Category Archives: cartoon network

Beware the Batman

I approach this new Batman series with both trepidation and resentment. We’re getting this series as not only a replacement for the old “Brave and the Bold” series, which gave us an intriguing and entertaining new direction for the character, but also a replacement for the much loved, and inexplicably ended “Green Lantern” and “Young Justice.” I would have much rather had either of these series back, or a JLA spin-off from the later than anything else Cartoon Network is offering lately, especially the superdeformed mutilation called “Teen Titans Go!” or this newest version of Batman.

“Beware the Batman” is a bit of an oddity, with, in my opinion, very little to like. The animation is CGI style like the aforementioned Green Lantern series, and there seems to be very little reason to have it done in this method. There are no wild scifi elements that this style would benefit. Batman’s head is odd and his whole costume has a wet, almost slimy, vinyl rubber look.

It is also quite violent. I was surprised at how violent, and I’m pretty desensitized to that sort of thing, especially when it comes to superheroes and cartoons. This is also a very different concept for Batman. He is, once again (groan), early in his career and therefore inexperienced. Why can’t we have the confident and competent Batman? That’s the one we like, not the bumbling amateur.

I said this was a new concept, well, young and dumb isn’t what I was talking about. Alfred is very different. More than a butler, he is an Australian ex-spy who looks like cross between Lex Luthor and Vin Diesel. It’s an intriguing idea, but I don’t like it.

Also in the way of change, I understand that the standard rogues gallery is being jettisoned for this new series. I think this is a very odd decision as Batman’s bizarre enemies are as much a part of his popularity as everything else. In the opener, he fights the very strange Grant Morrison creations, Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad. I was not impressed.

Also featured in the episode were a non- Mr. Terrific Michael Holt and a decidedly pre-Metamorpho Simon Stagg. Was this just for the Easter egg name drop then? Let’s face it, Mr. Terrific and Metamorpho are what makes these characters interesting, without them, why use them?

I’m giving this series a wait and see option. I haven’t really decided yet. It could go either way after watching just one episode, but I really don’t know.

I did however like the DC Nation short featuring the Tarantino-esque Aeon Flux style retro Wonder Woman short. Can’t wait to see more. Instead of another Batman, why not a series based on this, of one of the other better shorts like Amethyst, Sword of the Atom, Plastic Man, or Thunder and Lightning? Or if you insist on Batman, how about Batman of Shanghai?

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Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania ~ I gotta be up front with this one. It’s not bad, but honestly I was expecting so much more from Genndy Tartakovsky’s first foray into big screen animation. “Samurai Jack,” “Dexter’s Laboratory” and especially the most recent “Sym-Biotic Titan” are among my faves on Cartoon Network. Yeah, I know he also worked on “Star Wars: Clone Wars,” but let’s get real, it is sooo not in the same league.

Hotel Transylvania is not bad, but it’s not that good either. Simplistic, and borrowing more than a little from Rankin/Bass’ Mad Monster Party? from decades ago, it struggles more than it needs to by using the voice talents (and I use the word ‘talent’ very loosely) of Adam Sandler as Dracula. It’s like listening to Sandler’s annoying Opera Man voice for almost two hours. Where there’s Sandler, there’s also Kevin James as Frankenstein, as well as a cornucopia of unfunny “Saturday Night Live” veterans.

This one is good for the kids, but might be a bit much to take for the adults. Be warned, the end breaks into a rap celebration that must be missed. Embarrassing for all involved. Seeing Steve Buscemi involved in this movie tells me he owes somebody a big favor, or he needs to fire his agent. As for Genndy Tartakovsky, his next project is rumored to be a big budget animated Popeye. I’m hoping for the best, and not more of this.

So Who’s This Zelda Chick Anyway?

Nothing hits home with the admission that I am a non-gamer more than when I am confronted with stuff I don’t know, and worse yet, stuff I know I should know. Like Zelda.

The Dark Crystal recently invited me to a big orchestra event where they would be playing the music from the Legend of Zelda videogames. The inference in the invitation is first, that this was a big thing, and second, that everyone knows who Zelda is. I do not, and I felt stupid.

Even my buddy Ray had recently given me a hard time because I admitted not knowing who Zelda was. Apparently he was further incensed because it was a game even I could play. Ray was ashamed of me. I was crushed. Who was this Zelda chick, and why was she ruining my life?

I did what everyone does in this situation, I visited Google, and then Google for dummies (that’s me apparently in this case), Wikipedia. Turns out she’s not just anyone named Zelda, bitch is legend, as in The Legend of Zelda. I knew she was a Nintendo product, but I had no idea she was the star of some sixteen different games on at least a dozen different game systems. Zelda gets around.

Now here are the facts. Zelda was named after the famous Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the even more famous F. Scott. Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto thought it was a pleasant sounding name for a princess. The game itself is based on the designer’s own experiences as a boy where he explored the hills, lakes, forests, and caves around his home.

As inferred by Crystal’s invitation to a concert, the music of The Legend of Zelda is also quite famous and distinctive. Koji Kondo, a legend in music and audio for Nintendo composed the soundtracks for much of the game series, including musical clues and cues throughout. His work can also be found in the Mario and Starfox games.

The story of the game is fairly simple, or at least I’ll dumb it down quite a bit here. You play the hero Link, and you have to quest for stuff in the land of Hyrule to rescue the princess, Zelda. Like I said, I streamlined this baby. It gets more complicated the more you get into it. Link is sorta a cross between Peter Pan and the elf from Gauntlet in appearance, and has been parodied on Cartoon Network’s “Drawn Together.” Hyrule is your typical fantasy land, and Zelda, is usually the damsel in distress, only there to be saved or served. Later versions of course are playable, and more independent.

Well now that I have a little foreknowledge, and won’t be made to feel as stupid as before, maybe I’ll play one of these games in the future…

At War with Comcast

Dear Comcast, recently you introduced your new Interactive Program Guide for cable television service in our area. Now if it were merely a matter of me not liking the aesthetics of it, or the readability, I can understand that I’m just be picky. Change happens, sometimes not for the better. And just for the record, the aesthetics and the readability suck, in my far less than humble opinion.

Functionality may be where the problem(s) lie. But let’s talk positive first. The Program Guide can now DVR programs more than a week into the future. Closed captioning is now available on our HD television and it was not before. These are both good things, and I thank you and praise you.

As I implied earlier, the Guide is extremely difficult to navigate, and the website and instructional videos are really not much help if I’m being honest. The sleep timer is gone, so no more watching TV ’til I fall asleep. And it takes four steps to DVR something now where it used to take two. After a few days, by hit and miss, I got the gist of how things worked. But things began to go downhill, and out of my control, very quickly.

The DVR began to only record just a few minutes of a program the first night the Guide was installed. The first attack took out three programs recorded in one hour – one one hour show and two half-hour shows back to back at the same time. It did it to those same shows the next week. In the week between various programs suffered the same fate.

And then there were the other ‘fun’ things that occurred since the Program Guide was installed. On Demand has been intermittently working. Occasionally some channels would say that we’re not authorized to watch them. For instance, we would get the same message for The Cooking Channel, Cartoon Network and G4 that we get for a pay channel like Cinemax that we do not subscribe to.

I did not sit and take this by the way. I am a complete evil bastard when it comes to talking with customer service. However, since The Bride used to work for Comcast, I tried my damnedest to be polite and calm, just in case I was speaking to someone we/she knew or used to work with. Just for the record, since June 7th, I have logged fourteen total calls to Comcast for various problems.

Sunday night, the shit hit the fan, as they say. The season finales of “Game of Thrones” and “The Killing” did not record at all. There were other programs that didn’t record or only recorded a few minutes of that night, but those two hurt me. When I tried to calm down, and watch them OnDemand, my blood pressure shot into the sky. OnDemand wasn’t working either.

I was on the phone to Comcast immediately. I had had enough of this crap. Through gritted teeth I carefully explained the problems to the customer service representative, and a technician visit was planned for the next day. This was last Tuesday. Long story short, Comcast sent a guy who looked like a Russian mobster from “The Sopranos,” with a very thick (almost to the point of hysteria) accent to match, to my house to change out the cable boxes. I was told, and after he said it several times I understood, that the problem was fixed.

That night, and the next three nights, the problem reoccurred. I called the cable company again, all calm out of the question. I was no longer polite, I was no longer understanding – I was what is probably gently referred to as ‘the irate customer.’ Yet another customer service representative talked to me slowly and softly, as if I was on the ledge of a tall building and threatening to jump. I was told that I wouldn’t being paying for the service calls, I would receive a discount on the DVR bill and that a technician would be at my home on Monday.

After a weekend of the intermittently functional DVR giving us incomplete recordings if at all, the technician arrived Monday. He asked a lot of questions, fiddled with some wires and then went outside to call his supervisor. You want to know what the bottom line was? “It’s a software problem, and they are working out the bugs. Yeah, it sucks, but there it is.”

The technician left. Unharmed. And about a dozen more blood vessels in my forehead popped. The problem continues. And I’m looking into TIVO.

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Justice League: A New Animated Crisis

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths ~ The evil twin premise is one that is as old as the hills, and this specific premise regarding the Crime Syndicate of Earth-Three and the Justice League dates back nearly four decades, and now it comes to animation in this new DVD. The science fiction (and now probable fact with string theory) concept of the multiverse has been a staple of DC Comics’ Justice League for a long time, and Earth-Three’s evil Justice League has become legend and a fan favorite. This story brings both elements together nicely.

The Crime Syndicate – Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick – aren’t just our heroes with beards a la “Star Trek,” but are fully realized psychopaths with different origins and backgrounds that only resemble the League. They rule their world with an iron fist and have murdered their world’s heroes, the last survivor of which is ironically Lex Luthor. Luthor escapes to our world to get the JLA to help stop the Syndicate. Hilarity, as they say, ensues.

All the characters involved in this animated feature are very in character with the comics, moreso to the cartoon of a few years back, but the comics as well, and I happily blame writer Dwayne McDuffie. He was a longtime writer in the comics, and a fan before that, but most importantly he was one of the main writers on the two Cartoon network “Justice League” series. Hal Jordan replaces John Stewart as Green Lantern, for no other reason I can think of other than his recent animated feature and upcoming live-action film. While I’m happy to see Hal, he doesn’t mix as well with the animated Flash as one would hope.

But I should note that this is not a continuation of the Cartoon Network series so this are really unjustified observations. To clarify that, this feature has an all-new voice cast. The voice casting is inspired on all levels, especially James Woods as Owlman. My only complaint in that area would be Mark Harmon’s Superman. It just doesn’t work for me – too brash, not confident or heroic enough in my opinion.

Crisis on Two Earths is filled with Easter eggs. One early on is when the two teams first meet, we get to see not only evil counterparts of the Outsiders, but the infamous Justice League Detroit as well. And the Marvel Family! That was a surprise bonus I was not expecting.

McDuffie has added an intriguing mob mentality to the Crime Syndicate organization, making them more of a real syndicate – a welcome twist. The five primary members are now ‘made men’ (and women), captains of their families if you will, and all the other metahumans are under their leadership.

Another Easter egg/twist is the identity of the US President of Earth-Three (let’s just call a spade a spade even though it’s never mentioned in the flick) – Deathstroke. And his teenage daughter Rose who protests against the Crime Syndicate is another. Her twist is even deeper as a romance blooms between her and the Martian Manhunter. Yeah, not only is he older, he’s millennia older.

The families of the made men are made up of numerous evil counterparts of heroes from the Justice League’s world, allowing for not only a myriad of guest appearances, but also evil twisted versions of those characters. But logically I had to wonder, on the regular Earth there are a dozen or more villains to every hero – on this reverse-morality world, shouldn’t it be crawling with heroes? Or did the Crime Syndicate kill them all?

Speaking of killing them all, the story is about more than an evil twin tale or the JLA fighting their evil fascist counterparts, or even about J’Onn making Martian love to the squeaky clean Rose Wilson. The real villain here is James Woods’ Owlman. Batman’s darker opposite number is more than he seems – a sociopath who wants to not only destroy the world, but all worlds, all of reality. His is a philosophical act, the only one that will matter. Man, that’s scary and heavy all at once.

All in all, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an enjoyable romp back into the animated world of the JLA. Fans of the comics, and the TV series will love it, and there’s even enjoyment for mainstream outsiders as well. Recommended. But of course, the real reason to get this DVD is for the Spectre animated short, which I’ll be reviewing shortly…

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Quickies 1-13-2010

(500) Days of Summer ~ One of the better films of the year, this is a day by day examination of a relationship, sometimes in order, sometimes not. The story and the acting are great and the music and literary references are delicious. This flick also has one of the best impromptu dance numbers (to Hall and Oates of all things) this side of Enchanted or Clerks 2. Do not miss.

9 ~ More ugly animation from Tim Burton, while visually interesting it quickly got boring after about twenty minutes. It was originally created as a short, perhaps it should have stayed such.

Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side ~ This second Seth McFarlane “Family Guy” feature parodies the second Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back. This one is notably more Family Guy than Star Wars but still damned accurate and damned funny. The one thing that does get me is how fantastic and detail-oriented the animation of the ships and background look. How come this parody looks like this, but the real thing – the “Clone Wars” cartoon on Cartoon Network, looks like crap. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

A Thousand Clowns ~ This classic 1965 film is proof positive of Jason Robards’ talent, as well as getting an Oscar for Martin Balsam’s performance and a handful of other nominations including best picture too. A simple story – a woman convinces an out of work imaginative writer to get his job back in order to maintain custody of his gifted nephew. Robards and the young Barry Gordon as well as most of the rest of the cast reprised their roles from the stage play by Herb Gardener. He also wrote the screenplay, that while still feeling stagebound, is an amazing tour de force for all the actors involved. The chemistry of all the actors is incredible. Must see.

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Venture Bros. Season 4

Season 4 of “The Venture Bros.” begins Sunday night on Cartoon Network.

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The Show that Wouldn’t Die

Since its debut on Fox in March of 1999, “Futurama” has had a rocky existence on television. The animated series, revolving around an inept pizza delivery guy frozen and released on the unsuspecting 31st century, has been canceled and un-canceled more times that I want to count. The warmness toward the program is probably due to its creators, David X. Cohen and Matt Groening, the latter being the creator of “The Simpsons.” Fox wouldn’t do anything to tick off the creator of their continuous cash cow, not if they were smart, but eventually dwindling ratings held sway.

After being syndicated on both Cartoon Network and significantly Comedy Central after (and during) its cancellation(s), “Futurama” proved successful enough to have four direct-to-DVD movies made, essentially a ‘fifth season.’ Ironically enough, these movies separated by months in between was really no more erratic that the schedule Fox was airing the series anyway when it was officially a Fox program. These DVDs were equally successful to merit the return of “Futurama” as a regular series on Comedy Central with twenty-six new episodes for mid-2010. I wonder how hard Fox is kicking themselves now?

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Bat-Mite Strikes Again

Cartoon Network’s hit series “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” will be taking a ride on the crazy train soon. The program, which features an old school Batman teaming up with various other superheroes to fight crime and defeat costumed baddies, welcomes a few familiar names back onto the small screen on May 29th.

Paul Dini, who was instrumental in the ongoing creation of Fox’s award-winning “Batman: The Animated Series” during the 1990s, comes on board to write a special episode featuring another name from the past, Bat-Mite!

In the episode titled “Legends of the Dark-Mite!” Bat-Mite (voiced by Paul Reubens AKA Pee-Wee Herman) kidnaps Batman and takes him to the Fifth Dimension where hilarity literally ensues. Lots of old school versions of Batman’s enemies show up to the party as well, with more than one nod to the Looney Tunes cartoons of yesteryear. Don’t miss it!

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G.I. Joe: Resolute

G.I. Joe is back, and no, I’m not just talking about the upcoming live-action movie. If folks go on over to Adult Swim.com, you can check out the first two chapters (and in the following days, the rest) of “G.I. Joe: Resolute,” an updated, anime-style and R-rated for violence new series with the Joe crew facing off against a meaner more terroristic Cobra. Not for the kids, but well worth checking out!

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