffonish Lex Luther and other baddies. That series also is in the Archive catalog.
The concept behind "Shazam!" is that mid-20s newscaster Billy Batson, played by dreamy teen idol Michael Gray, is the alter-ego of Captain Marvel. Dreamy Jackson Bostwick plays Marvel until being replaced due to an injury late in the second of the series' three seasons.
Billy and his sidekick/advisor Mentor spend their days traveling around in a motor home helping teens and post-adolescents out of jams largely of the younguns' own making. Each story is wrapped up with a moral, delivered by Bostwick through most of the series and by Gray in the final episodes.
Billy is granted his powers, and is guided by, six animated elders who deliver a cryptic message near the beginning of each episode.
The dual significance of "Shazam" is that it is the magic word that Billy, and at least one young and stupid boy in the greater Boston area, shout to transform from an average Joe into the super-powered Captain Marvel and also is the acronym of the names of the elders'. That group consists of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
The two restrictions on the great power that goes along with the great responsibility of being Captain Marvel are that only Mentor can witness the transformation and Billy can only undergo it when it is absolutely necessary.
Plots included a young blind teen and his slightly older brother recognizing the accommodations that the blindness requires and the capabilities that the blind boy retains after losing his sight. Another episode has Captain Marvel setting a good example for a young boy with a history of trespassing to ride a neighbor's horse by volunteering to go to jail for a crime of which he is innocent.
One of the more inadvertently entertaining episodes is a special two-parter in which Billy helps a girl who is trying to help her brother break ties with a middle-aged drug dealer for whom the brother is working. Seeing Billy deny being a "pusher" himself and watching the girl run around with a bag of what is clearly baking soda is very funny 40 years later.
Aside from the underlying message of "drugs are bad; ok," Billy teaches the girl that she should act responsibly by narcing on her bro. merely than by taking his stash.
The third season, which is presented as part of the "Shazam!/Isis Hour," is also fun by having Isis appear in a few "Shazam" episodes to help out Captain Marvel. This is similar to Scooby-Doo and the meddling kids helping the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt when they have a joint show. This wonderfully nostalgic show is also out on DVD.
The bottom line is that "Shazam!" is an awesome example of the fun type of show that broadcast networks used to air on Saturday mornings. This genre has plenty of action and wonderfully low-budget effects.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Shazam!" is encouraged to email me. I am especially eager to hear if anyone transformed into a super hero after yelling "Shazam!"
Warner Archive further shows ts range and the related seemingly bottomless nature of its catalog regarding two March 19, 2019 DVD releases of the 2001-02 Kids' WB anthology series "The Nightmare Room." "The Nightmare Room: Scareful What You Wish For" is our current topic; "The Nightmare Room: Camp Nowhere" is the companion DVD.
The valued review-writing shortcut this time cones courtesy of the mouth of the horse, The DVD bonus feature "The Nightmare Files" is an interview with Stephen King of the Clearasil set R.L. Stine, whose horror stories provide much of the fodder for "Room" episodes. The numerous insights that Stine shares includes describing the series as "The Twilight Zone" for kids.
"Room" also evokes thoughts of the 1991-93 kid comedy "Eerie, Indiana." This one has two tween boys investigating the regular weird occurrences in the titular town that they call home. Of course, "Supernatural" is the epitome of this type of series.
The titular tale stars former Disney Channel star/current highly damaged man Shia LaBeouf as excitable boy Dylan in a tale that can be considered a perverse version of "Toy Story." The growing pains of this lad who is graduating middle-school include having a life-size Buddy doll (fellow Disney Channel star Dylan "Zack" Sprouse) who is a real-live boy stalk him and demand fulfillment of a childhood pledge that the two be best friends forever.
Much of the fun of this one is the increasingly erratic behavior of Dylan not helping his efforts to convince friends and family that his new friend is not imaginary. This tale and the others not having a fairy-tale ending is very refreshing regarding children's fare.
The more amusing "Tangled Web" stars Justin Berfield of "Malcolm in the Middle" as a chronically lying teen. This notable one is a true fable.
Truth-impaired Josh has a strong track record of making up stories to avoid facing the consequences of his negligence. "Kung Fu" star David Carradine plays to type as a substitute teacher who schools Josh. This comes via making everything that Josh says come true.
Our prevaricator soon finds himself confronted by a psychotic version of juvenile delinquent Francis of "Malcolm," ninjas, escaped prisoners who are real Bozos, and other foes that his adolescent mind conjures. These include a very special guest star from a teen-boy perspective,
A personal fave in the set is "early" episode "My Name Is Evil." This story of teen angst has good-natured Morgan spending his birthday being the victim of a mean girl and having a carnival gypsy declare him to be a bad seed, The morning after finds a good friend of Morgan violating the bros before hos rule and said bitch convincing the entire school that Morgan is a much bigger jinx than Cousin Oliver.
This an episode in which you come for the teen drama and stay for the wonderful climatic twists.
The numerous extras extend beyond the Stine interview; a key to winning the interactive "The Nightmare Is Yours: Haunted Cave" game is to realize that Mike is a fucking idiot.
The appeal of "Room" to the target audience is that it makes them feel cool and does not talk down to them. The appeal to those of us who have not needed zit cream for years is that the stories are entertaining and feature child stars from our more youthful days.
'Craig of the Creek: Itch to Explore' DVD: Cute Animated Adventures of Lewis & Clark of Backyard Wilderness
The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment March 19, 2019 DVD release "Craig of the Creek: Itch to Explore" is an incredible treat for fans of old-school cartoons. This cute and charming series from the best brains behind Emmy-nominated fellow Cartoon Network series "Steven Universe" is one that kids and parents can equally enjoy. Much of the mutual appeal relates to the lack of edge in this show about the titular suburban everykid and his two close friends having adventures in the titular backyard wilderness. This is not to mention the very catchy theme song.
Craig is a good kid, who is a middle child in a nuclear family. Older brother Bernard (legendary voice actor Phil LaMarr) is an over-achieving nerd, and younger sister Jessica is an excitable young girl. The aforementioned pals are uber-aggressive fantasy-obsessed tomboy Kelsey and slightly older slightly "special" oaf JP.
The titular pilot sets a good tone for the series that runs through the other 12 episodes in this S1 V1 set. Craig getting an "itch" to fully map the creek area that runs behind his house prompts the gang to suit up in preparation for exploring the "Poison Ivy Grove." The primary supply source for these primary-school aged Lewis and Clarks is the Trading Tree. This barter-based business in this kidtopia pretty much has anything you need.
A primary objective of going into the grove is discovering what is in a clearing at the center of this treacherous territory. What the kids find is as surprising to viewers as it is to our heroes,
The aptly titled "You're It" goes even more old school than "Itch." Comically intense concern regarding a seemingly endless game of tag prompts a plot to spare any more kids from the stigma of being "it." This involving an amusing scheme to lure Bernard "into the woods" makes this outing especially humorous.
It also is recalled that this episode has the kids consult the "elders," who are high school kids who still hang out at the creek. Less friendly "Sabrina" style teens cause Craig et al distress in a later episode,
Older brothers around the global can relate to the "sit" that provides the "com" in "Jessica Goes to the Creek." A series of unfortunate circumstances results in Craig having to bring his little sister to the creek. This leads to extraordinary anti-meltdown measures to not disrupt the routine of Jessica.
"Sunday Clothes" is interesting but a little disturbing in that it strongly indicates that JP should ride the short bus to school. Our gang follows the oldest member of their group home and soon learns that all of his everyday clothes are being washed.
An undeterred JP dons the titular church suit and heads down to the creek; this leads to extraordinary measures to keep his outfit spotless and sadly comic over-reactions to threats to that cleanliness. An arguably PG Full Monty scene is especially unsettling.
Other adventure include Craig desperately wanting to "Escape From Family Dinner" so that he can participate in a water-balloon battle, The set concludes with an episode that has the self-explanatory title of "Lost in the Sewer."
The DVD special feature are an animatic version of the full episode "The Final Book," which revolves around a quest to locate the borrower of the titular library tome. and a photo gallery of images of series highlights.