The High Five Episode 40 – Toy Movies

On this week’s episode, I’m running down some of the most interesting films based on toy lines, most of which began when I was a kid! Along the way, I recount my personal history with the toys as well as the movies and even give some history as we go. For sources I used the He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe and Barbie episodes of the excellent Toys That Made Us series on Netflix as well as some real life books: The Official 30th Anniversary Salute To GI Joe 1964-1994 by Vince Santelmo and The Art Of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe by Tim and Steve Seeley.

Here’s a fan reconstruction of the Universal Conan show that got Gary Goddard the job directing Masters Of The Universe!

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Just Finished: Doctor Who Season 1 (2005)

After four years of hearing about it, I finally decided to give Doctor Who a shot and it was all thanks to a conversation held at this year’s New Year’s Eve party. Em overheard James talking to someone about Doctor Who and asked me about it yesterday. I had added it to the instant Netflix queue just in case, but never got around to starting it. Noting that we didn’t really have much to watch this weekend, Em suggested we give it a shot and we did. So much of a shot that we watched all 13 episodes of the first season in two days, starting yesterday.

I think Em may have gotten more into it than I did, but unlike Weeds (a show she loves and I can hardly stand) I still had fun watching it and was often able to read a comic or two while the episodes were on. I really liked Christopher Eccleston as the The Doctor and find myself drawn to Billie Piper. I was impressed with how well put together the show is. Sure there’s some bad special effects, but the writers do a great job of getting to the heart of the matter even while throwing our heroes up against walking mannequins and Daleks. I was also surprised at how well they did at making things creepy, and I mean really creepy. The people with the gas masks from the episodes “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” gave me the chills. And the first Dalek that we see in “Dalek” even had me going for a little why, but their high, shrill voices reminded me of Timmy from South Park which is interesting because they’re basically shrunken bodies using a machine to cart them around. Go figure.

I also want to mention two other things that I really liked. First up was Simon Pegg’s appearance as The Editor in “The Long Game.” I was kind of half paying attention when Em said something like “Look at this guy who’s trying to be Simon Pegg.” I looked at the screen and after a few moments realized it was, in fact, him. I remembered that someone gave someone an action figure of the character last year. Now I think I might need to track him down. I also really liked the British TV shows that made it into the future with some minor (and murderous) tweaks in the last two episodes of the season. There was Big Brother, Weakest Link and What Not To Wear (the British versions of course). Now, I don’t really know a lot about any of those shows other than the idea of an AnneDroid hosting Weakest Link is hilarious. I’ve never seen any episodes of Big Brother, but Rickey Gervais’ character does go on the show in the Extra’s Christmas Special which is fantastic and you should check it out, along with the rest of the series. Em noticed the What Not To Wear ladies and got a kick out of them. Can’t wait to burn through the next few seasons, Torchwood (maybe Sarah Jane) and maybe some of the original stuff. What’s worth watching?

I Kind Of, Sort Of Liked The G.I. Joe Movie

In an interesting twist of fate, I had just found out I was getting the DVD for G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (2009) from Netflix the very same day we recorded the podcast for War Rocket Ajax. Those of you who have listening to it might remember the long conversation that some of the guys, including my buddy and Topless Robot honcho Rob went back and forth about the ridiculousness of the movie. And yeah, it was ridiculous. Like Rob said, this is the world’s greatest fighting force and they send only a handful of guys to defend Paris. But, like I said, I kind of liked it.

Now, please understand, this isn’t a great movie. I’m not even sure it’s good, but I had a good enough time watching it. When I was a kid I loved G.I. Joe. I remember watching the cartoon, but that’s not where my memories come from. Those would be from the toys. I had a pretty good number of action figures, vehicles and playsets all of which I would spread across my living room floor and play with for hours. We also had a fireplace made up of individual rocks, so that was the perfect place for some epic battles as well. Anyway, seeing as how all the toys (or guys as I used to call them) were tossed into a shoe box, I didn’t really know what their names were and I played with them long past when the cartoon was done, so they were just “the Cobra Viper who’s painted orange and blue” and “the guy with the beret.” I would also play with my older cousin’s Joes when I would visit my Grandma in Cleveland (as well as his Transformers), so there were even more characters I played with but didn’t really know.

All of this is a roundabout way to say that I don’t really have a connection to the Joes as characters. In fact, the three most recent incarnations I’ve encountered were the animated movie (SO weird), the Devil’s Due comic World War III (fantastic) and the first trade of the Marvel comics (boring). So, even now, my experience with the characters is pretty much “Cobra Commander is an ass,” “Destro makes weapons,” and “Snake-Eyes doesn’t talk, also likes guns and swords.” That’s a way of saying that I didn’t care that the characters probably didn’t line up with their animated and comic counterparts. That doesn’t mean that I liked the idea of all the characters being inexplicably linked to each other in complicated ways. Duke used to date Baroness. The eventual Cobra Commander is Baroness’ brother. Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes knew each other as kids (that’s in the comics though, right?). I remember there also being talk of there being a romantic relationship between Scarlet and Snake-Eyes, but I didn’t really notice it in the movie. Oh and of course Ripcord had a thing for Scarlett (though who wouldn’t?).

The action scenes were fun and over the top. That’s the kind of craziness I like. Heck, I even dug the accelerator suit chase scenes. Maybe it’s because I went into this movie expecting absolutely nothing and knew I wasn’t going to get insulted like some nerds do, but for the most part I liked it. Having watched it about a week or two back, I can honestly say that it has mellowed better than Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. I liked Transformers 2 while watching it, I’ve had a lot more questions and concerns after watching it, but G.I. Joe still feels about the same.

Oh, one thing that did bug me about the story was the whole turn of character with the Baroness. It’s too bad they wouldn’t let her just be an awesome villain. Take out the nonsense linking her to Duke and Cobra Commander and you’re fine, because you don’t have to explain anything away (why she turned bad). She should have just been bad the whole time. So, not only did we get robbed of the potential awesomeness of Cobra Commander as a villain throughout the whole film, but we also get the Baroness taken away from us as a rad villainess. It’s really too bad. Hopefully, screenwriters will start treating these propoerties like the rich source material they really are and make big action movies that are both fun and good. We shall see.