On this week’s High Five Podcast I’m joined by not one, but two very special guests: my kids! On this one, the three of us discuss our favorite TV show watching experiences of last year. It might sound a little funky because it was recorded differently than the others, but I hope you’ll enjoy our takes on some of the best shows for families around!
The biggest new release in our arena is the disaster comedy This Is The End which finds hyper-real versions of Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jonah Hill surviving the apocalypse.
John Cusack has been kind of slowly turning into Nicholas Cage over the past few years (see: The Raven), so it only makes sense that they’d appear in a movie together. In the thriller The Frozen Ground, Cusack’s a serial killer and Cage is trying to stop him. What more do you need to know?
Jean-Claude Van Damme fans will be happy to discover that two of his films are making their way to Blu-ray on the same set. Thanks to the Jean-Claude Van Damme Double Feature: The Order / Nowhere to Run you can watch both movies back to back without getting up from the couch.
We here at Explosions Are Rad hadn’t heard of the Chinese crime thriller Cold War before seeing it on Amazon this morning. But after seeing the trailer above, it’s certainly one we’re going to check out.
A pair of very different director’s cuts made their debut this week. Troy Duffy’s cut of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec [Director’s Cut] now offer their more complete visions for their films.
1997 was a big year for fire-coming-out-of-the-ground movies. You had your Dante’s Peak and your Volcano. Whose side were you on? Well, either way, the Tommy Lee Jones starring Volcano is now available on Blu-ray.
We’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodoen, but it’s pretty darn cool. We’re thinking of catching up more with the latest DVD release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown.
If you’re looking to relive Tom Selleck’s 80s hey day all in one convenient box set then Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series might be right up your alley. The series lasted from 1980-1988 and consists of 42 discs.
Finally, Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel was pretty hilarious and you should watch it.
Guys, Wonder Woman is awesome. She’s been holding her own in the DC Universe for decades alongside the likes of Superman, Batman and Green Lantern and even become one of the more iconic heroes of the 70s thanks to her TV series. Unfortunately, aside from some brief (but rad) appearances in Justice League, JLU and the Wonder Woman straight-to-DVD animated feature, she’s been out of the public eye for a while. People all over the internet have been calling for Warner Bros. to get off their butts and bring Princess Diana to the big screen.
We here at Explosions Are Rad fully support the idea as does Fast & Furious 6 and Haywire star Gina Carano. It’s a subject the real life fighter-turned-actress recently talked to ComingSoon.net about:
That’s the ultimate superhero for a woman. No matter what, no matter who ends up being Wonder Woman someday, I just hope it’s something that is done correctly. I know it’s there and that it could definitely be done correctly. It’s just a matter of getting the right people and having the right vision come together. A director and producer and writer have to see the beauty in it and make it real.
For what it’s worth, we fully support the idea of Carano playing Wonder Woman. Someone needs to make that happen.
Meanwhile, for a cool, but different look at the character, check out the three shorts created by Robert Valley (Aeon Flux) for Cartoon Network’s comic-centric DC Nation block of programming.
Finally, if you’re interested in hearing what Grant Morrison has planned for the Amazon in his Earth One graphic novel with Yanick Paquette, download Kevin Smith’s Fat Man On Batman Episode #44 and give it a listen. Sounds like he’s got a great handle on the character, one that might translate well to the big screen, even.
How have I not written more extensively about Adventure Time? I discovered this show a few years back, not right when it came out or anything, but after I saw some pretty solid buzz on the art blogs I follow. It’s so amazing and very much like someone stuck a blender in the collective conscious of my friends, hit whip and poured it into the form of an animated series on Cartoon Network. I’ve realized that 30 is the perfect age when it comes to enjoying television because creative people your own age have worked their way up to the point where they’re running and creating shows. Adventure Time reminds me of the way my friends and I played as kids, but then there’s shows like New Girl or the sadly cancelled Happy Endings which feel like hyper-realized versions of my reality (or what I wish my reality was).
If you’re unfamiliar with the show it revolves around two pals Finn the human and Jake the shapeshifting dog who hang out in the raddest tree house you’ve ever seen in the Land of Oo0. Ooo’s a pretty crazy-awesome place populated by all kinds of wizards, princesses and anthropomorphized, well, everything. Finn and Jake are the kinds of friends I have, am and want to be and I can always get into that which is the center of a show completely packed with all kinds of action-fantasy elements.
So, yeah, I like the show. When I got a press email asking if I’d be interested in reviewing Adventure Time Seasons 1 and 2 on Blu-ray, I jumped at the chance. Holy nuts, you guys, as much as I love this show on TV, it’s even better on Blu-ray. There’s the obvious benefit of just being able to hit Play All and watch 26 episodes in a row, but this show looks so bold and bright and awesome in Blu-ray it makes my brain happy. It took me a few episodes into the second season before something clicked in my head and I realized that it just looked so much better. I also noticed how thin the lines are which stuck out to me for some reason.
While the Season One disc has a variety of special features I haven’t been able to check out just yet, I did listen to the majority of the commentaries on the second. The interesting and unique thing about this group of commentaries is that they were recorded all at the same time in order in show’s creator’s house. The sound also occasionally drops out from the interviews and is replaced by Pen Ward’s ukelele music. This might seem odd, but the reasoning is that the conversation turned to things that might not be appropriate for younger viewers. It definitely makes it feel like you’re missing out on big time secrets which is kind of a bummer, but I appreciate the effort. I think it could be argued that a collector/adult oriented version with fully intact commentaries would make sense, but I’m not too broke up about it.
These discs do two other things that I really appreciate. First and foremost, unlike a lot of cartoon home video offerings, these include every episode from the season instead of a sampler offering. I know the seasons don’t have much of an arc as far as overall stories go, but I like having them all in one place. These two discs did something else that no other one has done and that’s make me want to keep the slipcover. The images I’ve posted here are what the discs look like with the covers. When you pull the Finn one off you see his long flowing blonde locks, for Ice King you get a look at the Nice King. Usually I think slipcovers are an annoyance and a waste that usually go into the recycling bin as soon as they find their way in our house, but they actually figured out a way to make them fun and somewhat necessary (I find it a bit unnerving to look at shaved Ice King for long periods of time).
Another added benefit of having these discs is that my 2 year old daughter has absolutely fallen in love with this show. It’s no surprise, really. All the things I mentioned above — fun, action, friendship, bright colors — are just as cool for kids and babies as they are for adults. Plus, how can I not be okay with my kid wanting to watch a show I love (he says knowing full well he’ll wind up watching the first hour of both Blu-rays dozens, possibly hundreds of times)? The only problem? Her version of “Adventure Time” is a real jumble of consonants and difficult to understand. Oh well, I’m hoping that her love of this show will result in her wearing adorable Finn, Jake, Fiona, Cake, Princess Bubblegum or Marceline clothes and hopefully some toys. I really like the Finn and Jake toys…
If you asked me what the best show on TV is, I’d probably say something like Mad Men, but the truth is that my favorite shows just happened to return recently. And no, it’s not Downton Abbey, though that is a great show. My favorite shows on TV, heck my favorite television concept right now, is Cartoon Network’s DC Nation. If you’re unfamiliar, this is an hour of TV that runs at 10AM on Saturdays and Sundays that’s made up of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Young Justice and a series of shorts based on various interpretations of DC’s stable of heroes. As a gigantic and longtime fan of DC Comics, this hour is tailor made for me, luckily, it’s also made up of high quality shows that absorb me more than plenty of other shows on this season.
Green Lantern: TAS follows Hal Jordan, Kilowog and their artificial intelligence Aya running around the galaxy fighting threats, many of which are based on Geoff Johns’ run on the Green Lantern comics, it’s spinoffs and events. I’m not exactly sure how the seasons break down, especially since Cartoon Network decided to put DC Nation on hold for like three months, but currently, this group is trying to figure out how to stop the Manhunters and their boss The Anti-Monitor. Since returning, this search knocked Hal into an alternate dimension that was all steampunk-y and brought the gang to the home of the Blue Lanterns.
The fun thing about Green Lantern: TAS is that all of this material seems new even though it’s heavily based on comics I’ve read. That’s partly because unlike Batman or Spider-Man, there haven’t already been plenty of iterations of these characters and what they’ve done. It also helps that a lot of the material they’re mining comes from the last few years and doesn’t go way back to the Silver Age. I mean, you’re not watching huge-headed Hector Hammond in CGI on every episode, but instead focusing on the space cop elements of the book that I love so much. My only complaint? Not enough Green Lanterns. I think we’re building towards something big that will involve all the colors of the Lantern rainbow fighting Anti-Monitor and the Manhunters. Did you guys see the episode with Ch’p on Oa? How awesome was that? More Ch’p!
I actually talked to Young Justice creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti about the cartoon back when I was still working at ToyFare. They were cagey about a lot of the details because the show hadn’t debuted just yet, but I could tell they were really ambitious about this project. I had no idea at the time how ambitious though, even though they explained to me how each episode had a date and time stamp that would also coincide with the tie-in comic. Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but I still thought, “Okay, we’ll see.” And boy, did they show me.
My wife and I started watching the series, the premise of which has the Justice League using a team of young heroes to go on covert missions against villains all the while dealing with their youth. The first season, which was fantastic, was followed up by the second which is shockingly amazing. Between season there’s been a five year jump in continuity, some of the biggest members of the Justice League are missing, an alien alliance has a giant metaphorical gun pointed at the planet and all kinds of changes have gone on in the Young Justice world.
The beauty of a series like Young Justice is that, unlike a lot of other superhero cartoons, it doesn’t just repackage existing stories, but instead builds its own stories using the ones that have come before it and compiling something new and possibly better. There’s a clear reference in the season’s subtitle to the 80s crossover event Invasion, but they also pull from classic Justice League comics — I freaked out when Despero showed up last weekend — and even the fantastic Blue Beetle series from a few years back. It’s really like they took the whole chronology of the DCU, put various elements on notecards and then threw them all over the room to get rid of the order and then put them back in a way that made sense in service of their story.
Another aspect of this series that I really like is how you really have to either keep up or just sit back and enjoy the ride. There is a mountain of story so far in this season, a mountain I have trouble remembering for the most part. I wonder how kids keep up with it or if they have any trouble. I’m able to rely on my existing DC knowledge to fill in some of the gaps, but it’s all new to them. They’re better at absorbing information than adults are, so maybe it’s not a problem for them. The cast of characters is pretty huge at this point and the second season not only introduced plenty more, but also had a few characters switch up their superhero identities. I love not knowing what all is going on and trying to remember if we’ve had certain things explained or if they’re going to come to us eventually. I’m patient, so I don’t mind waiting for the slow burn.
DC Nation also has a ton of excellent shorts that I adore. The only one that gets on my nerves is that weird British thumb ting that uses kids voices, that’s just not in my wheelhouse. But, I’ll take a few of those every season just to get to a Plastic Man, Animal Man, Amethyst, Thunder & Lightning (Black Lightning’s daughters), Anime Batman, Super Best Friends Forever (shown above) and a ton of others. I’d actually love to see Cartoon Network get behind something like SBFF or Thunder and Lightning and give it a full series of episodes. I’m sure the idea of building a whole series around female superheroes worries CN execs, but I think there could be a real future there.
With Teen Titans Go and Beware The Batman getting added to the DC Nation block, I’m even more excited about where DC Nation is going. I’m not sure if those two shows will bolster the block to two hours instead of one or if the new shows will replace the old and trade off when new seasons are ready. I’m super happy with DC’s animated situation right now between DCN and the straight-to-DVD movies they keep nailing (a bunch just got added to Netflix Instant, so I’m going to get caught up!). Can’t wait to see where things go from here.
Sweet merry Christmas, the premiere of the new Thundercats cartoon on Cartoon Network was amazing. I’ve been pretty jazzed about the series for a while, hoping that it would be good, but also knowing one of the dudes who put a lot of blood sweat and tears into it. He said it would be good. It was better than that. Better than I could have imagined, really.
Last weekend, Cartoon Network was trying to get people into the Thundercats spirit by playing various episodes from the original series. I caught the second episode, which is really the second half of an hour-long movie and while I enjoyed myself, I had a lot of questions. Some would be answered in later episodes and some in the half I missed, I’m sure, but from a storytelling perspective, there’s a lot of burden placed on the audience to just accept what’s happening. Why are the mutants chasing the ‘Cats? Why does Lion-O grow inside the stasis chamber while Kit and Kat don’t? Why does Mumm-Ra care about the ‘Cats? Why doesn’t Mumm run around like a badass all the time instead of an old man? (I know there’s an answer for that last one, but just can’t remember it from childhood).
My wife had seen the old episodes and seemed as excited as I was to watch the premiere last night at 8:00PM (what a great lady!). So, last night, we sat down to watch and I was absolutely blown away. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this version does for Thundercats what Batman Begins/Dark Knight did for Batman, it took the essentials and made everything make sense while also adding in plenty of action to make things fun. Sure, there’s some changes in the status quo, but I really don’t care because this is a new version and I want to see what they’ve got up their sleeves. Somehow Lion-O and Tigra are brothers and the ‘Cats are not traveling to another planet, but staying on Thundera where a war is breaking out. The planet is filled with different animal species’ at war, with the cats on top, which explains why Slythe and the lizards hate them (not just blindly or because they’re goofy henchman).
As far as I can remember from the original series (which I haven’t really watched since grade school when the series made a triumphant return to CN right after I got home from school), the new version also digs in a lot deeper into the Thunderan mentality. The cats are on the top of the food chain, but are not really evolving or learning. They have weapons, but are scared of technology, they have warrior clerics, but seemingly closed minds to everything else. Also, they’re racist, at least against the lizards. Essentially there’s a lot going on here instead of just pitting the good guys against the bad guys every week. I don’t think it’s too much for kids to enjoy, though I haven’t talked to any yet about the show. It seems like the kind of thing that would have appealed to me, but also that my dad would have liked.
To say I can’t wait to see where the series goes is a huge understatement. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a new televisions show–of any kind–after the first episode in…years? Maybe since Prison Break? I was pretty blown away by that series and drawn right in. Same here. There’s so much mythology to explore and action to be had and mysteries to solve that I am completely in. The ‘Cats have been put on their back legs and now have to fight for their survival, it’s the perfect set up for a series. I’m also looking forward to seeing what they do with the elements set out in the original series. We already saw a Ro-Bear Berbil arm in one scene and blind latter-day Thundercat addition Lynx-O in another. What about Hachiman, Turmagar or The Snowman of Hook Mountain? I’ve been shown what this team can do and now I want more, more, more!
Thanks to some old wiring in our building, we can’t have digital cable. At first we were pretty bummed because we couldn’t have DVR or a million channels, but we got used to it once we found out it’d only run us $15 a month (not including internet, that took even longer to set up). For the most part, it doesn’t bother me. Then I have days like today where I babysit and get to see the wonders of Boomerang, the old school Cartoon Network spin-off that basically just plays old Hanna-Barbera and original CN shows. After we watched some inane and awful current children’s programming on Disney Channel, I seamlessly switched over to show the baby stuff like Snorks, Smurfs, Hong Kong Phooey and the following.
Big babies, super basketball players and robotic comedians, what else could you want?