Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1987)

Season 3 finally breaks free of the show's formula somewhat with new characters and interesting stories. No more of repeats of Igthorn and/or backfired spells ad nauseum. It's too bad none of the new plots are explored beyond the one episode they feature in as adding too much continuity would hurt syndication rights. Some of the new characters would have added to the show. Even the new cast member introduced at the end of last season is used very sparingly which is puzzling.

The usual one episode geared towards the overarching plot is also absent this season and focuses on simply another piece of Gummi legend. It's a great episode at least. The whole season is pointed towards progress, but then does nothing with it. Wasted potential, but still entertaining and better than last season.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on the same 3 disc set as the previous seasons.

3 disappearing castles out of 5

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Empire Sq (2007)

The blurb on the back of the DVD box states: There was a time when the people of your community knew your name, knew your family and they'd stop you in the street to talk about everything and nothing... Thank fuck those days are gone.
Featuring corpse-sex, monkey shaving, bum-love, super-heroes smashed to death on pavements, electric shock therapy, crack-whore surgery, swan eating... etc.

Sounds like fun. It isn't. Comedy can be offensive and still be comedy. Empire Sq is just offensive. Even the retro-cool pixel animation is appallingly bad.

12 episodes, approx 3 minutes each. Short but still too long.

0 out of 5

Cleopatra 2525: Season One (2000)

Cleo (Jennifer Sky) went for a boob job because she's a shallow bimbo stripper and that's what shallow bimbo strippers do, but complications during surgery meant she was placed in suspended animation. She wakes 525 years later in the year 2525, alone and frightened. The shit had largely hit the fan during those years, forcing humanity to retreat underground. Above ground is ruled by armed flying machines known as Baileys, of which little is known.

Cleo 2525 is from the makers of Xena: Warrior Princess and shares a similar sense of fun and disregard for logic. It follows three female freedom fighters determined to take back what the Bailey's took from them.

It was my introduction to the wonderful Gina Torres; her character, Hel, brings a strength and compassion to the group that makes her perfect for team leader. Hel receives guidance from an unseen voice, known simply as Voice, which is a kind of female disembodied Charlie (of Charlie’s Angels), delivering critical intel.
The trigger-happy Sarge (Victoria Pratt) is Hel’s partner. She struggles with her emotions because they occasionally get in the way of her shooting things.
And then, of course, Cleo who is the comedy relief. Her history enables the writers to reference 20th Century pop culture, which has the added effect of reinforcing her fish out of water position in the future time period. As the series progresses she becomes less shallow, morphing into someone endearing.

The show has many faults, but it never tries to be high art. Each episode erupts into at least one firefight wherein the women back-flip and somersault for no apparent reason while lasers fire randomly in all directions. Despite living underground everyone is well-tanned. Their mode of transport is laughable. Nevertheless, the strong characters and the short running time work in the show's favour. Its punchy, fast paced comic-book style is perfect for filling a brief hiatus between something better. There's a recurring villain named Creegan that's excellent. but the less I reveal about him the better.

It won't win any awards, and it even got cancelled after Season Two, but if you're not averse to parking your brain in Dumb Town and enjoying some fast cheese then Cleo 2525 could fill that hole.

14 episodes, approx 21 minutes each.

3 women with more than just tits out of 5

Monday, December 17, 2012

Deadwood: Season One (2004)

A violent Western set in 1870’s South Dakota, home to prospectors and traders. Being situated in Indian Territory means the law has yet to take a foothold, so it also attracts the criminal, the corrupt and the trigger-happy outlaw.

The entire cast are exceptional, not just the principal actors. Ian McShane plays foul-mouthed saloon owner Al Swearengen, the show’s main villain; although nothing is really that black and white in Deadwood. It's the role he was born to play. All thoughts of Lovejoy will wash away instantly.

Brad Dourif’s Doc Cochran is my favourite part of the show. If you’re familiar with Dourif from his film work you’ll know the power he can bring to a scene.

I should also mention Robin Weigert, who plays Calamity Jane; she steals most scenes she stumbles into with a lashing tongue and a wicked humour.

The presentation is flawless. The cinematography, particularly in the early episodes, helps it transcend the usual TV limitations. Every inch of the frame is purposefully lit. And the town bustles with life so it never feels empty.

It may take some viewers a little more time than others to become accustomed to the vernacular used, but pay close attention and you shouldn't have too much of a problem. It's certainly much more fascinating than what we use today. The excessive use of profanities isn't there just to offend, they help place people socially and are an integral part of characterisation. You should also aim to pick up on things implied though subtle glances and quiet movement because what's unsaid is as weighty and as important as what's overtly revealed.

Deadwood is essential viewing for Western fans, provided you don't baulk at the use of language. Alongside the violence, the double dealings and the remorseless aggression are moments of genuine sensitivity, often tinged with sadness, a combination that plucked an opera on my heartstrings during the finale.

12 episodes, approx 55 minutes each.

5 hungry pigs out of 5

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Mighty Boosh: Series Two (2006)

The Boosh changed location for the second series but remained just as weird and unique as before. The two leads, Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon (Julian Barratt), no longer work at the Zoo. Instead, they're shacked up in a North East London flat, which they share with the shaman Naboo the Enigma, and his familiar Bollo, the talking Ape, both of whom were also in Series One.

Despite their musical differences, Howard and Vince form a band. They somehow make their quest for recognition and stardom the catalyst for bizarre storylines involving singing, dancing, and failed romancing.

The show appears to have had a cash injection, enabling the guys to build more elaborate sets that facilitate ever more elaborate scripts. By the final episode all the stops are out and they are deep in the Boosh.

Both Noel and Julian play multiple parts, as does Rich Fulcher (who played Bob Fossil in S1); they're so damn good at it that at times I wasn't sure if it was or wasn't them beneath the make-up. The moronic Moon was a stroke of genius.

Only 6 episodes this time, approx 28 minutes each.

3 mangina lights out of 5

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Mighty Boosh: Series One (2005)

The Mighty Boosh is an alternative British comedy series that's just plain weird. I can't even think of an easy comparison to make this review go quicker. The show primarily revolves around two main characters, Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) and Vince Noir (Noel Fielding), both of whom are zookeepers at England's shittiest Zoo, The Zooniverse, a dilapidated, mostly empty, crappy little hovel.

Howard resembles the guy from your local supermarket who hovers in the bread aisle. He agonises over every decision, loves jazz funk and wants desperately to sleep with Mrs Gideon, the Reptile House lady. He has no chance.

Vince resembles a Dr Doolittle and Rod Stewart love child. He has perfect hair, a love of electro pop and a laid back attitude to life. The less he tries the more he succeeds. Mrs Gideon, the Reptile House lady, wants to sleep with him.

When not feeding animals or chilling in their homely hut, the pair stumble into ridiculous adventures that rarely make any rational sense.

There are recurring characters who help fuel the madness: the aforementioned Mrs Gideon; the resident shaman Naboo, who likes his hookah; the zoo manager, Bob Fossil, who's 51 cards short of a full deck; and the zoo owner, Dixon Bainbridge, with his upstaging moustache. Most of them play some part in the drama, even if it's just to take a kick in the balls.

There's no one definable element that makes Boosh entertaining. It's the mix of well-crafted characters, the clever insults, the off-the-wall events, the ridiculous conceits, and the dancing animals that separate it from the crowd.

8 episodes, approx 28 minutes each.

3½ human persons who buff and squirt out of 5

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gargoyles (1994)

And they say the Middle Ages were barbaric...
In medieval Scotland, creatures called gargoyles that turn to stone during the day and protect their castle's human inhabitants at night are betrayed to marauding vikings and are almost all killed. The survivors are then put under a magic spell that will put them into their stone sleep "until the castle rises above the clouds." 1000 years later, billionaire David Xanatos comes across the story and in an effort to see if it is true buys the castle and moves the entire thing to the top of his New York skyscraper which breaks the spell. Now the gargoyle leader, Goliath, must lead and protect his clan of 6 of the last gargoyles on earth in modern Manhattan. He will find there are no shortage of enemies both criminal and supernatural. Those who would be their ally, like NYPD detective Elisa Maza, are few and far between.

Gargoyles was quite the departure from Disney's usual animated fare. It was a serial drama with stories and characters heavily influenced by various world mythologies, a heavy smattering of action and some actual violence. Very PG violence mind you as it was ostensibly a kid's show, but it was still a break from the norm even if a lot of it was later invalidated by censorship of repeat airings. Despite being for kids, adults could still get a lot out of it as the characters were actually fleshed out with motivations and personalities and the themes could be picked up by history buffs and Shakespeare fans alike. Star Trek fans might get some kicks out of it as a majority of the voice actors were also on one of Trek's incarnations. Jonathan Frakes voices the scheming David Xanatos and Marina Sirtis voices the fiery Demona among others. Goliath is voiced by Keith David in his wonderfully deep baritone voice. The sometimes low quality TV animation is a point against it, but it is never bad enough to break engagement.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on a 2 disc DVD set with the uncut 13 episodes and some bonus features. Or you can watch the edited versions on Disney's YouTube channel here.

5 probably irritated though job-secure cleanup crews out of 5
It was actually a 4½, but remember, Keith David gets an automatic ½ bonus.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1986)

Season 2 of the Gummi Bears brings many new things like new voice actors and a few new characters, but it is a big heaping helping of more of the same. The majority of the plots are the same as season 1 i.e. thwarting Igthorn or dealing with backfired spells. The interchangeability of the episodes even led to original airings of the 11 minute episodes to be paired with ones from previous seasons to fill out the time slot. It says something that doing it actually doesn't really mess with continuity and such. There are only 3 episodes that have new plots and they are welcome, but so very few and far between.

The only other not tired storyline of the exiled Great Gummis is mostly absent from this season. Someone must have noticed because they seem to pull the new character thing out simply to distract from it's absence. Some other characters are pushed back and forth like princess Calla has a much bigger presence this season than the page Cavin.

Despite its flaws, it still carries the Disney pedigree, so even the recycled feel of this season is still a high quality recyclable. It still has (for it's age) quality animation and voice work. It's a shorter season at least so the recycling doesn't last too long.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on the same bare-bones 3 disc set as season 1 that contains the first 3 seasons of the show.

Clint Eastwood parodies out of 5

Sunday, December 2, 2012

HOMELAND - Season 1 [2011]

Why kill a man when you can kill an idea?

It's not often a television series has me completely absorbed into it by the final scene of the pilot episode.  Normally it takes a few episodes, sometimes a complete season.  However Showtime's Homeland managed to capture my undivided attention within the first twenty minutes of the pilot.  Inspired by Gideon Raff's Israeli television series, Hatufim, showrunner's Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa (of the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle 24) run over familiar territory, dealing with the subjects of terrorism, espionage and paranoia.  It tells the disturbingly intense story of a troubled U.S. Marine returning home to his family after being a tortured prisoner of war for 8 years to the al-Quada.  Even though he's celebrated as a hero, an equally disturbed CIA agent suspects him of being turned by the enemy and a potentially dangerous threat to the country. 

While 24 was driven by it's implausible, yet riveting, action, Homeland keeps it's feet firmly grounded in realism and makes the experience all the more terrifying.  Driven by such intimate intensity, Homeland is the type of show that will keep you awake at night wondering if it's time to lock yourself up in your house with a tinfoil hat. 

The first 5 episodes are consistently strong, compelling and effectively suspenseful, however it seems to lose it's step for a few episodes in the middle but still has enough purpose to keep the viewer trucking on forward.  Thankfully, we're rewarded by the final 4 episodes that pick up the slack and dare you not to break a sweat or hold your breath. Without the wonderfully absorbing cast, including My So Called Life's Claire Danes, Band Of Brother's Damian Lewis, Firefly's Morena Baccarin and Dead Like Me's Mandy Patinkin, Homeland probably wouldn't have been nearly as emotionally engaging. 

It's not a perfect series or even breaking new ground, with 24 and Rubicon before it, but it is certainly something that's easy to recommend to anybody that loves episodic suspenseful television. 

13 episodes.  Roughly 55-60 minutes each

Buyer's Guide:
Available in DVD and Blu-ray box sets and on iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.

  instances where your own side is scarier than the enemy out of 5