Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Batman: The Brave & The Bold volume 2 - DVD Review

The Caped Crusader is back in another collection of animated outings. Eschewing the grim n’ gritty Batman of recent years, The Brave and the Bold embraces an incarnation of the Dark Knight that most fans and writers choose to forget. Harkening back to the 1950’s era of a smiling Batman who traveled time and was just as likely to fight dinosaurs and ghosts as he was mobsters, this popular series has made Batman fun again and introduced him to a whole new generation of fans.

Not only does Batman: The Brave and the Bold introduce Batman to a legion of new fans, it also introduces a bevy of other characters from DC Comics. That’s how the series works: in every episode, Batman teams with another costumed crimefighter in order to solve whatever crime is at hand. We not only get a whole bunch of cool heroes, we also get a whole bunch of different interpretations of Batman. This DVD collection finds Batman acting as a mentor to the teenage Blue Beetle, helping the young hero find his way. We see the Caped Crusader give guidance and advice to Wildcat, an aging hero looking for a new path. And of course, there’s Batman’s ever-present rivalry with Green Arrow. The two act almost like sparring brothers: constantly trying to one-up each other.

In addition to the more mainstream heroes presented on this show, each episode opens with a brief segment featuring more obscure characters like B’wana Beast, Kamandi or Guy Gardener who also threaten to steal the show from our hero. And it’s all done with a combination of dry wit and psychedelic style that will please children and old-school comic book fans alike. The great thing about Batman: The Brave and the Bold is that despite its cartoony animation style and sense of humor, it also features some really good scripts. While the style might be reminiscent of a more simplistic era in sequential art, it’s got stories and dialogue that’s written well enough for any adult to appreciate.

But it’s not for everyone. Fans who can’t handle an all-ages version of Batman will want to stay away. Comic book readers who can’t handle the fact that their favorite characters might also appeal to children will want to steer clear of this show and anyone who takes themselves too seriously will probably be happier watching old episodes of Batman: the Animated Series. But if you’re a parent who wants to introduce their kids to their favorite costumed crimefighter or if you’re just a superhero fan who appreciates a good time, then this is the show for you.
The four episodes contained on this DVD collection are:

Day of the Dark Knight, a medieval tale featuring Green Arrow, the Demon and Merlin the Magician.
Enter the Outsiders, in which Batman shows an old dog new tricks and guides a team of teenage metahumans that sometimes raging against the machine is counterproductive.
Dawn of the Dead Man, an episode in which Batman almost meets his maker and teaches Deadman that he can still have a purpose without having a pulse.
Fall of the Blue Beetle, which delves into the history of the men who have been known by the name of Blue Beetle and shows a young man doing his best to live up to a legacy of greatness.

All-in-all, it’s a collection worthy of a special place on the DVD shelf of superhero fans of any age.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tom & Jerry's Greatest Chases volume 3

Since 1940, children have thrilled to the (literal) cat n’ mouse games of the masters of mayhem known as Tom and Jerry. In 2009, children and animation fans continue to enjoy their mischievous antics as countless collections of shorts are compiled, released and re-released on DVD. Tom and Jerry’s Greatest Chases volume 3 continues the proud tradition of cherry picking a few shorts from here and a few more from there and slapping them all together for your enjoyment.

There are 14 animated shorts in this collection, including the Academy Award-winning Two Mouseketeers and its Oscar-nominated follow up, Touché, Pussy Cat! They aren’t presented in any sort of historical context or chronological order. The transfers look good, but don’t really appear to be restored, retouched or anything like that; unless you count the fact that they appear to be at least somewhat edited. I know there were plenty of racist jokes in those old cartoons that had to be edited out of this collection. So if you’re a collector who wants that stuff preserved for posterity, this disc isn’t for you. If you’re a parent who just wants to show their kid some good old fashioned violence and not have to worry about a bunch of negative stereotypes, you’re cool.

It’s a pretty bare bones package. Animation historians or the sort that demands their cartoon collections archived with in-depth booklets detailing the behind-the-scenes information of the creation of these animated classics will likely be disappointed. If you crave extras, interviews, sketches and gossip, this collection will leave you hanging. But if you just want some good cartoons, you’re in luck because these ones are awesome.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the duration of your entire lifetime, I don’t need to tell you how fantastically funny these cartoons are. Here’s the deal: Tom is a cat who is easily annoyed. Jerry is a troublemaking little mouse. They fight. And fight. And fight and fight and fight. There’s a lot of property damage, a few tails slammed in waffle irons and some of the most outrageous violence you’ve ever seen in animation. There are a bevy of Rube Goldberg devices intended for mouse catching, a touch of romance and even a little feline rivalry. In short: it’s loads of fun and will leave you in stitches.

As previously stated, this is not really a compilation for collectors; it’s for parents who want to shut their kids up on road trips. And at the low price of $15 for 101 minutes of entertainment, they can’t be beat. If you just want a good time with a little over an hour and a half of animated excitement, then you can do a whole lot worse than the third volume of Tom and Jerry’s Greatest Chases.

Cartoons include:
Cat NappingThe Flying CatThe Two MouseketeersSmitten KittenBaby ButchDesigns on JerryPecos PestTouché, Pussy Cat!The Flying SorceressBlue Cat BluesThe Night Before ChristmasThe Bowling Alley-CatFine Feathered FriendPuttin’ on the Dog