Cartoons Step-By-Step: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) Episode 2 Review

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Plot: As the turtles finish fixing up their new home after their old one got destroyed by the mouser robots, a news report showcases the newest invention of the world renowned scientist, Baxter Stockman. Shockingly, the unveiled creations are the mouser robots, marketed as a solution to New York’s rampant rat problem, though they’re really attack robots built for the evil Shredder.

Donatello manages to get one of the mousers working again and they follow it as it makes it way back to the enemy’s hideout. They’re knocked off the trail, however, when the mouser bites through the supports for one of the main water lines.

Meanwhile, Stockman’s assistant, April O’Neal, notices some oddities in the mouser’s functioning and Stockman’s behavior, so she decides to investigate. She opens a secret passageway that leads into a mass mouser robot factory, but before she’s able to learn more, Stockman finds her and sics the mouser robots on her.

She runs into the sewers to get away, and the turtles quickly pick the trail of the mousers back up. They destroy all of the robots and save April, who promptly passes out when she sees that her saviors are really humanoid turtles.

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This episode wasn’t horribly interesting or action-packed, but it was a good continuation of the plotline from the previous episode, and it introduced us to April and Baxter Stockman. I’m actually very happy at her change into being Baxter’s assistant instead of being a reporter. It gives her more to offer the team (though how much is used is yet to be seen) and it gives her more of a connection to the overall plot. Plus, I’d take that white lab coat over that yellow jumpsuit any day. Nostalgia be damned, that was ugly.

I don’t have much else to say about it. There’s nothing much of note here besides it being a continuation. It was kinda fun, and I can’t find much really wrong with it. I don’t understand why the turtles want to follow the mousers so badly if they know Stockman is the one making them. And I know New York does have a bad rat problem, but no one’s really questioning the….risks or…logic involved in the mouser robots? PETA’s not complaining about the fact that they just aired a news segment where a foot-tall robot with razor-sharp teeth just ate a bunch of rats? Also, poor Donny thinking he disabled the mouser’s jaws and it didn’t take.

I love Donny, okay?

Also, despite not making an appearance yet, I learned Casey Jones will be voiced by Marc Thompson. So that’s nice.

Rating: 7/10

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Animating Halloween: Dead Space – Downfall Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A prequel to the popular horror game, Dead Space, Downfall centers around the story of the first and second attacks on Aegis VII, as well as what really happened on the planet cracker ship the USG Ishimura. Security Chief Alissa Vincent and her crew are dispatched to rescue any and all survivors when the colony on Aegis VII suffers from a rash of suicides and sudden murders after uncovering a strange alien artifact. When the Ishimura tries to recover the artifact, whatever spread over Aegis VII starts to infect those within the Ishimura.

Breakdown: I absolutely love Dead Space (Well, the first two anyway. Three was a disappointment to me) It’s one of my favorite game franchises. However, since homework is poo, we’ll be mostly focusing on how this movie fares as a standalone.

Dead Space is a very, very, very bloody and gorey series. The death scenes are usually incredibly graphic and even the way you defeat the alien creatures, known as necromorphs, is pretty damn brutal. Necromorphs are more or less immune to bullets. The only way they can really be destroyed is through lopping off their limbs and finishing them off by stomping on their bodies. You can also defeat them by setting them on fire and blowing them to bits, but the aforementioned method is the most common.

This movie does not fail in matching the bloodbath of the video game by a long shot. Many characters die in ridiculously gorey ways. One of which being so bad I actually cringed and looked away for a second, which is rare for me to do in a horror movie.

But we’re not here for the gore, we’re here for the scares. This movie is a bit more faltering in that area. There’s not a whole lot of ambiance to absorb and it’s mostly just hopping from one action scene to another. Downfall is really at its best from a horror standpoint when it’s focusing on the insanity that the crew is falling victim to. One of the most harrowing things about this story is that it doesn’t really matter if you survive because the marker is slowly making everyone go insane anyway. Even if you manage to get through the necromorphs and hide away somewhere, you’ll probably die on accident or be driven to suicide. Being in a group isn’t any better either since the insane ones in the group will most likely just start killing the others.

Sadly, the psychological torment that befalls much of the crew only delivers a few creepy and unnerving moments.

The necromorphs are scary in themselves. Necromorphs are both alien creatures by themselves and reanimated corpses mutated with alien features. Most necromorphs, particularly the ones featured in this movie, are slashers, which are mostly humanoid creatures with giant blades protruding from the arms.

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However, we also have the annoying infectors, which are flying necromorphs,

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the depressing lurkers, which are tentacle’d necromorphs made from babies

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and swarmers that can kiss my ass.

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Each have their own special abilities for killing and infecting other people, and all of which are varying degrees of frightening.

Story-wise, this one is rather simple, most of the better stuff reserved for the actual video game. It’s a pretty cut and dry ‘we tread where we don’t belong and now we’re fucked’ stories.

A mysterious alien artifact, known as the marker, is found by miners on Aegis VII. The church of unitology, essentially a cult in the Dead Space universe (and, yes, likely based on scientology in some respects, though the creators deny this) dispatch a crew on the planet cracker, the USG Ishimura, to retrieve the artifact and bring it back to earth. Unitologists believe the markers are sacred religious artifacts that are key in bringing eternal life and paradise to the human race. I won’t go into the true meaning and purpose behind the markers because they don’t explore it in the movie and it’s ultimately unimportant to this review. The point is, because of the marker, people on Aegis VII and eventually the Ishimura start going crazy and falling victim to the necromorphs, killing each other and killing themselves.

Alissa Vincent, Chief of Security on the Ishimura, is set out, albeit against the wishes of the captain, Mathius, who is secretly a unitologist, to rescue any survivors on board the Ishimura once the infection reaches the ship.

After that, it’s mostly a lot of action, necro killing, death scenes and ultimately pointless rescues because everyone dies.

I’m not going to apologize for no ‘spoiler alert’, and I’m not saying this because I’ve played the games – the movie itself tells you at the very start that everyone’s dead, including Alissa.

In regards to characters, that’s a major weak point of the story. There’s a rather sizable cast here, but mostly everyone is left with the same angry personality, spouting out the same lines you’d hear in any horror movie, such as those akin to ‘we don’t have time for this’ ‘hurry up’ ‘stop foolin’ around.’ etc. etc. It’s understandable that everyone’s on edge, but it’s not like they act any different before everything starts going to hell.

Alissa’s crew have a few lines of banter that make you think they might be close, but that’s about it. I barely remember anything about Hanson. I don’t even remember the big guy’s name. Shen’s only memorable because of her weird-ass haircut and the fact that she is frustratingly inept in most of her scenes only to become a badass in her final scene. The only characters who have any sort of real personality or backstory are Ramirez and Samuel Irons, an engineer and unitologist that they meet along the way. Ramirez seems like a slight lovable goofball and he gives us a drive-by of his backstory in one of those ‘I die in the next five minutes, so might as well tell my story’ scenes. Samuel Irons is interesting in how he seems to be very wise and skilled, but we don’t know anything else about him.

Even Alissa is, sadly, entirely uninteresting. She’s the most angry of the group and really does nothing but boss people around and swear. She gets no backstory and no layers to her personality. She’s fairly honorable and wants to do anything to save people, but that’s about it.

She also makes some stupid decisions – the biggest one being stopping Kyne from crashing the ship into the planet. He wanted to destroy the marker and stop the infection from reaching earth. Alissa wanted to save whatever survivors were on the Ishimura, even though such a feat would be incredibly unlikely at this point, so she beat the hell out of him and stopped the ship from crashing down….only to realize literally minutes later that everyone else was likely dead, she was screwed either way, and she had to sacrifice herself to get a warning message out about it. And what does the message say? She tells them to destroy the marker at all costs….Good job.

I guess it could be argued that she was acting irrationally due to the marker’s influence, but I doubt it. She only starts acting weird after she does this.

The most interesting story is happening on the bridge with Captain Mathius and Dr. Kyne, both of which being closet unitologists who are the only ones who know that the main point of this mission is to bring back the marker to earth, not to help those on Aegis VII.

For those Dead Space fans, there are some continuity errors created by this movie, but nothing that breaks the story or universe. One of the main things I believe most Dead Space fans would want to see in a Dead Space prequel is Nicole and, sadly, she just barely gets a cameo if the person in this movie is even her.

Alissa and Ramirez infiltrate a room where a bunch of medical personnel are holding themselves up because a bunch of slashers are banging on the door. One of the personnel is seen crying under a table and Alissa tries to get her to leave. She asks her if she has a boyfriend, she says yes. She asks if she wants to see him again, she says yes and they leave. This interaction seemed very weird and out of place when I first saw it, mostly because it seems odd to suddenly establish a connection with a flash in the pan nameless character, and because it seemed like such an odd question to ask. Most people would ask ‘do you have any family?’ or maybe a husband or kids or something. I was sitting there wondering why she immediately jumped to ‘boyfriend’.

It wasn’t until I was doing some post-watch research on the Dead Space Wiki that I became aware that this was supposed to be Nicole, Isaac’s (the game’s main character) girlfriend…supposedly.

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It’s not confirmed that this is her. They just surmise this based on how she looks and the fact that Alissa specifically asked about her having a boyfriend.

The art and animation are done by Film Roman, who have done work on The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy, but, trust me, this style is much more reminiscent of their other work, X-men Evolution. I was constantly thinking about that show when looking at this art before I even knew who produced it.

The animation definitely has its hiccups and it’s not as fluid as X-Men Evolution, but it’s not too bad.

The CGI shots, which are pretty well-done and integrated, are done by EA, the producers of the game. The only shots I question are the first shot of the Infector and the shot of Alissa against a huge herd of necros.

The music is very fitting, but not very memorable. I did squee a little when Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played, though.

The voice acting is pretty good with some of the more notable actors being Jim Cummings as Mathius and Kevin Michael Richardson as Samuel Irons. Alissa’s voice kinda got on my nerves, but she was acting pretty well.

Bottomline: Whether you’re a Dead Space fan or if you’ve never played the games at all, this is a pretty good horror movie that also acts as a nice setup for the first game. It’s not super scary, but it’s certainly never boring and there are some really awesome scenes of both action and horror here. The biggest weaknesses are the lack of characterization in Alissa and her crew and some craggy animation.

Recommended Audience: Like the games, this movie is incredibly gorey. People get slowly sliced in half vertically, there’s organs and bones everywhere, even if it’s not incredibly detailed, there’s a lot of slicing people and nercos to bits, people get their heads blown off and there’s one scene where a character dies due to having a hypodermic needle getting crammed into their eye. There’s also a lot of swearing, particularly by Alissa, and while there’s no sex, there is one scene of lower-bit male nudity in the bathroom. 17+

Dreaming of Dreamworks: The Prince of Egypt

Rating: 9/10

Plot: In a telling of the Exodus story, a pharaoh named Seti has ordered the slaughter of many Hebrew babies. However, one baby is saved from the killing when his mother places him in a basket and sends him down the river in hopes of his survival in a better place. In a weird twist of fate, the baby is recovered from the river by the queen and her son, Rameses. He is adopted by the royal family and raised as their son Moses. He remains ignorant of his past until he runs into his blood sister, Miriam and brother, Aaron. As the truth of his past and his adoptive father come to light, Moses leaves the kingdom behind and later finds that he is destined for much greater things.

Breakdown: I am forever saddened that it has taken me this long to watch this movie. Welcome to The Prince of Egypt, Dreamworks second movie and a rare non-CGI movie from them. Well, okay, it’s not non-CGI. There’s plenty of CGI, but for the most part it’s regular cel-shaded animation. What is CGI is really well-done and cleverly integrated with the other animation. I’m almost shocked this came from Dreamworks because they always stay pretty clear behind Pixar in animation and art quality, but they did wonders with this. It is a visual treat to say the least, and this was made in 1998! The character art, animation and backgrounds still stand up extremely well to this day. Another movie I’d gladly rewatch for the art alone.

As stated, the story is the biblical telling of Moses and follows him all the way from him being a baby to his freeing of the Hebrew slaves. And it does not really screw around and make it all kiddie either. This is a pretty heavy movie. Granted, they still do a butt joke or two, but most of the goofy scenes are gone by the end of the first act.

You can sympathize with all of the characters, even Rameses, and you feel the emotional struggle between the two of them to go from brothers to basically mortal enemies in only the course of a couple of years. In a way, neither of them can sympathize very much with each other. Moses was not the blood son of Seti nor was he the eldest son, so he never had a lot of weight on his shoulders like Rameses did, and Rameses was never a slave nor did he wish to see the slaves as people who were worth anything. Doing so, in his eyes, would tarnish the ancient traditions which he was born to uphold.

The time skip is a little jarring but mostly just because Seti, the Queen (I think she’s the queen anyway. Moses is raised as Seti’s son so….*shrug*) and Moses’ mother, Jochebed, all seemingly die in that time when it seems like only a few years or so went by between Moses leaving and him getting the message from God. It’s understandable that Seti died because he was so old, but I have no clue what claimed the lives of the Queen and Moses’ mother. We also learn nothing of Rameses’ son.

The movie obviously takes some liberties with the story both with its religious historical roots and its Egyptian historical roots. To its credit, the movie admits that straight out of the gate. But it doesn’t stray too far from the path and is a pretty loyal adaptation of the story. I should also mention that the movie doesn’t cover the entire book of Exodus, just up to leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and a short glimpse of the Ten Commandments.

The music is phenomenal. It’s commonly set up much like a Broadway musical…I assume anyway, I’ve never seen one. But the music is epic. I’d say the only weak-ish link in the music section is “You’re Playing with the Big Boys Now” which just seems out of place considering how epic and serious the other songs are.

The point of that song is to show Moses that, despite the fact that he has the Hebrew God on his side, they have the various gods of Egypt on theirs, and if he wants a fight, he’ll get one. However, the chorus of ‘You’re playing with the big boys now’ just makes me feel like it’s a cheesy bully line.

Bottomline: Whether you’re religious or not, this is still a fantastic movie with amazing visuals, fantastic music, memorable characters, an exciting story and more. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you check it out. I wish Dreamworks did more stuff like this. Instead we got a billion Shrek movies…Also, Rotten Tomatoes gave Antz a 95 but this a 79? *huff*

Recommended Audience: No sex or nudity, but there is a scene where a woman is being given as a gift to Rameses. Mentions of baby slaughter, to alligators no less. No visuals, really, but there is a mural of the scene. Various deaths, but nothing terribly graphic. Heavy overtones that might put off the youngins…..10+?

Animating Halloween: The Berenstain Bears – Trick or Treat

Plot: Brother and Sister go out trick or treating with their friends. They want to avoid the house of a woman that they think is an evil witch, but Mama tells them to go in order to be polite, stating she’s a very nice lady. When they arrive, will their fears be realized?

Breakdown: Ah the Berenstain Bears. One of few old cartoon series where I know the books better than the TV series.

Like many shows for little kids, this one obviously has a moral that is laid out from the very start of the episode. “We think this lady’s creepy!” “Don’t judge someone by how they look.” “She’s nice and Mama was right!” *roll credits*

It’s a good lesson to learn and they do sneak some slight spooky-ish scenes (at least for small children) in there to make for a nice little Halloween special. How and why this lady had a statue of a bear that looked identical to Lizzy, even down to the costume she was wearing, is beyond me, but it’s a respectable effort to lend credence to the story that she supposedly turns bears into stone.

This is also one of those episodes where bullies get pranked ten ways to Sunday, which seems to be an odd theme in Halloween specials.

I love Whitter Jones. She’s how I want to be when I get older. Hell, how I try to be now. She loves Halloween and decks out her whole house in all sorts of cool Halloween decorations and tricks. Though, I have to wonder how Mama Bear is such good friends with her that she actually has a framed picture of the two of them on the wall yet Brother and Sister don’t seem to know enough about her to know she’s not an evil witch.

If you’re a Berenstain Bears fan, this is a pretty good entry in the series, and it’s also a good episode to show the youngin’s around Halloween.

Recommended Audience:……..You’re kidding, right?

CSBS – Fillmore! Episode 3

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Plot: While Fillmore deals with a troublemaker named Tony Clementina, all of the books in the library get mysteriously stolen. One bit of evidence points to Clementina, and Fillmore is compelled to believe he’s the culprit. But is he really a lost cause?

Breakdown: The crime this week is pretty outlandish, even for Fillmore. Are you seriously telling me a librarian was so obliviously lost in a book that they didn’t realize every book in the library was being checked out? If they did it book by book, that must’ve taken hours.

Also, the culprit is incredibly obvious from the get-go once you meet him because he’s a bit overly dramatic in his reaction to the crime. Much like the first episode where the culprit is obviously the person who seemingly cares most about what was damaged or stolen.

His plan didn’t even make full sense. He complains about never being able to read the best books in the library because they’re always checked out. He wanted to keep all of the books, especially the best ones, for himself. But how did he plan it to take out the good books too as this mass and sudden book heist was happening if those particular books are always checked out?

There’s also the school-yard forensics going on. Fillmore has had a touch of forensics in their episodes so far, but this one was the first to really get down into it. And I gotta say, this is where any intelligent viewer would constantly call BS. I can handle the inconsistencies, oddities and outlandish goings on in regards to the crimes because that’s what they intend on doing, but a lot of this stuff is hard to swallow.

For instance, I get that Ingrid is a genius, but she can identify custard under a microscope, especially when it’s a year old? She can also microscopically tell the difference between two different salt samples from various brands of pretzels?

Also, they have fingerprinting. This isn’t really entirely out there because, for the most part, a good chunk of actual fingerprinting is done by hand in a visual inspection, so a kid might have the know-how to pull it off, which Tehama seems to be.

Despite realistically having Ingrid struggle for a while to lift the fingerprint properly (even though, after all of those attempts on that mug, all of the prints must’ve been destroyed by the time she was actually able to get one) they have her instantly, and from a distance, match the fingerprint of Fillmore’s with the fingerprint on a soda rocket she found in the gym’s ceiling. I’m not expecting forensic precision and accuracy with a cartoon, especially one that is obviously embellishing on numerous aspects of school life for the sake of making a police setting possible, but it still catches my eye.

Which brings us to the subplot. While the Safety Patrollers are chasing Clementina for an unrelated crime, Ingrid notices a soda can rocket lodged in the ceiling of the gym. Without telling Fillmore, she requests that it be taken down so she can examine it. She discovers that there is custard residue on it and asks around if there have been any incidents involving custard recently. Tehama says that last year, before Ingrid transferred, one of the faculty members was trying to break the world record for largest bowl of custard. As he was trying to empty the last small bowl into the big bowl, the platform the big bowl was sitting on gave way, causing a huge custard flood in the gym.

Tehama points Ingrid in the direction of Fillmore since the brand of soda used in the rocket was only sold in Cleveland, where Fillmore used to live before they moved to wherever this takes place.

She matches Fillmore’s print to one lifted from the rocket, but keeps her findings to herself. However, she finds herself annoyed when he treats Clementina as a ‘lost cause’ when that’s exactly what many people thought, and some still think, of Fillmore back in his troublemaking days.

Fillmore realizes what Ingrid found out and explains what happened. He didn’t cause the custard spill. That truly was an accident caused by a buckling platform.

However, the rocket was his attempt to try to make the spill happen. The platform was already falling when he shot it off, and the angle of the wood sent the rocket into the ceiling, where it stayed for a year. He was caught sometime later on an unrelated but serious charge and the Safety Patroller who nabbed him gave him an ultimatum – either help him with a case or spend the rest of the school year in detention. He decided to help and turned over a new leaf as a Safety Patroller.

We never learn the name of the Safety Patroller who helped him out, but it’s a decent backstory for Fillmore either way.

I will say that Fillmore is being kinda out of character in this episode. He’s usually not so dismissive of the criminals he deals with. Hell, he had faith in a kid who was so bad that he was isolated from the other kids and had to take his classes in a special prison cell with no one else in the room. Yet he’s now completely ignoring a plethora of hard evidence that full-out proves Clementina didn’t do it just because of one piece of easily planted circumstantial evidence and Fillmore’s seeming vendetta against him. It’s just not like Fillmore is all.

It’s also a bit weird how quickly Clementina turned around. Fillmore changed his ways because someone showed him a better path. Clementina went from a complete asshole criminal who only cared about money and prestige to someone who willingly wants to help the Safety Patrol without even being asked. Fillmore didn’t show him any better way before this point. They were butting heads the whole time up until the climax.

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This episode is just a big mixed bag. I liked the glimpse into Fillmore’s backstory and the case was alright, but I don’t think they did enough with Clementina to really draw the parallels enough for this to be that impacting on Fillmore or the audience. The culprit was pretty obvious, especially since there were far fewer red herrings than normal (let’s see, it’s either the obvious guy everyone’s pointing the finger at immediately or the only other child character who has been prevalent so far. Hm.)

The crime itself was just a bit too far out there to be plausible unless X Middle School has the dumbest librarian ever.

In addition, the forensics stuff is mostly a bit too tough to swallow if you know anything about forensics, though it really is one of those things you just have to let slide for entertainment value. I know I just thought it was cool when I was a kid (and, hell, it sparked an interest in forensics so much that my focus for my degree was forensic psychology) And Fillmore’s on the OOC side in this episode.

Rating: 7/10

CSBS – Danny Phantom Episode 2

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Plot: Jack shows off his new invention, the Fenton Ghost Fisher, a device meant to capture ghosts, to Danny when he leaves the room briefly to go to the bathroom. Danny grabs the fisher and catches a dragon ghost. He combats the ghost for a while before knocking off the dragon’s amulet, which lands in his backpack. The dragon reverts to the form of an 18th century English girl who runs back into the Ghost Portal stating she wanted to go to the ball.

Danny, thinking the whole event is over, resumes his day. A school dance is coming up and Danny decides to ask out Paulina, the prettiest and most popular girl in school. However, he makes a fool of himself in his nervousness thanks to his ghost powers. Sam steps in to defend him, insulting Paulina in the process. As revenge and believing Sam to be his girlfriend, Paulina later accepts Danny’s invitation. She also mistakenly believes the amulet in Danny’s backpack is hers.

It’s up to Danny, Sam and Tucker to retrieve the amulet before Paulina also turns into the dragon and causes havoc at the dance.

Breakdown: This episode always annoyed me a tiny bit. While we’re amping up the stakes with the Dragon Ghost, the way that it works basically amounts to ‘bitches be crazy.’

We see the Dragon Ghost three times in this episode.

The first, the 18th century English girl reveals that she turned into the dragon because she was upset that she couldn’t go to the dance.

The second, Paulina triggers it by getting upset that they don’t have a trendy new and discontinued fleecy tee in her size.

The third is the most understandable with Sam turning into the dragon when Paulina reveals that she was only dating Danny to get revenge on Sam, believing them to be dating, and she plans on dumping him in the middle of the dance since Sam revealed that they’re not dating. While this is more admirable, it’s set up like Sam’s more upset that Paulina’s shallow (she keeps repeating ‘shallow girl!’ in dragon form) than she’s upset for Danny, who is soon to be heartbroken.

Not to mention that this makes no sense anyway. Why would Paulina think Danny’s dating Sam when he’s asking her out? I’d think if my boyfriend asked another girl out to a dance while we were dating, the relationship would be beyond over in a millisecond.

I do like the different reactions all three of them are having to this dance, though. Danny’s getting up the courage to ask his crush out to the dance, Tucker’s asking anyone with boobs and a pulse and consistently gets shot down. He somehow lands Valerie, who will become very prominent later, but Danny forces him (through possession) to dump her for Sam. She’s been badmouthing the dance the whole episode, and they only catch on right before the dance that she’s partially upset because no one’s asked her out. Danny possesses Tucker to claim Valerie canceled and to ask out Sam, and while Tucker initially protests, he changes his tune rather quickly when Sam comes out looking beautiful.

The sub-plot with Danny’s dad was insanely unnecessary, though, besides to show off Danny’s newly discovered possession capability. Lancer understands that Danny keeps dropping his pants because they, seemingly, don’t fit well (it’s really his ghost powers) and fixes the situation by giving him a belt, yet he still calls in Danny’s dad for a parent-teacher conference because this is somehow a fault of Danny’s that needs to be discussed with a parent.

Then he, of course, has to invite Possessed!Jack to be a chaperone to the dance purely to keep this plot going further and fabricate tension.

All in all, the episode’s pretty good, but there are a few major things about it that irk me. It just felt a little on the sexist side, is all.

Oh, and just because I feel I have to mention this because meme(?) this is the episode where they have that line exchange –

Sam: “Promise me you’ll keep your pants up.”

Danny: “I’ll do my best!”

I don’t know why this became a slight thing. I mean, it’s a funny-ish joke in context, but outside….is it just hurr hurr, this is kinda innuendo? I don’t really get it.

Rating: 7.5/10 Still staying at a good pace with the action and some of the story, but the mechanics of the amulet, at least the way it’s portrayed here, are a bit annoying and Jack’s subplot was entirely pointless. Also, it seems weird that they kinda poked at TuckerxSam here, yet went nowhere with it.

Rango Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A pet lizard finds himself lost in the desert after his tank flies off of the back of his owner’s car. He arrives at a town called Dirt where water is scarce to say the least. He plays himself up as a hero of the west to the local townsfolk, and after (accidentally) saving them from a hawk. Because of his feats, he’s given the title of Sheriff by the mayor. Taking the name of Rango, he enjoys his newfound respect and admiration but when the situation gets dire in Dirt, he’ll have to pay up or shut up.

Breakdown: I was never a fan of westerns, unless you count space westerns. And despite being interested in this movie when it was first released, mostly because Nickelodeon promoted it quite a bit (They produced it, but it’s hard as hell to find their name on it) I never got around to watching it until now. Too bad too because this is a pretty damn good movie.

Admittedly, the story is completely overdone. Some guy pretends to be something he’s not only to eventually get ousted and then gather up the courage to return and set things right. Been there done that. And yes, the awkwardness of the continuous lying does irk me quite a bit.

However, I really love the writing of the dialogue, the timing of the jokes, the characters and the style. I can’t really compare this to any other animated movie that I can think of. It’s pretty unique in its own right, at least barring the story.

One of the ways this movie stands out is its art and animation. Rango was produced by ILM (Lucasfilms) and it is absolutely gorgeous…..I think I drooled a little.

Excuse me, I really should say it’s butt ugly, but it’s meant to be gritty and kinda ugly. It’s a western with a bunch of desert animals like rats and lizards. Even the love interest, Beans, that’s her actual name, is pretty blech-looking. But my god, the details. They are fantastic. From the littlest drops of water and the hairs and scales on the animals to the town of Dirt and the vast desert. It is all just deliciously…..Ugligorgeous. What’s even more incredible is how they integrated the human world into their own world. The cars and lights look fantastic, we’ve got a huge cityscape, and even stuff like the items in Rango’s tank are beautifully detailed.

Then we see one human character briefly, The Man With No Name; IE A Clint Eastwood ‘Spirit of the West’ character who guides Rango back on his path. And not only is he also incredibly well-detailed, but his part is probably the least cliched because he doesn’t do that lame ‘just believe in yourself blah blah’ speech. He gives a realistic speech that a Clint Eastwood character would probably give. Sadly, however, they did not get Clint Eastwood to play this part, but he was well-performed by Timothy Olyphant.

They also didn’t dumb down most of the scenes for the sake of the children. Characters get shot, they die, they swear (to a degree), they describe several gory situations and the dialogue is perfectly suited for older audiences as well as young ones. Which is weird because somehow this movie managed to grab a PG rating.

In regards to characters, they’re all kinda stereotypes, but they’re done in a fairly unique and memorable manner. Johnny Depp (hey, you broke away from Disney and Tim Burton for five seconds! Congrats!) plays our titular character, Rango. Interestingly, his real name, the one he would’ve been given by his owner, is never mentioned, which kinda makes him a legit ‘man with no name’. He named himself through the traditional means of reading it off of something he saw.

He’s a bit of a delusional chameleon who longs to be a big popular hero, but he’s lived all of his life in a tank with no one to interact with except a wind-up goldfish and a barbie doll torso. It’s actually a little sad to think that his owner might be devastated over losing his pet, but Rango never mentions it or seems to care.

Rango’s one of the most uncomfortable characters to watch because he’s lying through most of the movie, and he plays up his lies as much as possible in order to fully create a heroic sheriff persona, but he really is a good guy who wants to help the people of Dirt.

Beans isn’t all that interesting. She’s a typical ‘no non-sense’ female lead whose only schtick is her defense mechanism. Beans is a desert iguana and she has a defense mechanism that essentially causes her to freeze up and be completely unaware of her surroundings. Problem is, this ability sometimes springs up without warning or trigger. She’ll just be talking and then boom. Then she just transforms into a doting girlfriend at the end, and it’s actually a little annoying.

Priscilla, the cactus mouse, steals several scenes with her odd habit of being incredibly and painfully blunt about situations and going on small tangents about frightening or gory situations.

Then there’s the mayor who is about as transparent as humanly possible. It’s obvious that he’s behind the water shortage in the town yet it takes Rango to finally figure it out and call him out on it. He’s not much of a villain, but there is someone who actually earns the villain title; Rattlesnake Jake.

As you can guess, Rattlesnake Jake is a rattlesnake. A huge rattlesnake….with piercing almost glowing orange, yellow and red eyes, huge fangs…..and that’s about it…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh there is his KICK-ASS MACHINE GUN TAIL. Oh my god, I never knew I needed a movie with a rattlesnake with a machine gun for a tail in my life, but that part of me has been fulfilled now. He is a big, badass, looming bastard of a snake. Though the reason I really like him isn’t just how badass he is, it’s that he actually has some sense of honor. By the end, he’s basically an anti-hero.

The fact that everything looks more or less real along with stuff like guns and animal threats such as hawks really makes the movie much more intense.

And might I commend the movie for having the best end credits sequence I’ve seen in ages? The art, the direction, the style, the music; they were all awesome for that segment.

Bottomline: Even if you don’t like westerns, I’d say definitely give this movie a shot. It’s cleverly written, has a great realistic feel to it, is gorgeously detailed, has some fantastic music, intense action sequences and while it’s not the most unique story in the world, you never once feel bored while watching it. I had a lot of fun with this movie, and I’d gladly watch it several more times.

Recommended Audience: Mild swearing (hell, damn, maybe an ‘ass’ I can’t remember), guns, smoking, some people get shot but I don’t think anyone dies from a gunshot wound, a bird dies from being crushed, an armadillo ‘dies’ from being run over by a car (and ew they closeup on his squished body, even though, oddly, there’s no guts or gore, it’s like someone flatted a balloon filled with flour) ‘scary situations’ maybe. 10+

Cartoons Step-by-Step: Rugrats Episode 1

rugrats episode 1

Plot: It’s Tommy’s first birthday, and his parents have pulled all the stops to make it great. Didi has plenty of entertainment and food setup while Stu is inventing a gift. However, Tommy’s much more interested in trying some of his dog, Spike’s, dog food, believing that it will turn him into a dog.

Breakdown: I don’t think I need to reiterate how much Rugrats means to me. It was a huge part of my childhood, and spawned my love of all things Nickelodeon (back in the good ol’ days when the execs weren’t braindead dimwits…Er were slightly less braindead I suppose.) I was obsessed with Rugrats for well over a decade, and I cherish the show to this day.

That being said, this pilot was always boring as hell to me.

To me, this first episode seems a lot more like it’s made for parents than it is children. One of the great things about Rugrats is, due to the premise, it is very easy for children and parents/adults alike to enjoy it, but this episode does seem focused more on the parents.

It takes a quarter of the episode before any of the babies even speak, and rarely is there a joke to be had until the climax.

Instead we have to watch the human paradox that is Didi have a fit over this birthday party. I swear, she will obsess over everything related to parenthood because her ultimate goal in life is to be a good mother (“like the ones on TV” ~Didi) but even this early on she is completely oblivious to what Tommy wants, needs or is doing most of the time.

Instead, she’d rather bow down to the glory of the almighty Dr. Lipschitz books, to the point where her catchphrase is ‘Dr. Lipschitz says…’, causing her to actually be a less effective mother. (I can’t find info on this, but is Lipschitz’ name a joke? Like everything he says is bull shit?) Not to say she is one without him. Didi let Tommy slide off of her lap and wander into the kitchen (which is closed off by it’s own door by the way, for anyone who might argue that she can still watch him), which was about his fifth time attempting to get in there without anyone noticing, and she is always losing track of where the kids are, which has become one of the most well-known tropes of this series. (Even though all of the parents are negligent in their own right).

At least I can say Tommy was always picked up and brought somewhere else shortly after these attempts, before the climax of course. But let’s address that later.

Stu is up to his goofball inventor tricks, but he’s mostly babbling about his Hover-rama, a flying remote control spaceship thing, that he made for Tommy. Though he never gets it working purely because he forgot the batteries. Maybe that’s supposed to be funny because he’s brought up how impressive his gift is because it takes like four different kinds of batteries about five times at this point, but he seriously ends up crying because he forgot the batteries for the remote. He barely looks for any, either. He checks his pockets, gets a sullen look, then sits down and cries.

There are three shining lights in the adult section, though. Betty is usually always funny in the early seasons. In the later seasons, she becomes more of a bitch and an idiot. She’s in direct contrast to Didi. While she is fairly negligent of her children’s activities in her own right, she definitely knows more about children than Didi does. Even small observations like the fact that the party hats Didi puts on them will be quickly discarded are made a little funny because of the stark contrast. When you think about it, both Didi and Betty are realistic parents, it’s just that Betty is more relatable and funny.

Next, Grandpa Lou also brings some grounding reality to the household with some of his comments, along with Grandpa Boris and Grandma Minka.

Finally, the puppet show is the funniest part of the episode. Stu and his brother, Drew, father of Tommy’s famously horrible cousin, Angelica, put on a puppet show after Didi messes up the scheduling for the puppeteers. Their bickering is pretty funny and just gets increasingly entertaining.

At the climax, all of the kids go into the kitchen while the adults are focused on the bicker-fest of Stu and Drew, who never break out from behind the stage and fight as puppets the whole time. Spike has eaten all of his food, so Tommy and Angelica try to reach a can of it on the top of the shelves by them both standing on the counter balanced on a bunch of bowls and colanders while Tommy balances on Angelica’s shoulders. See why many people grew to be outraged at the Rugrats’ parents over time? If they bothered to pay a modicum of attention to their kids, they’d realize that Angelica and Tommy were in a situation where they could easily both smash their heads in on the tile.

They can’t reach it, so Chuckie, resident scaredy cat and Tommy’s best friend, decides to use the Hover-rama to knock it down. Chuckie has batteries in his pocket for some reason, and he’s able to instantly put the batteries in correctly, meaning he has better battery skills than most adults I know. Chuckie, amazingly, pilots the Hover-rama perfectly from the living room into the kitchen, despite not being able to see it, and, with the skill of a surgeon, is able to position and maneuver the Hover-rama to the shelf right by the dog food and starts nudging it over.

Phil and Lil, Betty and her husband, Howard’s, twins, known for being more gross than most of the kids, ruin it by grabbing the remote and start trying to do the job better than Chuckie, which turns out like you’d expect. They accidentally grab Tommy with the Hover-rama and fly him all over the kitchen, knocking Angelica into a bag of flour, knocking the stack of bowls and stuff that they were standing on over, spraying the room with water from the hand nozzle from the sink, knocking over a stack of plates and all without any of the adults ever hearing a thing.

They even fly Tommy into the living room, where the parents are, and they still don’t notice a thing until the Hover-rama is crashed into the cake.

Chuckie was really funny when he was flying the Hover-rama, though. Not only does he have the skills, he also knows some pilot lingo.

In the end, Didi simultaneously shows us the insanity of a regular family and the insanity of trying to mediate one by pacifying everyone who is arguing by telling Drew and Stu they’re both wrong for what they did to each other as kids and telling both of her parents that they’re right on their opposing sides of what cake they should’ve had at the party (Boris was right, though. It should always be chocolate.)

And the babies did indeed get some dog food, which they promptly spat out. Which is weird, because they eat worms and bugs and stuff.

All in all, this episode is really boring, but it’s somewhat salvageable. The periods of no music don’t really help. I’m not saying every scene needs music, otherwise I’d have to apologize to 4Kids. But there are scenes that are just too quiet to keep your attention.

The funny moments are sporadic, but the ending is somewhat solid.

Rating: 5/10

Just for fun, let’s have two running tallies, because, trust me, this will be interesting to keep track of at each season’s end.

Parenting Fails

I didn’t count exactly, but let’s go with about eight times the kids sneaked away with no one noticing. (Let’s also include an ‘at blame’ counter, to see who comes out looking better as parents. In this case, though, while Didi and Stu technically have more, all of the parents are guilty. Stu, Didi, Drew, Betty, Howard, and even the grandparents, Boris, Minka, and Lou. Chas and Charlotte are innocent because they simply weren’t here.)

The entirety of the climax, which will count as three.

Stu thinking it’s not unsafe for babies to have a complicated flying machine as a toy, especially with tons of batteries. Also note that the battery compartment for the remote is not secured with a screw or anything. You push the door and it opens.

No one noticing that Chuckie had batteries.

No one noticing that Tommy has a real screwdriver (his later one is a toy).

Tally – 14

What the…They’re babies! (This category is for odd details that seemingly make no logical sense given these are babies, but this tally is mostly for fun considering some liberties have to be taken for humor.)

How did Tommy tape his screwdriver to the underside of his high chair?

How DID Chuckie know how to fly that thing so well? Especially considering that the controls look like crap.

How did Tommy and Angelica even get up on the counter like that?

Pixar’s Lamp: Toy Story

dnfaab6

Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: In a world where toys are alive, yet pretend to be inanimate around humans, a boy named Andy’s favorite toy, a cowboy named Woody, feels threatened by the presence of a new toy, a space ranger toy called Buzz Lightyear. Andy slowly starts playing with Buzz more than Woody, and in his jealousy Woody accidentally causes Buzz to fall out the window. When Woody ends up getting lost as well, he and Buzz have to work together to make it back home and back to Andy.

Breakdown: It’s Pixar’s turn with their first baby; Toy Story and I LOVE TOY STORYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!

*cough* Sorry.

It’s one of my favorite movies ever. I’ve become fairly good at removing my nostalgia goggles when it comes to things that I used to love when I was a kid, but Toy Story holds up extremely well as still being entertaining, fun, funny, heartwarming and exciting. Best of all, it’s a movie that parents and kids can enjoy together; not a movie that you turn on just to humor your kids.

The characters are all unique and lovable. They all implement various parts of their designs into their own specific brands of humor. Even the minor toys get their own little times to shine and be memorable. Woody and Buzz in particular have great chemistry both as enemies and friends. They bounce off of each other with plenty of entertaining banter and they are really a joy to watch.

The story is fairly unique and never becomes boring or cliché (Also I never knew Joss Whedon worked on this.) Jealousy’s not really a new thing, but they implement it in a way that doesn’t come off as tired.

Love or hate Randy Newman, I love his songs here. He was perfect to do the music for this movie.

Art and animation wise, the designs are unique and memorable. The animation is believable and really brings the toys to life in more ways than one. I will say that the animation, usually involving the human characters and Scud (whose eyes are just weird), is sometimes not quite as polished as what we’ve come to enjoy from Pixar movies today, but this is hardly noticeable and nothing major. Besides, they were just starting out here anyway.

……Oh wait, no. I can never forgive the nightmare fuel that is Molly. *shudder*

It even does product placement right. It puts a bunch of existing toy brands with allusions to real brands with toys made specifically for the movie and manages to market all of them. I still, to this day, wish I had gotten that creepy baby doll robot spider from Sid’s room. That kid may have been a serial killer in the making, but that toy was cool. (Seriously, his parents just let him buy rockets, play with matches, blow up his toys and get an ‘I ❤ explosives’ bumper sticker on the wall and don’t suspect a thing?) I did have a big Buzz Lightyear toy that I actually still have in my closet somewhere with his rocket (non-cardboard version).

This movie stands up really well and never ceases to be entertaining and heartwarming to me. It is a very fitting opening to Pixar’s prestigious career.

Recommended Audience: There’s toy violence when it comes to Sid as he really likes torturing and blowing up his toys through various means. The final scene with Sid would also be insanely frightening if shown without context in any other movie. But eh, come on. 5+

CSBS – Fillmore! Episode 2

CSBS Fillmore Episode 2

Plot: X-Middle School is undergoing the arduous test of the Satty-9, and it’s been tearing the students apart. Some protest the test’s existence, other freak out over the their performance and Ingrid, despite her certain high score, undergoes an internal struggle of the true importance of the Satty-9. So many students have skills, knowledge and creativity that simply cannot be measured in the multiple choice nightmare. When the completed tests are suddenly stolen by someone in the school mascot’s uniform, Ingrid finds herself contemplating whether it’s for the best.

Breakdown: I remember this being one of my favorite episodes when I was a kid, and I have a deeper respect for this episode now that I’ve gone through several CATs and the SATs. I never stressed much over the CATs but the SATs were a nightmare for me. Everyone crams and stresses over their grade, and a surprising amount feel like that one number score will be a defining characteristic stuck to their lives. It’s hard to have that moment of reflection where you say ‘Whatever happens, this doesn’t reflect my actual intelligence or worth as a person.’

I also appreciate that Ingrid was the one struggling with this, because typically genius characters don’t find tests to be such a big deal, no matter their weight. They seem relatively blind to the hardships and stresses of the non-geniused students around them. Ingrid sees and appreciates the various kinds of skills and talents that everyone has around her and feels bad that the test doesn’t care about intelligence or achievements in these realms, no matter how much these same students prepare for it.

Her moment of faltering was truly just one moment, but it was a pretty powerful one.

Fillmore: “The Satty-9 may be beat, but there’s a right way to fight it. Protests. Giant banners. Editorials. Hard jams with even harder rhymes. Going the other way’s a sucker move. We have a job. We don’t make the rules.”

Ingrid: “I only forgot that for a second.”

Fillmore: “But Ingrid….you forgot that.”

I’ll also give this episode props because I honestly didn’t catch on to who the perp was. Like so many instances, I figured it was a person who only ended up being the second-to-last suspect. And I will admit, it was pretty clever the way they set it up. We even get some pretty funny jokes and references. I honestly don’t remember Fillmore ever including a Pokemon reference, but there it was.

This episode was also a nice build on Fillmore and Ingrid’s friendship. Fillmore doesn’t chew Ingrid out for what she did. He understands her feelings and leads her to a place where she’ll learn the lesson on her own. Plus, that scooter and helmet are awesome. Damn, I wish I had a Razor scooter when I was a kid. Stupid kids getting hurt making my paranoid parents say no.

Rating: 9.5/10