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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Re\Visioned: Tomb Raider Animated Series (2007)

An anthology of short animated tales featuring the virtual bra-busting Brit, Lara Croft, from a number of different writers and animators. Each creator puts their own unique spin on the Lara character, which range from the wonderfully inventive (Keys to the Kingdom) to the piss-poor self-parody (Revenge of the Aztec Mummy). None of them bother to waste time giving back-story or history. They assume that most viewers will already have knowledge of that from the games. The short format really doesn't allow for that kind of exposition, anyhow.

Actress Minnie Driver voices Lara in every episode. I wouldn't have put her on the list of candidates, but she does a fantastic job and if ever there's a feature-length Tomb Raider animation she’d now be my first choice. Both Minnie, and the series in general, were great.

I'll post a full list of contributors in the comments section, so check there if you want to know who was involved.

Further series of ‘Re\Visioned’ set to feature different video game characters was promised, but to my knowledge only the Tomb Raider one appeared.

10 episodes, approx 6 minutes each.

3½ sacred artefacts are nothing but trouble out of 5

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Name is Earl: Season One (2006)

Earl Hickey was an opportunist. He'd take any opportunity that came his way, and not give a damn about consequences. If you left your car door unlocked, he'd take your car. Earl was that kind of guy.

After a particularly hard day he's floored by an epiphany, which sets him on a path of reparation trying to right his wrongs in a way that he believes Karma would find appropriate. Nothing ever goes according to plan, but he struggles on, aware that Karma is watching his every move, because he believes that once he's cancelled out his misdeeds his life will improve.

That's the basis for the entire series. Each week Earl tackles a new wrong from his past that he feels should be put right. It's a concept that's perfect for an episodic comedy, but it needed a sympathetic and likeable loser to make it work. They found it in Jason Lee. He's the perfect loser.

Earl's friends and family are equally important to the shows dynamic, and there again the casting team lucked out. Everyone is entirely suited to their role.

My Name is Earl is light-hearted entertainment with real heart and real laughs. Most of us should be able to relate to his plight on some level.

24 episodes, approx 20 minutes each.

3½ roadmaps to a better life out of 5

Friday, January 11, 2013

Deadwood: Season Two (2005)

With characters and motivations already well-established in the first season, all that was really needed was to further increase the levels of antagonism and the uneasy alliances between disparate parties for S2 to build upon and keep fans happy. A new arc, picking up on something that loomed at the end of S1, gave the writers that basis upon which to heap more of the same.

In theory that works perfectly. However, partway through there's a slow but obvious slide into the dirtiest of words: 'soap' and 'opera.' A large portion of the middle of Season 2 feels like a soap opera with small stories of residents that aren't as crucial to the drama as they’d like to be. They’re shuffled around so as not to interfere too much but still be sympathetic to the larger issue of annexation that threatens to tear the camp from the grip of saloon owner Al Swearengen.

Speaking of Al (Ian McShane), he has a subplot with Doc Cochran (Brad Douriff) that had me in awe of their acting abilities. It also had me cringing; not because it was bad, but because it was so very good and so very believable.

New faces arrive in town; some of them set about trying to ingratiate themselves to one or other of the opposing parties, while some even feel it probable that they could position themselves above the established order.

Despite the middle section having some filler, the remainder retains the same level of quality writing that Season 1 showcased. When it gets back on track it again excels in every way. The wonderful 1870’s vernacular is used to even more comedic effect, often at the expense of E. B. Farnum (William Sanderson).

12 episodes, approx 45-55 minutes each.

4½ relative conditions out of 5

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gargoyles (1995)

We are defenders of the night. We are Gargoyles!
Having settled into their new home, the Manhattan clan patrols the city to protect those that need it while remaining hidden to the population at large and going on many fantastic, dangerous adventures with many themes like environmental conservation, acceptance and personal integrity. They will face numerous foes, new and old, that are both mundane and magical along with various allies.

New characters are introduced and older ones are expanded while some plots that had been hinted at come to fruition. Excellent work by the writers on that. The episodes also add many more myths and legends to the show's backstory that are a delight to watch. The drastically expanded episode count from 13 to 52 allows for plenty of time for all the science and sorcery with oodles of action, great writing and interesting, dynamic characters. Adults can easily enjoy it as well as kids and can possibly get even more out of it than the kids.

It's a perfect continuation as it is the same excellent quality of the first season. There is just more of it. Points against it are the same: The sometimes low quality animation for TV and some small animation goofs are sometimes visible, but nothing totally disengaging.

Buyer's Guide:
The first half of the season is available in a DVD box set with uncut episodes and special features, but Disney scrapped plans to release the rest citing low sales. They have made the season available on their YouTube channel. Though for some reason Disney omitted 2 episodes; Sentinel and Mark of the Panther.
 *EDIT* Disney has since released the second half on DVD and removed the YouTube episodes.

5 Villains laughing maniacally out of 5