Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget - DVD Review

If you’re unfamiliar with how a roast works, it goes something like this: the individual being roasted is subjected to praise, insults, outlandish stories and the occasional heartfelt tribute from a group of friends and peers. The implication being that the roastee takes it all in good humor and isn’t really insulted by the whole thing. It’s all just a big joke and is actually quite an honor.

In the case of a Comedy Central Roast, it isn’t just the roastee who gets insulted; everyone who is involved is subjected to the verbal abuse, not just the guest of honor. And in the case of the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget, the Olsen Twins get their fair share of abuse as well. Actually, Mary-Kate and Ashley got so much abuse that a lot of the jokes made about them were cut when this roast initially aired on Comedy Central. The DVD release, however, is uncut and uncensored.

Bob Saget is probably best known for his roles on the family oriented programs Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos. In other words, he’s best known for being incredibly bland and not particularly funny. Outside of television, Bob Saget is known for his blue stand-up comedy routine, which is particularly funny because it is at such odds with his public persona. It is this public persona that is so viciously attacked by the roasters on this DVD, including Gilbert Gottfried, Brian Poesehn, Cloris Leachman, Jeffery Ross, Norm MacDonald and Full House co-star John Stamos.

If you’ve seen one Comedy Central Roast, you’ve pretty much seen them all. That isn’t meant to be insulting, but they basically all follow the same format: tons and tons of raunchy humor and shots of the crowd with their jaws on the ground, unable to believe what they have just heard. The Roast of Bob Saget is no different. I’ve seen most of the Comedy Central Roasts, and I wouldn’t say that this is one of the best, but it’s definitely got its moments. When it’s good, it’s side-splittingly hilarious: Cloris Leachman telling dirty jokes about Mary Tyler Moore. That’s something I didn’t expect to hear! When it’s bad, it’s Jeff Garlin doing terrible impressions that make you cringe with embarrassment, wondering how the man ever found employment in the entertainment world.

All-in-all, I’d give it a solid rating. The good more than makes up for the bad. If you’ve enjoyed the other Comedy Central Roasts, you’ll definitely enjoy this one and it will make a worthy addition to your DVD collection. If you only saw it when it aired on Comedy Central, it’s worth a rental just to hear the jokes that got cut from the broadcast. Wow. I hope the Olsen twins have a good sense of humor.

The DVD also includes a few interviews with Bob Saget and interviews with the roasters and guests on the Blue Carpet both before and after the show. Nothing particularly amazing, but definitely funny and worth watching once.

Monday, December 22, 2008

X-Files: I Want to Believe - DVD Review

I’ve only watched The X-Files television series twice. The first time was an episode featuring a crazy inbred family who killed their neighbors. The episode scared the pants off of me and I loved it, but for some reason I never fully immersed myself in the series. The second time I tuned it, it was just a repeat of that same episode. It scared me almost as much the second time around.

But I still never got into The X-Files. I didn’t have anything against it, but by the time I got interested enough to actually want to watch it, it had already been on the air for a few years and the whole mythology just seemed too complicated and convoluted to bother with. I was too busy reading complicated and convoluted comic book plotlines at the time anyway; I couldn’t be bothered with a television series.

Fast forward to 2008, and I’m reviewing the second big-screen version of the popular series, X-Files: I Want to Believe. Now, you might think that my almost complete lack of knowledge regarding the series or the characters would be a detriment to my review, and maybe you’re right. I prefer to think that it makes me the perfect choice to review this film. I’m not biased in any way. I don’t come in with any preconceived notions of what the film, the characters or the story should be. I’m a blank slate, a veritable tabula rasa when it comes to all things X-Filey.
Luckily for me, this movie was made to stand on its own. No Smoking Men, alien sister abductions or sexual tension here; just a standalone murder-mystery. Unluckily for me, it wasn’t altogether that great of a movie.

The story picks up six years after the events of the series finale. Dana Scully is a staff physician at Our Lady of Sorrows, a Catholic hospital, where she is treating a young boy with a terminal brain condition. Despite the protests of the clergy, she wishes to go forward with some radical new forms of therapy. The priests and nuns at the hospital would rather leave the matter in God’s hands. An FBI agent asks Scully to help find fugitive agent Fox Mulder and promise to call off their manhunt if he will help them solve a case concerning several missing women. Mulder agrees and the band is back together, in a manner of speaking.

The reason for Mulder’s involvement is Joseph Fitzgerald Crissman, a former priest who had been convicted of pedophilia. It seems that Father Joe has been receiving visions which give him clues to the whereabouts of both the victims and the perpetrators of the recent crimes. Scully is disgusted at the prospect of working with a child molester while Mulder, as usual, is intrigued by the supernatural aspects of the case. These two viewpoints are shared by the rest of the investigative team: half of them think Father Joe is a fraud who is possibly involved with the crimes and is trying to use “the Word of God” as a way to find forgiveness from the Vatican. The other half wonders if maybe there’s something more to his visions.

I won’t go into the rest of the plot, because I don’t want to give anything away for those who might be interested. I will simply say that the rest of the film deals with faith, belief and choices: Mulder’s belief that Father Joe isn’t lying and is having a legitimate psychic vision. Scully’s faith that what she’s doing to help her patient is right. Father Joe’s belief that God is sending him messages and will forgive him for his transgressions. It’s actually a pretty good story and perhaps would’ve made a better movie if someone else had been at the helm. No offense to Chris Carter, obviously he’s the guy most X-Files fans would want behind the camera, but the film lacks any emotion whatsoever. There’s no tension, no suspense and really no excitement to be had.

I don’t want to sound like I’m giving this film a totally bad review though. Like I said, it’s got a very interesting story and the fact that it isn’t simply black and white or good vs. evil is something I really appreciated. It’s definitely more intelligent than a lot of science fiction that’s out there, so it’s at least got that much going for it. And I have to imagine that long-time X-Files fans will enjoy seeing their old favorites back together. Heck, I even got a kick out of it and I’ve only seen one episode of the series! And maybe I’m totally missing the boat on this one? Maybe the TV show was just as dull as this movie and it’s totally par for the course? It might be a home run for all I know.

At any rate, if you’re a fan of the series and you were wondering if this movie is worth your time, I’d guess that it probably is. If you’ve never watched The X-Files and you’re wondering if you could just jump into this movie and have any idea what’s going on, I’m going to say yes, but you might not want to bother. It’s worth a rental, but I’m sure there’s something better out there that you could be watching.

The DVD includes both the theatrical and the extended cut of the movie, as well as the usual assortment of extras. There’s a gag reel, deleted scenes and a ton of interviews with the cast and crew about all the stuff you’d expect: doing another movie after so long, the lengths they went to keep it all under wraps, what it was like to work together again, and so on and so forth. There’s also a music video by Xzibit, who stars in the film as an FBI agent.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Power Rangers DVD Review - Jungle Fury & Way of the Master

Jungle Fury is the 15th incarnation of the long-running Power Rangers franchise. In this version of the series, the story focuses on The Order of the Claw, a centuries-old group of martial artists able to summon animal spirits. Their mission, passed from generation to generation, is to protect the world from the evil Dai Shi, an evil spirit who believes that animals are the rightful rulers of the earth and wishes to rid the planet of all humans.

The first volume of the series, “Into the Jungle”, features the first six episodes of the series. It opens in present day, with three teen warriors accepting their roles as the protectors of earth. The intended team consisted of headstrong and angry Jarrod; well-meaning know it all Theo; and loyal, caring and stubborn Lilly. Jarrod’s temper gets the better of him and he is replaced on the team by Casey, who is quite brave but still has a long way to go in terms of both training and self-confidence.

When Jarrod ends up striking out against the masters who trained him, the ensuing fight unleashes the spirit of Dai Shi, who promptly assumes control of Jarrod’s body and begins to wage anew his war against humanity. The three new rangers are sent to the city of Ocean Bluff to find a new master in the unlikeliest of places; a pizza parlor. Their new master, R.J., is a stereotypical stoner character who comes equipped with a Megazord and kung-fu skills rather than bags of weed. He informs the team that not only will he be instructing them and giving them employment at his pizza parlor, he will also outfit them with a new arsenal and the power to morph into Power Rangers.

The six episodes on “Into the Jungle” basically just set up the story. We are given background information on the new Power Rangers and see them learn to work as a team. They must overcome personal conflicts and learn to look past their preconceived notions about each other and their new master as they form a cohesive unit dedicated to the forces of order. We also see Dai Shi assemble a new team of monsters and villains to do his bidding.

“Way of the Master” is the second volume in the series and features episodes 7 – 12. These stories get a bit more personal, delving into the histories of the Power Rangers and their enemies. Dai Shi resurrects Carnisoar, the evil Sky Overlord, who introduces him to a new level of hatred and evil. Together, they travel through time to various events in the life of Dai Shi (Jarrod) when he was faced with the opportunity to do evil but instead chose the path of good. Carnisoar erases these events in Jarrod’s life, thereby erasing his humanity and allowing the spirit of Dai Shi to more fully take over.

There are also episodes featuring each individual Ranger overcoming a personal obstacle. Casey must overcome his self-doubt, Theo must deal with losing a battle and his confidence, and Lilly’s good nature is taken advantage of by the evil Camille, who poses as her friend. Each Ranger learns a personal lesson and as a result is granted a new animal spirit weapon with which to battle evil. Retired members of the Order of the Claw are introduced, giving us a bit more history on the never-ending struggle between good and evil. And of course, there’s lots of big cheesy-looking monsters fighting big cheesy-looking robots.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 16 years, you know who the Power Rangers are and how bad the show is. Nevertheless, it’s not too hard to see the appeal of a show like this for a young kid. There’s lots of sweet kung-fu and the Power Rangers do have pretty cool costumes. I’d be lying if I said that the bad guys didn’t look totally awesome. I also enjoyed the positive messages laced throughout the show, even if they were presented in an incredibly heavy-handed fashion. There were a lot of elements of the story that reminded me of Star Wars. Of course, those themes are far older than anything George Lucas came up with, but the beauty of them is that they still hold true today, no matter what form they are presented in. The show is obviously pretty cheaply made, using the traditional Power Rangers method of incorporating footage from the Japanese Super Sentai series, but for as low budget as it obviously is, the special effects actually don’t look too bad.

The acting, however, is another story. It’s horrible and quite cringe-inducing. God-awful is another phrase that comes to mind. The same goes for the music, which is repeated ad nauseum and is still running through my head as I write this, like some evil mantra. I wonder if there are subliminal messages strewn throughout the music? “Buy more toys! Buy more toys!”

At any rate, there are probably several hundred shows on television that are far worse for a kid to watch. The nice thing about Power Rangers: Jungle Fury is that as bad as it may be, there are some decent messages about loyalty, integrity, compassion and the value of hard work in there. It might be nearly unbearable for you to watch this show with your kids, but if you’re a halfway decent parent, you’ll sit down afterward and discuss the ideas presented and maybe your kid will learn something. So I guess it’s not all bad.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Horton Hears a Who - DVD Review

Horton Hears a Who! (2008) is the third feature film based on a Dr. Seuss book to hit the big screen and the second to feature Jim Carrey in the title role. Excellent CGI animation, celebrity voices and a timeless tale combine to create a modern classic that will entertain children and adults alike.

Horton is a caring and loyal elephant who has managed to maintain his childlike innocence and imagination despite growing up. These qualities have allowed him to become a great teacher and friend to the children in the jungle and end up sending him on the greatest adventure of his lifetime. Upon discovering that a microscopic civilization called Whoville exists on a speck of dust which has settled on a nearby clover, Horton aspires to find a new home for the denizens of this tiny city, safe from the many dangers of the jungle. Standing in his way is Sour Kangaroo, a skeptical busybody whose only goal in life seems to be to keep everyone else from having any fun. She makes the rules in the jungle and feels that Horton’s nonconformist attitude and creativity threaten the order which she has strived so hard to enforce. But Horton is committed to the very end. His mantra is repeated many times throughout the movie: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, and an elephant’s faithful 100%.” Undoubtedly, these are words to live by.

There are a lot of hijinks and trouble along the way as Horton communicates with Ned McDodd, the addled Mayor of Whoville and the only one in the city who is aware of Horton’s existence. Ned comes from a long line of mayors and hopes that one day he will be ranked among the greats, despite being blocked at every turn by the Chairman of the City Council, who thinks him nothing more than a buffoon. The citizens of Whoville eventually gain confidence in Ned, as does his son JoJo, who can’t understand his father’s desire for him to follow in his footsteps as Mayor. Meanwhile, Sour Kangaroo is doing a good job of whipping the jungle inhabitants into a frenzy over what she believes to be Horton’s imaginary city on a speck. As the story progresses, her wish to maintain order turns into a maniacal desire to crush Horton’s spirit. I won’t tell you how it ends, but as you might expect, everyone learns a lesson from Horton.

For my money, this movie was more than just a whimsical romp or the latest animated kids flick. It was an incredibly heartwarming and hilarious story that managed to be completely modern while staying true to the spirit of Dr. Seuss’ book. The messages of loyalty and honor as well as the idea that “A person’s a person, no matter how small” are universal themes that can be understood by people of all ages from all walks of life. There are lessons to be learned in this movie that no child can afford to be without. Beyond that, I thought it was quite funny and as a fan of Dr. Seuss, I was not at all disappointed with this interpretation of his work.

I’m not usually a big fan of celebrity voices in animated features. For one thing, kids don’t usually don’t know and more often don’t really care who they are. For another thing, there are plenty of voice actors out there who have studied and trained to perform in cartoons. Giving the job to a big-time actor deprives someone else who is probably more deserving of gainful employment. However, I have to admit that I enjoyed every performance in this film. Sure, you can tell that Mayor McDodd is Steve Carell and Sour Kangaroo is obviously Carol Burnett, but it doesn’t overwhelm the movie. Despite his very familiar voice, I never heard Jim Carrey as Horton; I simply saw Horton.

The animation is awesome as well. Blue Sky Studios once again give Pixar a run for their money with astonishing CGI animation. Even if I hadn’t liked the movie as much as I did, I couldn’t help but marvel at… everything. The characters, the settings, the leaves on the trees: everything just looked fantastic. The only real drawback to the movie is a more personal one. While there are a few pop culture references strewn throughout the film, they just sort of blend in and don’t seem out of place or feel like they’ll be dated and irrelevant in a few years. The addition of REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore”, on the other hand, felt like it was shoehorned in as something for the adults in the theater to enjoy. The rest of the film immersed me in the very unique world of Dr. Seuss and the addition of that song completely pulled me out of it, nearly ruining the movie. It just didn’t fit. Again, that might just be me. If you aren’t the type to be bothered by such things, pay no mind to the last few sentences.

The DVD has tons of special features detailing the themes of the film and the methods through which it was brought to the big screen. If you have any questions about how anything was done, they ought to be answered by the time you finish with all the extras. There’s also director commentary, deleted scenes, a sneak peek at Ice Age 3 and an all-new Ice Age short titled Surviving Sid.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fred Claus - DVD Review

Growing up in the shadow a seemingly perfect sibling can be tough. Constant comparisons from parents will generally lead to feelings of resentment and anger. It’s hard when parents seem to find fault in everything you do and treat your brother as though he was a saint. Imagine how hard it would be if your brother actually was a saint: St. Nick.

This is the premise behind Fred Claus, which reteams director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) with Vince Vaughn, who stars as the title character. The basic gist of the film is fairly predictable, but as the saying goes, it isn’t the destination, but the journey that is important. Fred Claus might not bring anything new to the table, but much like your mom’s Christmas dinner, it serves up the old favorites in a delicious style.

After a brief “origin story”, we find Fred Claus living in modern-day Chicago. He’s something of a con-man who has never followed through on anything in life. He doesn’t like Christmas and he doesn’t seem to particularly care for life in general. After a get rich quick scheme lands him in jail with no money for bail, he calls on his brother for help. Nick (Paul Giamatti) is used to bailing Fred out of tight spots and rather than fall into the same trap, he offers Fred a job working for him at his toy factory in the North Pole.

It turns out that Santa needs more than just a little help. A scheming efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) is keeping close tabs on the toy factory and plans to shut down Christmas if Santa’s elves can’t meet their quota. Long story short: Fred reconciles with his family, Santa realizes he isn’t exactly perfect either, everybody learns the true meaning of Christmas and it all turns out okay. That shouldn’t be considered a spoiler, as anyone who has ever seen a single holiday movie should be able to figure out exactly what happens from reading the back of the box.

Is the movie predictable? Yes. In fact, it’s so predictable that the moment a new character appears on-screen, you already know their entire story arc. Is it full of cliché? You better believe it. Does Vince Vaughn deliver the exact same performance and play the exact same character he has played in nearly every movie he’s ever been in? Once again, the answer is yes, but if you like Vince Vaughn, then that isn’t a bad thing. Beyond that, the story seems filled with glaring omissions: Kevin Spacey plays an efficiency expert, but I don’t know that it’s ever stated who is employing him or why they have power over Santa’s operations. Why exactly is Elizabeth Banks human-sized in a world full of elves? These and other plot holes exist to confound the nitpickers.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes there just needs to be a simple movie that the entire family can enjoy and you don’t need to ask too many questions and you don’t need to think too hard about the plot. I pity the fool who watches Fred Claus for deeply moving character development or plot twists. It is a movie about the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of family, and we should all be thankful that Tim Allen isn’t in it. Fred Claus is by no means an instant classic, and it’s certainly not a “must-rent” either. But if you’re a fan of Christmas movies, you’ll definitely enjoy it.

Fred Claus is not a raunchy comedy filled with double entendres and dirty jokes. It’s not a mindless cartoon that panders to children and leaves the rest of the family feeling sick to their stomachs either. It’s just a funny movie with a great cast delivering great performances. It’s a movie that you can watch with your parents and their parents as well as your kids after gorging yourself on Christmas dinner: exactly what you need to help you digest.

The DVD includes both widescreen and full-screen formats, commentary by director David Dobkin and 25 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alvin and the Chipmunks "Undeniable" CD Review

After a bit of a hiatus, The Chipmunks have returned in a big way. Last year saw the little guys finally make their way to the big screen for their movie debut. This was quickly followed by a return to the studio to record Undeniable. Teaming once again with longtime producer (and adopted father) Dave Seville, the Chipmunks have crafted another fine album, though it doesn’t quite live up to the high standard the group has set in the past.

Bands such as Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles have proven that sometimes tension and in-fighting between band members can lead to a better product. Some artists are at their best under intense conditions: the Chipmunks are no exception to this rule. It’s never been a secret that the boys (especially Alvin) don’t always see eye-to-eye with their father/producer, and sometimes that tension threatens to derail the entire recording process. Every project they’ve worked on together has nearly come to an explosive end and examples of this are typically left on the album. There’s always at least one track that features a typical Seville outburst.

Normally, that kind of intensity fuels the artistic fire in Alvin & the boys. It’s what drives them to create such classic albums as Chipmunk Punk, Urban Chipmunk and Let’s All Sing with the Chipmunks. On this album, however, it comes off a little flat. Sure, there’s more than a few good tracks on Undeniable, but one is left wondering if the tension between the band and their father/producer has taken the fire out of the group. The Chipmunks sound as though they’re just going through the motions on this one. The passion is gone and the album sounds fairly lackluster.

As I said, there are a few decent tracks. Their cover of Blink-182’s "All The Small Things" is actually superior to the original. “Ho Ho Ho” is a new holiday song that is destined to become a classic and their version of the Bob Marley classic “Three Little Birds” showcases the rhythmic rodent’s amazing ability to harmonize. I guess they’ve had 50 years to practice, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. As good as their covers may be, the band really shines on their original material such as the previously mentioned “Ho Ho Ho”, “Acceptance” and the title track, “Undeniable”. The Chipmunks have never been averse to adapting to different musical genres, and these three tracks fall a bit closer into the hip-hop/rap category, a realm in which the boys prove themselves to be very adept. The two Led Zeppelin covers (“Thank You”, “Rock and Roll”) however, are lackluster at best. The same can be said for their attempt at injecting some soul into Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”. Seeing these songs listed on the packaging got me really excited, but hearing them just made me skip to the next song about halfway through. Children will probably enjoy these songs quite a bit, but longtime fans will find that the novelty wears off pretty quickly as they grind their teeth and wonder why they made this purchase.

When all is said and done, this is probably a fine album for kids who enjoyed the recent movie and want more Chipmunks product. Parents, however, will undoubtedly find it to be simply annoying. I don’t want to sound like some loser pining for his youth, but the fact is that the Chipmunks just aren’t as good as they used to be. You don’t win six Grammys by being a simple children’s act: there has to be some level of heart and talent there. Go back and listen to an old Chipmunks album. Sure, you’re not going to be blasting it at a party anytime soon, but they’re quite a bit of fun and well made. Undeniable lacks the skill and most of all lacks the heart of the old Chipmunks recordings. Nevertheless, this will probably make a good stocking stuffer and the few tracks that are good will make up for the bad.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Popeye Volume Three: 1941-1943 - DVD REVIEW

With the third volume in the Popeye series, Warner Home Video rounds out the rest of the black and white Popeye cartoons from the 1940’s. There’s 32 theatrical shorts featured on 2 discs as well as a gaggle of extra material. The cartoons on this disc cover the transition from Fleischer Studios to Famous Studios, as well as Popeye’s transition from civilian life to active duty with the United States Navy. It’s a must have for fans of the spinach eating sailor as well as classic animation buffs.

The first disc features a variety of mishaps and misadventures with Popeye constantly looking after his bumbling, alcoholic father as well as the infant Sweet Pea. Popeye’s nephews Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye and Peep-Eye even show up for one adventure. Why any parent would allow a man with such a violent nature to care for their children is beyond me, but I have to admit Popeye does seem to care for the little guys. He apparently even went so far as to take them all out to get matching anchor tattoos! Rounding out the regular cast is Popeye’s main squeeze, Olive Oyl and of course, Bluto, who is always trying to steal Olive away from Popeye, whether she likes it or not.

The second disc is pretty much filled with wartime cartoons, as Popeye re-enlisted with the Navy just a few months before the U.S. got involved in World War II. The cartoons are still very entertaining if you aren’t bothered by propaganda and are willing to overlook the astonishingly racist depictions of Japanese soldiers. Wow! I’ve seen a few wartime cartoons and I knew that racism was much more prevalent in those days, but I still wasn’t prepared for what I saw here. To call them non-politically correct would be like saying that Minnesota gets “a little chilly” in the wintertime. Nevertheless, they are a product of their time and should be viewed as such. Parents, just make sure you’re in the room with the kids if you allow them to watch these. You may want to explain a few things.

While large portions of the material contained on these discs harkens back to a very different time in America when men were men, women were objects and anyone who wasn’t white was the devil, the beauty of the animation can not be overlooked. These cartoons are classics, plain and simple, and they have been lovingly restored for this collection. I’ve seen a few old cartoons from this era on television or VHS, and they’ve never looked better than they do here. As I said earlier, they belong in the collection of any fan of the golden age of animation.

Speaking of the golden age of animation, there’s a variety of special features on these discs, including commentary by animation historians, directors and in some cases, the children of the folks who created these cartoons in the first place. There are also three documentaries focusing on Popeye and the roots of animation, as well as three Fleischer produced Out of the Inkwell shorts featuring Koko the Clown from the 1920’s! The documentaries are just as entertaining as the cartoons and they’re informative as well. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ultimate Classic Wrestling Presents... DVD Review

According to the cover, Ultimate Classic Wrestling Presents… gives fans a ringside seat for a collage of classic wrestling from arenas across the country. It’s a collectors set featuring ferocious battles between pro wrestling’s most famous and infamous stars, and it’s not for the faint of heart. What is actually delivered is over five hours of matches from the defunct United States Wrestling Association, the majority of which were filmed at the Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I won’t deny that there’s a lot of great material on here, but the cover is just a bit deceiving.

Long-time wrestling fans will be familiar with this type of release. It’s basically a bunch of matches featuring superstars from the World Wrestling Federation or World Championship Wrestling before they made it to prime-time that seem to be thrown together by someone trying to make a quick buck. If you’re a fair-weather fan or someone who is accustomed to the glitz and glamour of Monday Night Raw, these matches might be a bit of a shock to your system. They appear to be filmed in a bingo hall with very small, very rural-looking crowds in attendance. There’s no pyro, no fireworks and no fancy camera angles. It’s wrestling the way it used to be, perhaps the way it was meant to be: Two men lacing boots and going toe-to-toe in the squared circle with a giant banner advertising Renegade Tobacco behind them. The human game of chess played out with a distinctive southern style. Or, if you prefer to look at it another way, its two guys in tights doing gymnastics. But at any rate, it ain’t fancy and it ain’t pretty.

As a dedicated fan of the sport of kings, I found Ultimate Classic Wrestling Presents… to be a worthwhile venture, as long as you know what you’re in for. The two-disc set boasts many superstars such as Steve Austin, Cactus Jack, Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarrett, Dustin Rhodes and Mark Callous, aka The Undertaker. In addition to these six superstars, there are over twenty other wrestlers who are featured in matches or at the very least make brief appearances, most of whom fall under the designation of either “has-been” or “never-was”. But don’t take that to mean there isn’t a lot of talent on these two DVDs; there’s plenty of great entertainment for a reasonably low price. No one is mistaking any of these bouts as a match of the decade or even match of the year, but if you like wrestling, you oughtta like these discs.

If nothing else on Ultimate Classic Wrestling Presents… floats your boat, it is worth viewing for a rare look at The Undertaker before he entered the World Wrestling Federation. He is featured in several matches under the names “The Punisher” and “Mean” Mark Callous. I’ve been a fan of the ‘Taker for a long time now, and I’ve never seen any of this early footage. It was pretty exciting to see this legendary grappler as a young man, learning the ropes and perfecting his style. The same can be said for stars such as Steve Austin and Cactus Jack, though footage of the early days of their careers is much more readily available, and a lot of the footage offered here isn’t quite from the earliest stages of their careers, but somewhere in the middle.

If you’re a newcomer to the world of professional wrestling and you like the cartoonish style of the WWE, I probably wouldn’t recommend purchasing these DVDs. While there’s a lot of great talent featured, most new fans are looking for a slicker product more in line with what they see on Monday Night Raw. However, if you want to see real wrestling; or perhaps I should say rasslin’, with all the glitz and glamour stripped away, look no further. These guys aren’t falling back on expensive props or fireworks to tell their story, they are doing it through talent, athletic ability and ring psychology. It harkens back to an earlier time in the history of the sport and while it’s certainly not for everyone, dedicated fans of wrestling will probably enjoy it quite a bit.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan - DVD Review

Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan tells the story of the rise, fall and eventual rebirth of the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the most successful hip-hop groups in history. It follows them from their humble beginnings as kids in Staten Island watching kung-fu movies to the height of fame and power as rappers, record producers, actors and major motion picture composers.

The impact of the Wu-Tang Clan can not be overstated. The simple fact that the group had nine MCs is amazing in and of itself, to say nothing of their dominance of the industry, brought about by their unique deal with Loud Records which allowed each member of the group to sign with a different record label for their solo releases. From clothing stores to video games to nail polish, the Clan branched out into many different avenues of business, each one of them successful.

But success has its price, as this film documents. Internal struggles within the group and personal problems essentially dissolved the Clan. It seemed that their egos got the best of them as rivalries and feuds made enemies out of former friends. Struggles with personal demons led to the incarceration and eventual death of founding member Russell Jones aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Much of the film is dedicated to ODB’s problems and acts as something of a tribute to this often misunderstood but immensely talented individual.

The film features interviews with friends and family as well as never before seen performance footage from the early days in clubs to sell-out arena crowds. The impact of the group is underscored by this amazing footage. The crowds at these shows are so diverse: seemingly people of every color and culture loved the Wu-Tang Clan and at several times throughout the performances, it would seem that the crowd is the MC. They know every single word to every song. It’s almost like a rally or a revival meeting. There’s something almost religious about these events and the power comes through on film.

While Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan is probably the best documentary on the group I’ve ever seen, there’s a simple reason for that fact: it’s the only documentary on the group I’ve ever seen. The downfall of this film is that while it touches on nearly every important aspect of the group’s history, it never really gets in-depth. It glazes the surface of many events, but never really delves into any of them, with the exception of the death of ODB. There are lots of interviews with producers, relatives and friends, but the majority of the interviews with actual members of the Wu-Tang Clan are ones that have been seen before on MTV or BET and are several years old.

It’s not that the film isn’t informative, it simply isn’t informative enough. Not enough for me, at least. Don’t get me wrong, I’d definitely recommend this movie to any fan of the group, but I have to admit that I was left wanting more. The cover of the DVD package states that this is an authorized film, and part of me has to wonder if that is part of the problem. I got the feeling that because the director is a close friend to the Wu-Tang Clan, perhaps he did not delve as deeply or as intimately into certain matters as he could have. Not that I was looking for a tawdry history of the group, but I did feel like this film pulled its punches a bit. More information on the Wu-Tang Clan to be found on Wikipedia than in this movie. On the other hand, we live in such a tabloid culture these days, maybe it’s best to simply take a look at a group of artists and applaud them for what they’ve done rather than rake them over the coals and expose their darkest secrets.

This DVD includes extended versions of some of the interviews seen in the film as well as the music video for Protect Ya Neck, the debut single that started it all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead - DVD Review

My mother always told me “If you don’t have something nice to say, you probably shouldn’t say anything at all.” It’s a good thing I don’t always follow my mother’s advice because if I did, this would be the shortest reviews I’ve ever written.

Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead tells the tale of four twenty-somethings on their way to Las Vegas to celebrate an imminent marriage. They’re taking the back roads to save time and wouldn’t you know it: their car breaks down. They come across an abandoned house and decide to “borrow” a car they find there. Naturally, the car belongs to Rusty Nails, a crazy trucker who decides to hunt them down and kill them; not because they stole his car, but simply because he’s a crazy trucker who likes to kill people. I guess when your mom names you Rusty Nails, you end up with a particularly mean disposition.

If you enjoy formulaic-to-the-point-of-boredom horror films, this might be right up your alley. Otherwise, steer clear of this disaster. Sometimes, adhering to a basic formula works really well. Sometimes it’s fun to watch a mindless horror or action movie knowing full well what the outcome will be. Being able to figure out the entire plot within the first 15 minutes of a movie isn’t always a bad thing. If you’re in the mood for that sort of thing, or if you’re playing a drinking game, it can actually be a pretty good time.

I defy anyone to enjoy Joy Ride 2. I defy anyone to sit through the entire movie without finding a bit of light housework to do while watching. I had no problem stepping out of the room for a minute or two, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be missing out on any major plot points or particularly juicy lines of dialogue. This movie was so terrible I didn’t even get any satisfaction out of watching the death scenes. Yeah, it’s that bad.

If you’re interested in finding out where turds come from, you could tune into a gastrointestinal documentary on the Science Channel, or you could watch the extras on this disc, which include a making-of and storyboard-to-scene comparisons. There’s also a featurette which showcases the how-to’s of gore makeup, which is actually pretty interesting.

In short, I advise you to stay as far away from this movie as possible. There is no joy to be found in Joy Ride 2.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Happening - DVD Review

In the summer of 2008, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan unleashed his first ever R-rated feature film, The Happening. The film was pretty much universally panned by critics and filmgoers alike, myself included. There’s certainly no mistaking The Happening for something that the average person would refer to as a “good movie”, but upon further contemplation, I do feel that this movie has something to offer to a certain selection of film buffs.

The basic plot of the film deals with a strange plague that causes people to off themselves in particularly gruesome ways. There’s a husband and wife who run around trying to get to the bottom of the whole thing while simultaneously dealing with the effects of the plague. Namely, everybody starts panicking and acting all crazy. The main point of the film, without spoiling anything, is that ultimately it is “people” who are the real terror.

This movie features, without a doubt, the worst acting I have ever seen captured on film. I’m not just referring to one or two of the actors, I’m talking across the board. It’s true that no one has ever mistaken Mark Walberg or Zooey Deschanel for Academy Award winners, but to call their performances in this film wooden would be an insult to the lumber industry. They’re just plain bad.

The movie was marketed as something of a horror film, or maybe a suspense thriller or something of that nature. The truth of the matter is that it’s not even remotely scary. I can’t recall sitting through a less suspenseful movie in my lifetime. This film fails to hit the mark on nearly every attempt: it’s funny when it’s supposed to be serious and during the (allegedly) humorous scenes, there was nary a smile in the theater.

Now, I saw The Happening in the theater, and I’ll be totally honest with you: I almost walked out about 30 minutes into it. But at some point, I’m not exactly sure where, a light bulb appeared over my head and the truth of this film was illuminated. “Oh!” I thought to myself while sitting in the theater contemplating other things I could’ve spent my $10 on, “This isn’t a good movie… it’s a bad movie!” And from that point on, I actually kind of liked it.

Here’s the deal: if The Happening had been released some time in the 1970’s, I’m convinced that it would be revered today as a lost gem of the drive-in era. Its poor acting, slow pacing and heavy-handed social and ecological messages would have meshed quite well with similar films of the era such as Billy Jack, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Soylent Green or Silent Running. If it had been released as the third movie on the Grindhouse bill along with Tarantino’s Death Proof and Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, fans of exploitation films would have absolutely swooned over it. It fits in perfectly with these films, and a part of me has to believe that it was M. Night Shyamalan’s intention to craft an homage to this bygone era of filmmaking. I have to believe it because it’s the only way I can make any sense of this travesty of modern cinema.

There is no possible way Shyamalan wrote this dialogue and handed it over to the actors thinking it was going to be the next Sixth Sense. I can not possibly believe that he directed these actors and at the end of a long shoot looked back over the finished product and thought “Yes, this is exactly what I was going for!” unless what he was going for was an intentionally bad movie. And if that was indeed his goal, then he succeeded with flying colors and I applaud him for his efforts.

I myself am a fan of exploitation films and B-movies. I am among the seven people in the world who actually own the remastered 5-disc Billy Jack 35th Anniversary Ultimate Collection. Nothing moves me to recycle or make a difference in my community like a good (or from most perspectives, bad) mid-to-late ‘70s ecological disaster movie. So when I look at The Happening through that perspective, there is a big part of me that really does enjoy it. That strange and indefinable part of my brain that absolutely thrills to bad cinema. If you feel the same way, you just might find something to enjoy in “The Happening”. However, if you are filmgoer with any sense of taste, you’ll stay as far away from this movie as you can possibly get.

The DVD features all sorts of deleted scenes with introductions from Shyamalan, as well as behind-the-scenes featurettes and a gag reel.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - 2-Disc Special Edition - DVD Review

After nearly two decades of speculation and worry, the summer of 2008 brought the highly unnecessary fourth installment in the Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. All parties involved promised us that their involvement was contingent on just the right script. That sounded promising, but I should remind you that after three Vacation movies, key players Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo stated that they wouldn’t return for a fourth film unless the script was “just right.” Have you seen Vegas Vacation? ‘Nuff said.

I expected to reenter the world of Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones with a mixture of anticipation and dread. What I actually walked into the theater with was an attitude a bit closer to “who cares?”

As the character in the Family Circus comic strip says, “Not me!” – I couldn’t care less. I’d already been burned by three Star Wars prequels and had long since come to terms with the so-called raping of my most beloved childhood memories. I had also come to realize that no matter what was behind this film, whether it be money or a mid-life crisis, it ultimately didn’t matter. It was, after all, just a movie and no matter how bad it was, my memories and my childhood were still intact and still pure.

Though countless die-hards will undoubtedly disagree with me, I’m happy to say that with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, no childhoods were raped. Not mine, at least. Now, this movie didn’t exactly take my childhood out for a fancy dinner and dancing and whisper sweet nothings into its ear under the moonlight. This movie did not have the decency to call my childhood after the obligatory three-day wait, nor did it even bother to make breakfast for my childhood in the morning. But nothing that happened between my childhood and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that wasn’t agreed to by both parties. However, my childhood will probably not be calling Indy back for another date. It was decent; I’ll even go so far as to say that it was pretty good. But it wasn’t that good.

I apologize if my humor is a bit off-color, but I get a little tired of the people who seem to think that movies like this one or the Star Wars prequels are somehow retroactively making their lives worse. It’s been 19 years since the last Indy movie. What do you people expect? What do you want? With this movie, you get what you pay for. What Lucas, Spielberg and Ford have given us with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the Indiana Jones movie that came 19 years after the last one. No more, no less.

Now, some folks will tell you that this movie doesn’t capture the same feeling as the previous three installments. Having re-watched the first three films in the series in preparation for the fourth installment, I will say that all of these films have a very distinct flavor all their own, and there isn’t really a “definitive Indy feeling” other than bare knuckle brawling and a rollicking good time. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a departure in the sense that the first three films act as an homage to the old Republic serials of the '30s and '40s and this one is more of a 1950’s B-Movie, complete with all the trappings of the genre. But at the end of the day, it’s got the one unifying factor that remains true throughout the entire series: Indiana Jones.

I imagine that a lot of fans had a lot of problems with the depiction of Indiana Jones as an old man. Naturally, they wanted to see their childhood hero remain eternally young and virile and couldn’t imagine him as anything other than the strapping young smart-mouthed adventurer. If you fall into this category, you should not watch this movie. It will rape your childhood.

However, if you enjoy the prospect of a hero nearing the end of his days, having lost a step or two and not packing quite the punch he used to, you might enjoy this movie. No matter what you think of the film, I think it’s hard to argue that Harrison Ford doesn’t bring something great to the table. I’d even go so far as to say that his performance in this film is even stronger than in previous films because of the added dimension and depth that the character has been given. Indy’s not as cool in this movie as he was in the earlier ones. It’s a lot like watching your grandpa run around with a whip and a gun. But if your grandpa was Indiana Jones, you’d still think he was pretty damn cool, right? Hell yeah!

Now, I’ve given you the good and I’ve defended this movie against its detractors. But along with the good comes the bad and since I’ve already given you the sugar, I must give you the medicine. Hopefully that first spoonful will help it go down.

One of the big arguments against Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is that it feels less like a film and more like a nostalgic thrill ride. Like the roller coaster version of Indiana Jones or a remake of a classic song. It hits all the right notes and it does what it has to do, but it’s not the original and it never will be. Sort of like a remake of a Beatles song: No matter how good it is, it ain’t the Beatles. I have to admit that I agree.

On one hand, it is the Indiana Jones movie that came 19 years after the last Indiana Jones movie. One could argue that it sort of has to be a nostalgic trip down memory lane. On the other hand, as fun as this movie can be at times, ultimately it just lacks heart. As a longtime fan who grew up with Indiana Jones, I should have cried during this movie. That’s as direct and to the point as I can be. I should have cried when Indy and Marion were reunited, or at the very least teared up. I should’ve gotten goosebumps when Indy put the hat back on or cracked the whip for the first time. But I didn’t. And that is the worst thing I can say about this film. For a movie that was supposed to be a nostalgic and exciting trip back to my childhood, it was far too tame and lackluster. While it didn’t offend me or make me shake an angry fist at Spielberg & Lucas for retroactively molesting my childhood, it didn’t really fill me with the sense of wonder that it should have either. It didn’t rape my childhood, because it lacked the ability to return me to those days of wonder.

Ultimately, I did like this movie. It wasn’t great, but it was fun. Sure, it wasn’t as good as the first three, but it was a hell of a lot better than Rocky IV, Land of the Dead, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and whatever the fourth Alien movie was called. Most film franchises can’t successfully make it past two movies. Judged against its peers, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a resounding success.

The first three Indiana Jones movies were supposed to take us back to the halcyon days of the Republic Serials. With this one, Lucas and Spielberg set out to make a '50s era B-movie, and I think they succeeded. The movies of that time might not have been art, but they were a good time and are now revered as classics in their own right. I won’t go so far as to call this movie a classic, but I do think that ultimately, it will stand the test of time and will take it’s proper place among the rest of the Indy series.

The 2-disc special edition features a ton of goodies. A pre-production documentary, a 12-part production diary and a whole bunch of galleries and pre-visualizaton stuff. It’s got everything the hardcore fan or film buff could want, including a bunch of interviews with the cast and crew. Basically, the same stuff that every other 2-disc special edition set has. If you’ve seen one 2-disc set, you’ve seen ‘em all. You know what’s on here, go ahead and buy it: It’s probably only $5 more than the regular version.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Silverhawks Volume One - DVD Review

In the hierarchy of 80’s cartoons, none can dispute the “holy trinity” of He-Man, G.I. Joe and Transformers. However, there were a few others that aspired to reach the lofty heights of these three masterpieces. Among them was a team of space faring cybernetic law enforcers known as The Silverhawks.

Silverhawks was created by Rankin/Bass as a follow up to their previous series, Thundercats, and there are quite a few similarities between the shows, including the majority of the voice actors. There’s a little more sci-fi and a little less fantasy in this series, but overall, it’s pretty obvious the same hands were at work in both shows. Which is great, as Thundercats were pretty freakin’ awesome.

Silverhawks are pretty awesome too. The show is essentially a 29th century cops n’ robbers program that pits a team of flying heroes with cybernetic enhancements against the threat of Mon*Star and his ruthless gang of thugs. Mon*Star is your classic gangster, except for the fact that he flies through space on a giant squid equipped with laser guns and he’s got metal spikes sticking out of his head. His gang consists of a little troll named Hardware (the weapons expert), a giant robot minotaur named Mumbo Jumbo (the muscle), an environmental terrorist named Windhammer, who can manipulate the weather with a giant tuning fork, a shapeshifter named Mo-Lec-U-Lar (who looks a bit like an evil version of the grapes from the Fruit of the Loom commercials) and a punk rock chick named Melodia who uses a keytar that shoots lasers. Yup, they’re just your average, everyday mobsters.

Did I mention everyone can breathe in outer space? Apparently, the Limbo Galaxy, where the show takes place, has some sort of atmosphere, because people in space tend to fall downward relative to whatever vehicle or platform from which they lost their footing. If you’re looking for realism, look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you’re looking for robot birds and spaceships that look like cars from the 1940’s, Silverhawks is your show!

Anyway, back to the forces of good and the stars of the show: The Silverhawks. Basically, they’re a bunch of sweet-looking flying cyborgs with names that are somehow related to metal. Quicksilver, the Copper Kid and the twins: Steelheart and Steelwill. Oh, and the pilot is a cowboy named Bluegrass who, similar to the evil Melodia, uses a laser-firing guitar. This is the kind of awesomeness our descendants have to look forward to and as I watched this show, I found myself cursing the fact that I was born nine centuries too early.

I suppose I should talk about quality at some point. Is it any good? Yeah, it actually is. Being a children’s program, it’s not the type of series that’s likely to inspire any deep conversations about the nature of good and evil or the possibilities of technological advances we might see in the future, but it is a lot of fun. If you grew up with the series and you’re wondering how it holds up, I will attest to the fact that it’s a whole lot more enjoyable than those G.I. Joe DVDs you bought a few years back.

The #1 thing about Silverhawks that I found really cool was the character designs. Sure, the plots are simple, but they’re not made for adults. But I defy any adult to find a cartoon with cooler looking characters! Practically every character on this show looks totally awesome, and with the exception of the lady with the keytar, it really doesn’t look dated at all. I think you could show this to a kid today and they probably wouldn’t even realize it was over 20 years old, as long as they didn’t hear the theme song.

The 4 disc set features 32 episodes. That’s over 11 hours of action! In addition, there’s a little featurette called Partly Metal, Partly Real: Remembering Silverhawks. It’s a nice program that recalls the origins of the series and features interviews with the producers and voice actors, who still look back on the show fondly. As well they should.

Silverhawks may not be remembered by quite as many people as the aforementioned “holy trinity”, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less good. As a matter of fact, it’s probably better and at the very least, it looks cool as hell. If you’re a parent looking for a slice of nostalgia that you can enjoy with your kids, you could do a lot worse than picking up a copy of Silverhawks Volume One.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Legendary Performances: Marty Robbins - DVD Review

Culled from a wide variety of sources and over 20 years of history, Shout! Factory and The Country Music Hall of Fame have struck gold once again with their Legendary Performances series and a definitive look back at the career of Marty Robbins. Beginning with a performance of “Knee Deep in the Blues” from 1957 and ending with “All Around Cowboy” from 1979, this DVD features 15 of Marty’s biggest hits and showcases his ability to handle cowboy ballads, country & western, pop and even play the blues.

I have to admit to knowing very little about Marty Robbins prior to watching this disc, but I definitely walked away with a newfound respect. Sure, I’d heard the big hits like “El Paso” and “Singing the Blues”, but that barely scratches the surface of the man’s range. Even in the early days, he was quite a showman, a talent that served him well as he adapted his amazing voice to fit a variety of styles of music and even host his own television show in the late 60’s. Several performances featured on this disc were taken from that very show.

Did I mention the voice? Like butter. Like butter wrapped in silk and dipped in honey. My god, this man must’ve driven the women crazy back in the day.

Beyond the performances, there’s a fairly in-depth interview with Marty that must’ve been done just before his death in 1982 in which he discusses his long career, his relationship with the fans and the type of music he performed. As I stated earlier, though he was known primarily as a singer of country & western music, he regularly crossed over into the pop charts and was known for his eclectic style, even touching on an array of world music. Versatility was the name of this man’s game, and he impressed me with not only his musical ability, but also his knowledge and kindness. He actually struck me as being a very genuine guy.

The thing I really like about this Legendary Performances series is watching the musical and clothing styles change as well as the television production values. A lot of these rare performances could easily be lost to the sands of time if not for the fine folks at The Country Music Hall of Fame. I don’t consider these discs to be simply entertainment, I honestly consider them to be a history lesson. There’s a lot to be learned about the history of music, television and performance. There’s a certain sense of dignity and class to this era of music. While the clothing may be out of style, the songs are timeless.

The list of performances includes:

1) Knee Deep in the Blues (1957)
2) The Same Two Lips (1957)
3) Nothing But Sweet Lies (1959)
4) Singing The Blues (1958)
5) The Story of My Life (1959)
6) El Paso (1965)
7) Devil Woman (1969)
8) Begging To You (1969)
9) My Woman, My Woman, My Wife (1970)
10) Ribbon of Darkness (1976)
11) Among My Souvenirs (1976)
12) A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation) (1977)
13) Don’t Worry (1977)
14) El Paso City (1978)
15) All Around Cowboy (1979)

The DVD also includes Marty Robbins’ induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Speed Racer DVD Review

With the live-action adaptation of the classic anime Speed Racer, the Wachowski’s hoped to reach a larger audience by presenting a family friendly film. When the film was released this summer, it didn’t exactly have the box office impact that the studios were hoping for and didn’t set the critical world on fire either. The Matrix it wasn’t. Despite the poor performance and generally negative reviews, I still wanted to see the film. It just looked really cool. Thanks to the magic of DVD, I was able to watch Speed Racer earlier today and yes, it does look really cool.

Unfortunately, this is a movie that doesn’t seem to know who it’s appealing to, and clocking in at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it misses the mark for both of its major demographics. One can not expect a young child to sit still for that long, nor can one expect any reasonably affordable strain of marijuana to produce a high that will last throughout the duration of the movie. The plot is just a bit too complicated for a kid to really get into, but the characters are a bit too simple to really appeal to anyone looking for a compelling film. It’s not that Speed Racer is a bad movie; it’s just not that good.

The story centers around the improbably named Speed Racer and his family of racing addicts. Speed is renowned for his artistic ability on the track and is wooed by an evil corporation. Deciding his integrity and love for the sport is more important than a big paycheck, Speed ends up finding out that all is not as it seems in the world of racing. A lot of the major races are fixed in order to manipulate the stock market and further the success of corporate fatcats. Working together with the mysterious Racer X, Speed enters the Casa Cristo, a race known for foul play and danger. There’s a lot more to the story, including a love interest and a little kid and a chimp who stow away in the back of the car, but I won’t bother getting into all that right now.
For a film with the word “speed” in the title, Speed Racer moves at an alarmingly slow pace. Just when it seems that the plot is really about to get rolling, it slows back down as new characters and new elements are added. It seems very disjointed at times, almost as though the chimp that was hiding in the trunk of the car was also in the editing room. As I said before, it’s also just too long. I’m not a filmmaker and I shouldn’t be telling anyone how to make a movie, but my god: it’s nearly two and a half hours long! This movie should’ve been an hour and a half tops. The frustrating thing is that it’s not hard to see where it could be improved. Take out a few minutes here, a few minutes there and the whole thing would flow a lot better. It’s almost a good movie, but not quite.

It is, however, absolutely brilliant to look at. The whole thing really does look like a cartoon brought to life. The movie somehow manages to look like a futuristic version of the 1960s got busy with a Mario Kart video game and had a hyperactive baby named Speed Racer. The special effects are awesome and it should be noted that despite the level of craziness going on during the race scenes, it’s always very clear what is happening at all times. I’ve seen too many action flicks where the special effects overwhelm everything on screen and you have no idea what’s going on because your brain just can’t keep up. Not so with Speed Racer. The race scenes are very easy to follow and incredibly fun to watch. Despite this movies many flaws, I can’t really give it too bad of a review, because it’s just so freakin’ cool looking!

In the end, I guess I’d say that Speed Racer is a movie that should probably be rented rather than purchased. Wait for it to hit HBO or Showtime or whatever movie channel you might subscribe to. It’s totally worth watching, but you might not want to watch it again. Children and owners of gravity bongs might disagree with me.

The DVD features a tour of the movie set with Paulie Litt, the kid who plays Speed’s younger brother Spritle. I watched about 5 minutes of this before turning it off in disgust. There’s also a little feature called Speed Racer: Supercharged, which is sort of a commercial for the World Racing League, with little biographies and statistics of a bunch of fictional drivers, cars and tracks. Kinda fun, but kinda boring too.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Country Music Hall of Fame Legendary Performances: Tammy Wynette - DVD Review

Throughout the late '60s and early '70s, Tammy Wynette reigned supreme as the First Lady of Country Music, racking up an impressive 20 #1 hits. It’s downright insulting to refer to her as anything less than a legend, so it’s quite appropriate that the folks at the Country Music Hall of Fame put together a collection of memorable live interpretations of her biggest hits to be included in their Legendary Performances series.

This hour long DVD includes 15 performances from 1967 all the way through 1981. They’re taken from a variety of sources including The Bill Anderson Show, The Wilburn Brothers Show and even one or two from a show you may have actually heard of, such as a rendition of her legendary song “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” from the 1968 Country Music Awards. There’s even a couple of duets with her then-husband George Jones.

This is classic country music at its finest. Honest-to-goodness country music, not the B-Grade Richard Marx songs dressed up with a steel guitar and a fancy hat that passes for country music these days. This DVD will act as a reminder to some of the golden days of music and will hopefully serve as a lesson plan for those interested in what “country” actually sounds like. There’s no line dancing on this DVD, no washed-up 80’s hair bands covering up their bald spots with cowboy hats. These are introspective songs about hard times and lessons learned: songs to get drunk and cry to while contemplating walking out on your jerk of a husband who’s been out at the bar with his buddies far too long and far too often. These are real songs about real life and you won’t find a “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” among them.

You won’t find a whole lot to be happy about either. I don’t mean that in terms of the performances, as there’s not a bad one in the bunch. What I mean is that listening to an hour’s worth of Tammy Wynette didn’t exactly leave me ready to jump up and dance. 60 minutes worth of songs about heartache, heartbreak, drinking and carousing didn’t make me too proud to be a man either. Even if you don’t know anything about the woman’s personal life, it all comes out in the performances. Her firm jaw and steely eyes punctuate songs like “I Don’t Wanna Play House”, “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)” and “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”. The honesty of her voice assures you that Tammy Wynette isn’t simply singing a song, she’s lived it. In fact, by the time she gets around to singing her classic “Stand By Your Man”, you may find yourself shouting at the television “No, don’t stand by him! He’s scum! He’s a loser! Leave the bum!” Or maybe that’s just me.

This DVD is also a fascinating history lesson in terms of style. We start out in the grainy black-and-white of the late 60’s with big bouffant hairdos and Nudie suits and make our way through the polyester and sideburns of the 70’s before ending up in sequined evening gowns of the 80’s. Throughout all of it, the one thing that remains is Tammy’s incredible voice. She sounds just as good in 1981 as she did in 1967. It’s a testament to her talent and another example of why she is due the accolades heaped upon her.

The extras on this DVD include Tammy Wynette’s 1998 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and a couple of old interviews with her. It also includes what appears to be local news footage from her 1978 marriage to George Richey, the man she referred to as the love of her life. This footage is awesome and not unlike watching your aunt and uncles’ home movies of their wedding, complete with ruffled polyester tuxes and magnificently blow-dried hairdos.

The fine folks at SHOUT! Factory and the Country Music Hall of Fame have done an excellent job in preserving these great performances for future generations. I found this DVD to be well worth the time I invested in it and a great addition to the collection of any music fan.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Transformers Animated: Season One DVD Review

The Transformers are back on the small screen with the new Transformers Animated series. Season One collects the first thirteen episodes of the series (minus the pilot which was sold separately) on two discs. The new series falls somewhere in-between the old Transformers cartoon and the wildly successful movie, adding a few new elements to create a continuity all its own.

This version of the series finds a motley crew of Autobots once again trapped on earth, this time in Detroit 50 years in the future. They’re befriended by an 8-year-old human girl named Sari who is the keeper of the Allspark, which has taken the form of a key and acts as a power-supply and healing source. Naturally, a few Decepticons show up to nab the Allspark for their own evil purposes.

When I say “a few Decepticons”, I mean it. The focus of this new series isn’t the war between the Autobots and Decepticons; in fact, that war has been over for centuries! In a move that’s sure to upset old-school Transformers fans, the Autobots operate right out in the open, acting as superheroes. Rather than spending their time trying to get back to Cybertron, they protect Detroit from a variety of human and robot menaces including a supervillain or two. While I certainly don’t find this new story aspect offensive, I do find it to be a bit confusing. I mean, doesn’t operating out in the open for the world to see sort of defeat the whole purpose of being “robots in disguise”?

Confusing alterations aside, I found this series to be a lot of fun. Fans looking for the animated equivalent of the Michael Bay blockbuster or a grim n’ gritty update of their favorite 80’s cartoon should look elsewhere though. This cartoon seems to have been created with the intent of bringing in a new, younger generation of fans. There’s almost as much humor as there is action, and there’s definitely a focus on bringing girls into what was previously considered a boy’s toy line. As the father of a baby girl, that’s cool with me: I’d rather see her playing with fighting robots than dressing up dolls when she gets a little older.

But don’t let the jokes and softer animation style fool you: this show still packs a punch and doesn’t shy away from big-time smash-em-up action. They also don’t shy away from the consequences of such action, which I found to be a welcome change from the old cartoon. The show features plenty of flashbacks from the days of the Cybertronian War which focus on the tragic side of the conflict. There’s a lot of war stories about lost friends and lost lives, without getting too dark or dreary. It’s a far cry from the old days when laser blasts flew everywhere and nobody ever got hurt. Themes of teamwork and responsibility also feature prominently on the show. I have to admit that sometimes it gets a little annoying, but I’m not the show’s target audience. I’ve got a 6-year-old nephew who is a huge fan of the show and neither I nor his parents have any problem with that. There’s some actual lessons hidden underneath all that robot carnage. What more can a parent ask for?

Long story short: Transformers Animated is definitely a show I would recommend to parents and kids alike. Long-time Transformers fans will probably want to stay away, as this version is definitely not made for them. Unless, of course, they’ve got kids of their own and they’re not too hung up on continuity.

The two disc set features full screen format, English and Spanish language tracks, and a Season Two sneak peek photo gallery.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Golden Army - My Hellboy 2 Review

So I saw Hellboy 2: The Golden Army yesterday afternoon. Now I'm writing a review. You're reading it (hopefully).

My relationship with Hellboy is a weird one. I saw the movie first, then read the comics. While I enjoyed the movie, reading the comics I thought "My god, the movie is nothing like these books!" But I think it gave me a certain perspective on the whole thing. They're simply two separate entities. In fact, I've heard Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro say as much: The film Hellboy is not the same as the comic Hellboy, who is not the same as the animated Hellboy. They're different mediums anyway, so who cares? While I'd love to see an animated or live-action Hellboy that 100% captures the look and feel of the comics, I can live without it and I understand that it's simply impossible. Some stuff doesn't translate. My comics are just fine, and I can read 'em anytime I want.

So back to the review. Here's my two cents in regards to The Golden Army... (I'll try to remain spoiler free, but I may drop a hint or two in terms of certain plot elements, so be forewarned)
Visually, this is the most impressive movie I've seen all summer. The last Hellboy pretty much only had a couple monsters, but this one has them in spades. Goblins, fairies, elves, dwarves and more uglies than you can shake a stick at. The Golden Army itself is a magnificent sight to behold, and every fight scene had me on the edge of my seat. I pretty much couldn't tell what was CGI and what was puppets (or guys in suits) throughout the whole movie.

The story wasn't too shabby either. In a nutshell, it boils down to this: Long ago, there was a battle between the greedy humans and all of the mythological creatures. It was brutal, and a truce was struck whereby the humans would get the cities and the towns, and the creatures would stick to the woods and become the stuff of legend. Flash forward to modern times and an elven prince who's not too happy with that arrangement. He wants to take back what is rightfully his, and since you kinda can't help but agree with him, he ends up being a really great villain. The guy who plays him is great too: if Christian Bale and Tom Cruise somehow had an albino baby, it would be this guy.

Anyway, on the other side of the coin, you've got Hellboy, who wants to out the B.P.R.D. He's tired of living in the shadows, and just wants to be accepted. So his story mirrors the elf prince's somewhat (sorry, I can't remember the guy's name), though not in an antagonistic sort of way. He just wants to fit in.

The overall plot is somewhat predictable, and they gloss over a few story elements here and there, but it's stuff that you can figure out on your own and really nothing that made me dislike the movie. It's got a really nice fairy tale element to it, and there's lots of little hints and clues to Hellboy's background and a sense of mystery that I really enjoy in the comics. At times, it feels like a cheap X-Men imitation though, and that I could do without.

Okay, so the bad... yeah, it's pretty much every time the main characters speak. They're not even like real characters, they're walking cliche's. While I thought their motivations were interesting and realistic, their manner of speaking was far from it. You know that scene in the trailer when Hellboy smashes the monster in the face and then he says "Now stay down!"? That's pretty much the whole movie.

I understand that Hellboy isn't supposed to be the sharpest tack in the drawer, but in this movie, he acts like a giant red seven-year-old with ADD. And not a cute and charming seven-year-old: a bratty annoying one. That's really the downfall of this movie. I kind of ended up rooting for the bad guy, because the heroes annoyed me. That's really a shame, because the beauty of the first Hellboy was how much I really ended up loving all of the characters. This one... not so much.

I get the impression that Guillermo del Toro was sitting in his office, or wherever he works on his movies, and he was thinking "I have to make a movie to appeal to the masses. I have to make a movie that will appeal to the lowest common denominator. I have to act as though I am Michael Bay when I write the dialogue for these characters." And since del Toro doesn't really know how to make a bad movie, he just totally overdid it. Hey, I've been known to like a Michael Bay movie or two in my lifetime, but I expect more from a guy like Guillermo del Toro. So it's a bit dissapointing.

But it's not enough to make me dislike the movie. It's a good story, and as I said before, a visual masterpiece. As much as the characters did annoy me, I have to admit that by the end, I was cheering them on. I mean, who doesn't cheer the good guys? Though most of the flick was played in a broad manner, there were still enough little emotional scenes that I began to care just a tiny little bit.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army was a weird movie. In a lot of ways, it surpasses the first one, but in others, it falls far short. I think if you're a fan of the first movie, you oughtta give this one a shot. I had a few problems with this flick, but they didn't keep me from enjoying the overall product, so if you're willing to let a few things slide, you will probably enjoy it as well. If nothing else, it's worth the price of admission for the monsters.

Batman: Gotham Knight review

When you gather six totally awesome writers and six totally awesome directors, the end product should be nothing less than totally awesome, right? While Batman: Gotham Knight falls just shy of the totally awesome mark, it definitely deserves a spot in the pantheon of animated superhero offerings and a place on your DVD shelf.

The movie boasts a host of comicdom’s finest writers such as Greg Rucka, Brian Azzarello and Batman Begins scriptwriter David Goyer and some of the (allegedly) top directors from the world of anime. I say “allegedly” because to be totally honest with you, my interest in anime pretty much peaked with Voltron and Akira. I’ve got nothing against the stuff, mind you: I’m actually quite impressed with everything I’ve seen. But in the busy world of geekdom, it’s just a subject I haven’t found time to become well-educated in. So when the back of the DVD package says that these guys are the top directors in their field, I’ve got to take them at their word.

The film consists of six independent segments offering different viewpoints on Batman, from some Gotham City youths to the new guy on the police force to Batman himself. Each segment has a different writer and a different director and while they can be watched separately, they form a greater whole when watched together. It reminded me a bit of The Animatrix for a couple of reasons. The first being that it’s made up of a bunch of different pieces and different styles, and the second being that it takes place squarely between the last Batman movie and the next Batman movie. The biggest difference is that The Dark Knight probably won’t be as much of a disappointment as The Matrix sequels were. But that’s neither here nor there.

While it’s probably not necessary to watch Gotham Knight in order to watch The Dark Knight, it does serve as a nice little bridge between Begins and its upcoming sequel. It gives us a few different looks into Batman’s psyche and what drives him to do what he does and the manner in which he does it. As a fanboy, I really enjoyed the little nods to Chris Nolan’s film. This movie features Lieutenant (not Commissioner) Jim Gordon, and a Gotham City dealing with the aftereffects of the Arkham Asylum breakout. Lucius Fox shows up, playing a role quite similar to the one he played in Batman Begins. We see a young Batman learning the ropes, and an expanded origin story that doesn’t dwell solely on the night his parents were killed, but also shows us the paths he took to become the Dark Night Detective, much like Batman Begins showed us his training with Ra’s al Ghul.

My only real complaint with the film is that despite the advertisements stating that it features “Six totally different versions of the Batman mythos”, it actually only gives us six slightly different versions of Batman. Not that I’m complaining about the artwork or the stories; but they really weren’t all that astounding in their variation. Yes, Batman/Bruce Wayne was drawn differently in each segment, but I got the feeling the animators played it a bit safe. I was expecting some real night-and-day variations on the Caped Crusader, but really only got some “night-and-dusk” variations. I was expecting the differences between segments to be akin to comparisons between Superfriends and Batman: The Animated Series, but it was more like comparing Batman:TAS to Justice League Unlimited: different, but certainly not a drastic change. Is this really worth complaining about? Absolutely not, but this is a movie review, so you have to expect I’ll find something to complain about, right? A critic’s gotta be critical.

At the end of the day, Batman: Gotham Knight is a worthy addition to your DVD shelf, especially if you’re a big Batman fan. It didn’t blow my doors down by any means, but it was an entertaining new addition to the Batman mythos and something I’ll definitely watch again. I’m hoping that DC and Warner Brothers will continue to release stuff like this in-between their movies, and more importantly, that they’ll continue to release high quality animated fare suitable for adults as well as children.

The two-DVD set contains a ton of extras. There’s commentary by DC Comics Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, former Batman Editor Dennis O’Neil and Kevin Conroy, aka “The Voice of Batman”, a sneak peek at the upcoming Wonder Woman animated feature two documentaries and four episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.

The documentaries include Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story, an enlightening look at Batman’s creator, and A Mirror For the Bat, the obligatory look into Batman and his rogue’s gallery that seems to accompany every Batman DVD release. I found both of these documentaries to be very interesting and well worth the extra price one pays for a two-disc set. Plus, you get four episodes of the animated show! That’s a lot of bang for your buck. Go ahead and buy the deluxe version.

Swamp Thing : the series Volume Two

The character of Swamp Thing has had a very rich history since he was first created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson for DC Comics in 1972. Thanks to the immense talents of his creators, the initial series turned out to be a surprise hit for four years or so. In 1982, Wes Craven wrote and directed a low budget horror film based on the character which led to something of a revival. The movie is fondly remembered by nerds everywhere for two things: the terrible Swamp Thing costume that looked like paper machè and for giving us an all too brief glimpse of Adrienne Barbeau’s breasts.

The ‘82 revival eventually led to Alan Moore’s classic run on the series which led to a movie sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing, a film notable for its awesome opening montage set to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou” and it’s terrible sense of humor. Swamp Thing continued to live on in both animated and live-action form on the small screen. In 1991, the USA Network commissioned a total of 72 episodes of a Swamp Thing series. I enjoyed the series as a youth and for the past month or so, I’ve had the distinct privilege of watching the majority of them again. Oh, did I say privilege? I think the word I’m actually looking for is a little closer to torture.

The first volume of the Swamp Thing television series features the first two seasons totaling 22 episodes. Now, the first season is an absolute turd, but I have to admit that by the end of the second season, I was getting into it. The show had been re-tooled and was turning into something of a guilty pleasure for me. The scripts were getting better and while most of the acting was subpar, Mark Lindsay Chapman was a pretty entertaining Anton Arcane, and it’s always good to see Dick Durock in the big green moss-covered suit. When volume two arrived for me to review, I was actually pretty excited. It contained the first 26 episodes of the series’ 50-episode third season. With the groundwork being laid down in season two, I figured that season three was going to be a barnburner!

Turns out I was wrong. All of the interesting subplots that were introduced in the second season were still there, but they were downplayed a bit, and never really expanded upon. What’s worse is that Swamp Thing began to pretty much just appear in a brief cameo at the beginning and end of each episode. He might pop in to save the day and maybe spout some words of wisdom, but that’s about it. Everything went right back to the old formulaic garbage I had to sit through in the first season.

To make matters worse, there aren’t any extras on this set. Hell, they could’ve just thrown a commercial or two on there and I would’ve been happy. But it was not to be. Swamp Thing: The Series Volume Two turned out to be a letdown, but since I had invested this much in the show, I figured I might as well see it through to the end. Slogging through that series was not unlike making my way through a dank and frightening swamp, but I made my way, and I’d like to think I’m a better man for it. What doesn’t kill us will only make us stronger, no?

I’m not sure when Volume Three comes out, but you can bet that I’ll be here to review it when it does. I have to give Shout! Factory a lot of credit. I can’t possibly imagine that anyone in the world has any interest in this series except me, but here it is in all its DVD glory. Is it a good series? No. But I can think of worse ways to pass the time and this can be done without expending any extra energy or brain cells. If you’re a die hard comic fan or Swamp Thing completist, Swamp Thing: The Series Volume Two is a must-have for your collection. Now bring on Volume Three!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Swamp Thing:the series Volume One - DVD Review

I was 14 years old when the Swamp Thing television series began to air on the USA Network. I faithfully watched every week, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, my mother joined me in viewing this fine piece of American television every Friday night. Much like me, I guess she didn’t have anything better to do on a Friday night. As I got older, I began to appreciate little things like this: obviously, some parents will do whatever it takes to connect with their children on some level.

Having spent the past two weeks immersing myself in Volume One of the Swamp Thing television series, I appreciate my mother even more. Any parent willing to sit through this show on a weekly basis is truly dedicated and possibly deserving of some sort of Parent of the Year Award.

Okay, okay. It isn’t that bad. But it isn’t that good either. Swamp Thing: The Series Volume One, recently released by Shout! Factory, contains the first two seasons of the cult classic series, totaling 22 episodes. Reprising his role as the muck-encrusted mockery of man is stuntman-turned-actor Dick Durock. Mark Lindsay Chapman portrays Dr. Anton Arcane, Swamp Thing’s evil nemisis, and Carrell Myers rounds out the cast as Tressa Kipp, a divorced mother who has recently relocated to Houma, Louisiana to start a new life with her young son Jim. I’m not sure what the name of the actor is who played Jim, and to be frank, it isn’t worth my time or yours to look it up. The kid is terrible. He makes Jake Lloyd’s performance in The Phantom Menace look like Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood.

The first season finds Tressa moving into her familial estate on the outskirts of the mysterious swamp inhabited by Swamp Thing. Her son Jim has a reputation as a compulsive liar, so naturally Tressa doubts his tales of the swamp creature he’s befriended, but what becomes very clear to her in little time is the evil nature of Anton Arcane, a local mad scientist. (I guess every small southern town has one.) Arcane’s goals are never exactly stated, but he basically spends all of his time either hitting on Tressa or splicing the genes of humans and animals together.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Swamp Thing comic books, here’s the basic gist of the story: Scientists Alec and Linda Holland were working on a bio-restorative formula capable of rapidly increasing the growth of plants. When their lab was sabotaged, Linda was killed and Alec was doused in the formula. He ran into the swamp and several days later, Swamp Thing emerged. Anton Arcane is a wizened old codger well-versed in black magic who is constantly trying to capture Swamp Thing in order to transfer his mind into Swampy’s body. For the purposes of the television series, this story has been slightly changed so that Dr. Arcane is a strapping young scientist responsible for blowing up his rivals’ laboratory. When he’s not creating bird-men or trying to get a piece of Tressa Kipp’s action, Arcane occasionally tries to capture Swamp Thing in an attempt to find the secret to the bio-restorative formula. No reason is given, but when you’re a mad scientist, do you really need one?

For the first season, the series basically follows a monster-of-the-week formula, sometimes without the monster. Something weird happens in the swamp, Jim and/or his mother is placed in danger and Swamp Thing acts as something of a deus ex machina, showing up for about 5 minutes to bring someone back to life or frighten away Arcane and his goons. It’s very basic and very bland.

Season One’s finale finally gives us a reason for Arcane’s genetic menagerie: he’s creating mindless slaves to sell on the black market. This episode sees Jim get captured and sent to a work camp and (thankfully) written out of the series. The series was retooled for Season Two, introducing Jim’s older step-brother Will and bringing on Kari Wuhrer as Abigail. The show became more action oriented, the scripts got a lot better and… dare I say it? The series actually started getting pretty good.

In Season Two, we find out that Arcane is just a small part of a larger evil organization which is headed by General Sunderland. Sunderland essentially plays the same role that Arcane played in the comics. He’s an old man who wants a new body, and he hopes that Alec Holland’s bio-restorative formula will be the key. In addition, it is revealed that Arcane hopes that the formula will hold the secret to saving his wife, who is kept alive in some sort of stasis after a near-death experience. Apparently, the writers realized that actually giving your characters some sort of motivation makes them vastly more interesting.

Will Kipp (played by Scott Garrison) basically takes over Jim’s role, only he’s in his early 20’s and isn’t completely annoying. It seemed that the creators of this series still felt a need to have a complete black hole of talent on the show though, and Kari Wuhrer was added to fill that void. She’s also pretty easy on the eyes, and her constantly being outfitted in very short shorts in nearly every episode may further explain why the second season outshines the first. Her character’s name is Abigail (no relation to Abigail from the Swamp Thing comics), and apparently she was created in a laboratory as another one of Sunderland’s experiments.

The tone of the series becomes much darker in the second season, but it also maintains a sense of humor. Not a particularly funny sense of humor, but there’s a few good jokes here and there. Swamp Thing’s role is expanded, and we begin to see more of the inner turmoil of a man trapped in the body of a plant. Also, Arcane’s experiments become more violent in nature, and we get to see Swampy throw a few stuntmen through some breakaway windows. It’s almost as though the creators used the first season as a test run and completely reinvented it with Season Two. The much-needed improvements make for a much better show.

But is the show really any good? Well, it’s as good as you’d expect an early 90’s made-for-USA series to be. I can’t deny that by the end of the second season, I was really enjoying it quite a bit, but I will also freely admit that anyone who isn’t already a fan of Swamp Thing probably won’t find a whole lot to enjoy in this series. It’s what I always refer to as a “Sunday afternoon show”. When you’re sitting on the couch on Sunday afternoon, winding down after a long weekend and you have nothing better to do, it’s not a terrible way to pass the time. It doesn’t take much effort to watch the show, and if you fall asleep during an episode, you won’t really be too upset that you missed it.

The DVDs also feature some interviews with Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein and star Dick Durock. These little vignettes are really quite interesting and are definitely a must-watch if you’re a fan of the comics, movies or television series.