31 October 2013

Book Series Review: "Star Wars: Jedi Prince" by Paul and Hollace Davids

Authors: Paul and Hollace Davids
Publisher: Bantam Skylark
Published: 1992 - 1993
Synopsis: After Darth Vader's defeat in Return of the Jedi, the galaxy was finally at peace...or so it seemed.  Trioculus, a three-eyed son of the Emperor, intends to bring the Empire back, and will stop at nothing to stop the likes of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia from thwarting his plans.  With Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda both gone, Luke and friends are in for a tough challenge.  Will they be able to bring order to the galaxy again?

Artistic Merit

Plots: 4/5
Yes, the characters aren't like they were in the movies; still, I found these books to be engaging action/adventure stories in the style of old-school Saturday morning serials.  It was so fun and fast-paced that all the "negative" plot elements didn't bother me that much.

Writing: 3/5
Nothing too special in this department; it's written for kids, so, of course the language and details are going to be simplistic, but it was still moderately well-written.

Illustrations: 3.5/5
I read the omnibus editions, so I didn't get to see the actual cover art, but most of the interior line drawings I liked.  Still, the drawing of Princess Leia was a little off.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 4/5
Good and evil are clearly defined; the heroes show courage and determination to win.  It's pretty much what one would expect from old-school Star Wars.

Sex: 4.5/5
Some kissing between Han and Leia.

Nudity: 5/5

Language: 5/5

Violence: 3.75/5
Most of the violence remains bloodless, just like most of what's in the movies, but there is one scene where dripping blood is mentioned, though not shown in the illustration.  Blasters are fired, lightsabers are whipped out...you know, the usual.

Drugs: 5/5

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 3.5/5
If this were a modern-day TV series, it would likely be rated "TV-Y7-FV"; that is, only for children over the age of seven because of fantasy violence.  Still, if a kid is old enough to read and understand this, it's probably not too much for him/her.

Other: 4/5
Burping is used as a gag.  Han and Lando play "sabacc," which is an intergalactic form of poker, and involves gambling.

Final Score: 3.5/5
From what I have seen online, it seems like the Davids' Star Wars books are among the most universally disliked.  However, I found these to be somewhat enjoyable, despite their flaws.  Other adult readers may disagree, but this "kid at heart" found these to be fun intergalactic adventures.  Don't believe all the negative hype; check these books out for yourselves and see if you like them.

29 October 2013

Movie Review: "Seven Days in Utopia"

Rated: G for general audiences
Starring: Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, and Deborah Ann Woll
Released: September 2, 2011 (theaters) / November 29, 2011 (DVD)
Synopsis: Golfer Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) has a major meltdown during a televised tournament that is seen around the world and puts a rift between him and his father.  With nowhere else to go, he ends up in Utopia, a small town with residents such as the pretty waitress Sarah (Deborah Ann Woll, True Blood) and former golfer Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall, The Godfather).  When they see the televised account of Luke's worst moment, they take it on themselves to rehabilitate him and help him find the right way.  However, can he ever get back what he lost? Will he be able to make amends with his father? Will he go right back to golfing, or is there something more to life than just smacking a ball around with a club? One thing is for sure: Life is never the same once you've been to Utopia.
Based on the book by David L. Cook.

Artistic Merit

Plot: 3.5/5
While not exactly original--but, hey, King Solomon wrote, "There is nothing new under the Sun"--the plot works moderately well.  However, some of the questions presented are not answered by the time the credits roll.  If you're expecting everything to be resolved by the movie's end, you've got the wrong movie.

Production Values: 3/5
The actors are all great; the soundtrack is decent; the sets and such look real enough, though that's probably only because of the Golf Channel's sponsorship.  However, the opening scene--which has a quick-cutting, repetitive montage of the events leading up to the start of the film--was a bit hard to get through, so much so that I debated quitting watching at that point.  I was glad I stayed, but others may not be able to endure that as well.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 5/5
Christian faith is portrayed in a positive light.  A character says he is glad to have given up alcoholism.  Seriously, moral-wise, there isn't much that isn't positive.

Sexual Content: 4.5/5
One near-kiss.

Nudity: 4.5/5
Sarah wears some outfits that are either off-the-shoulder or slightly low-cut.

Violence: 3.75/5
The movie starts out with a non-fatal car crash.  During Lucas' meltdown, he angrily snaps one of his clubs in two.  Some guys--including Luke--participate in a rodeo; though the usual throwing around is seen, there's no blood or gore.  A small plane nearly crashes into a field.

Language: 4.5/5
One usage of the h-word.

Drugs: 4/5
As mentioned above, a character says that he is glad to have given up alcohol.

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 4/5
See "Violence".

Other: 3.5/5
Some of the guys are seen gambling.  Manure is referenced and seen on a guy's face.

Final Score: 3.5/5
I had high hopes for this movie; it was touted as a wonderful flick by Christian critics everywhere, and it even featured right many mainstream stars.  Though it was still pretty good, a hard-to-get-through beginning and an abrupt ending kept it from being all it could have been.  Fans of Christian cinema and/or golf may enjoy it--in fact, it's a lot better than Birdie & Bogey, the last golf-themed movie I tried watching--but others may end up somewhat disappointed.  If you think you'd love to see this, rent it first; otherwise, you may end up shelling out a bunch of money on something you'll never watch again.

27 October 2013

DVD Set Review: "Home Improvement": The Complete First Season

Rated: TV-PG for language and violence (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Tim Allen, Patricia Richardson, and Richard Karn
Released: 1991-1992 (original ABC premieres) / 2004 (DVD)
Synopsis: One of the best-loved television series of the 1990s, Home Improvement is about Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor (Tim Allen, The Santa Clause), host of the local access TV show Tool Time, and his family: his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson, The Jensen Project) and three sons, troublemakers Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan) and Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Tom and Huck), as well as innocently naive Mark (Taran Noah Smith).  Though Tim is all about working with tools, he is also prone to accidents, which leads him and his family into many a debacle.  With his much-loved Tool Time assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn, Family Feud), the beautiful "tool girl" Lisa (Pamela Anderson), and the Taylors' wise, advice-dispensing neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman), it's a recipe for love, laughter, and more power!
Based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen.

Artistic Merit

Plots: 3.5/5
Sitcoms have existed pretty much since the dawn of television, so, there's little ground that hasn't been trodden previously within the genre before this series came out.  Though the stories contained within are standard fare, they are made more fun because of the off-beat approach; you can definitely tell the stars were having fun while filming the series.  Still, beloved secondary characters such as Harry and Delores, Al's love interest Ilene, Tim's brother Marty, and Bud, the owner of Binford Tools, are nowhere to be seen.

Production Values: 3.5/5
One of the hallmarks of this series is the fact that, during the credits, you can see the bloopers from the filming of the episode; that, unfortunately, is mostly absent here.  The acting isn't perfect, but, any fan of the show knows that's to be expected from this show.  Though the scene transitions are clever, they aren't as funny or advanced as the ones in later episodes.  Still, this was the first run of the series, so the makers deserve a little credit.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 4/5
Tim and Jill both impart words of wisdom to their sons, and Wilson also gives Tim great advice, even quoting 1 Corinthians 13:11.  It is also mentioned briefly that the Taylors attend church.  Most of the episodes feature Tim making a mistake, and learning the error of his ways by the time the credits roll.  When a guy makes romantic advances on Jill, she sends his away.

Sexual Content: 1.5/5
There are times where the ratings people get it wrong, and this is one such case.  While watching the episodes within this set one after another, I was surprised how much subtly sexual banter there was between Tim and Jill.  Though each remark by itself would only get a "PG" from the MPAA by itself, when put together, it made it a bit too much.  I think this deserved a "D" under the "TV-PG" for off-color dialogue.

Nudity: 4/5
Tim and Mark are seen shirtless a time or two, and Jill wears a low-cut dress.  She also is seen in a bathtub, but all you see are her face and her bare shoulders.  A scantily clad woman is seen in an image from a car magazine.

Language: 2/5
D-words, h-words, and misuses of God's name appear anywhere from one or two times to as many as seven times, depending on the episode.  Milder expressions such as "darn," "heck," "butt," and "shut up," as well as some name-calling, appear a little less often.  A character is stopped short of saying a profanity at least twice.

Violence: 4/5
All the violence contained within this season is slapstick and played for laughs.  Most of it is a product of Tim's mishaps, whether on Tool Time or at home; still, there isn't any blood or gore to be seen.

Drugs: 3.75/5
Tim and/or Jill drink beer or wine a few times, and one episode features guys smoking cigars.

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 4.5/5
The episode where Tim and Jill pretend to be aliens to get even with Randy and Brad is slightly freaky.

Other: 3.25/5
Bodily functions are referenced fairly often.  Also, Tim pokes fun of Al for being single, and it isn't always vilified.

Final Score: 2.25/5
Out of all the shows I have watched over the years--and, believe me, there are many--Home Improvement is probably the one I have watched more than any other, mostly thanks to reruns airing on various cable channels.  Though the series originally ran on ABC from 1991 to 1999, I can still remember watching a syndicated episode on our local CBS affiliate on Christmas Day 1995; since then, it has been shown on channels ranging from The WB to Nick at Nite to, currently, the Hallmark Channel.  However, since the DVD has the original broadcast episodes, I felt like I was watching them for the first time.  Though each of the episodes has a core plot that is at least decent, the profanity, innuendos, and crude references ruined things for me.  Was I immune to such content all this time? One wonders.
A post-script: Though I have nothing against Canada, I don't know what the Canadian raters are thinking.  They rate this "G," yet they take a seven-episode DVD of Shake It Up and rate it "PG" and say it is "Not Recommended for Young Children"?  Are they confused, or do they just hate the Disney Channel? Again, one wonders.

26 October 2013

Movie Review: "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Part One"

Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and action
Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, and David Selby
Released: September 25, 2012 (DVD and Blu-Ray)
Synopsis: Several years after Batman's retirement, Bruce Wayne (voiced by Peter Weller) is still alive and well.  A massive gang known as the Mutants is wreaking havoc all over Gotham, and the police, including commissioner James Gordon, are at their wits' end trying to protect innocent citizens.  Despite his advanced age, Bruce Wayne puts on the Batsuit again to uphold justice...but the Mutants aren't going down without a fight.  With Two-Face escaped and still against him, and some citizens of Gotham totally opposing him, this mission may prove to get the best of the Dark Knight.
Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Frank Miller and Klaus Jackson.

Artistic Merit

Plot: 5/5
Though this movie may only be seventy-six minutes in length, it packs a powerful, gripping narrative.  It's arguably as fast-paced as many of the action/adventure flicks that get released in theaters.

Production Values: 4/5
The animation is stellar; the blending of computer-generated images with hand-drawn ones works amazingly well.  However, the voice work left a little to be desired.  Though most of the cast did well, I felt that Batman could have been better voiced.  According to the end credits, the voice director for this film was the same one who did the Batman and Superman animated series, including Batman Beyond; I'm afraid she might have lost her touch.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 3.5/5
The main message here? Crime doesn't pay.  Also, Batman is shown overcoming personal tragedies and putting his life on the line for the greater good.  Others risk their lives as well to help out the Caped Crusader.

Sex: 5/5

Nudity: 4/5
Bruce Wayne is seen shirtless a few times; in one scene, it is implied that he is naked, though his private area is well obscured.  The main villain also spends most of his time bare-chested, and even has weird thorn-like things protruding from his chest.  Random women are seen in low-cut or bare-midriff outfits a time or two, and a female hero wears short shorts.

Violence: 1.5/5
Of course, when you have superheroes, you have to have violence, right? I had expected this to fall into "TV-Y7-FV" territory; instead, it ended up being far too bloody and intense for children.  Shots are fired left and right, and blood is seen in almost every action scene, as well as in a flashback.  At least five people are killed; one person is seen lying in his own blood during a news report.  There are also a few explosions.

Language: 2.25/5
The language also keeps this movie from being kid-friendly.  The d-word is used at least seven times--including once on a sign--and the h-word three or more time.  Other profanities, such as the a-word and the b-word, are used at least once.  God's name is also misused three or four times.

Drugs: 3.75/5
Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon are seen drinking.  The Commissioner also uses nicotine gum because his wife made him give up cigars.

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 0.5/5
There's little within the movie that isn't intense or frightening.  Along with the mostly bloody violence, some scenes--such as Batman dangling a perp from a skyscraper--would likely scare many kids and even some adults.

Final Score: 3.5/5
Amazing, yet violent.  Usually, those words wouldn't go together--at least, not for me--but this movie's story and action sequences are so compelling, it was like reading a book you couldn't put down.  Even the imperfect voice work didn't keep me from watching this in one night, which is something I rarely do with movies of any length.  Still, this film is not for children; it might even be a bit much for some teens and adults.  If you're sensitive about language, I would suggest using ClearPlay or a similar filter, as this movie adds in a bit more profanity than I would have even expected.  For fans of the Caped Crusader or superheroes in general who aren't bothered by the above concerns, though...you're in for a treat.

24 October 2013

Movie Review: "Tribulation"

Rated: PG-13 for violence
Starring: Gary Busey, Howie Mandel, and Nick Mancuso
Released: January 14, 2000 (theaters)
Synopsis: Police officer Tom (Gary Busey) and his brother Calvin (Joseph Ziegler) don't put any stock in their sister Eileen's (Margot Kidder, Superman) Christian beliefs.  When Tom gets called onto a case of a college professor abusing his wife, it leads to Tom getting into a car accident, which puts him into a coma.  During the time he is dead to the world, the Rapture occurs, and One Nation Earth president Franco Macalousso (Nick Mancuso, Under Siege) deceives and takes over the world.  Having not received the Mark--that is, 666--Tom and his brother-in-law Jason (Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal) are immediately targeted by the O.N.E. officers, who will stop at nothing to kill anyone who rebels against them, including an underground group of Christians led by Helen Hannah (Leigh Lewis, Apocalypse) who have been interrupting Macalousso's broadcasts.  However, Tom still isn't so sure about Jesus.  Will he realize his mistake before it's too late? Will the underground Christians be able to show the world who Macalousso really is? Events foretold in Revelation are brought to life in this movie!

WARNING! The review below contains potential spoilers!

Artistic Merit

Plot: 4/5
Yes, this is the third film in a series, and you would have to watch the previous two to understand this one.  However, I found this movie to be much more gripping than the first two entries.  Even if you weren't a huge fan of Apocalypse and Revelation, things take a turn for the better the third time around.

Production Values: 5/5
As good as the first movie in the series was, it suffered a bit from a low budget.  The second one stepped things up slightly, but this one improved the series even more.  It helps that some of the actors were screen veterans, as you can see on their IMDb profiles.  This is definitely not a tremendous piece of dreck, like C Me Dance was.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 5/5
Of course Christian faith is shown in a positive light, right? The Christians in this film do not give up on their faith, even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).  Though Tom doesn't start out the movie as a Christian, he is shown to be a smart individual who doesn't blindly give in to Macalousso.  The movie also displays how Bible verses can be misused by taking them out of context (Matthew 4:5-6), which, unfortunately, happens far too often these days.

Sexual Content: 4.5/5
Kissing is as bad as it gets.

Nudity: 5/5

Language: 5/5

Violence: 3/5
Both the good guys and bad guys kill in this movie.  Homeless people are shot (implied); a woman is beheaded (also implied); a man is choked, and later seen dead when a relative closes his non-seeing eyes; an explosion kills several people (the explosion itself is seen, but no blood or gore is seen.) Elsewhere, to get into locked houses--his own and his brothers'--Tom breaks through doors and glass, inflicting slightly bloody wounds on his own hands.  A guy jumps out of his own window to his death.

Drugs: 5/5

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 1.5/5
This may be a Christian film, but it has the feel of a survival horror movie.  The first scene is sweet, almost like one from a Lifetime telefilm, but, after that, it gets creepy.  Along with what was mentioned under "Violence," people are possessed by demons, and Macalousso himself is rather frightening.  Even an argument between a husband and wife gets a bit intense (think Fireproof).

Other: 4/5
Some viewers may have a problem with the depiction of end times events, though Biblical prophecy is difficult to interpret.

I once knew a guy who prided himself in having a collection of little-known video games, one of which was Sweet Home, which was only released in Japan, but is widely considered to be the very first "survival horror" game ever made.  Though Tribulation never gets as graphic as that game allegedly did, I couldn't help but think of survival horror as I was watching this movie.  I don't do "horror" entertainment, but I have to say that this is one of the scariest stories I've experienced since reading cult expert Bob Larson's novel Dead Air a year or two ago, which is not something I would recommend.  This definitely isn't for young kids, and it may even cause some adults to have nightmares; then again, I think that's the whole point: You don't want to be on earth when the Antichrist comes.  Tribulation is the best in the series so far, but it's also the creepiest; I wouldn't recommend watching this before going to bed.

Score: 4/5

19 October 2013

DVD Review: "Shake It Up": Mix It Up, Laugh It Up

Rated: TV-G (US) / PG: "Not Recommended for Young Children" (Canada)
Starring: Bella Thorne, Zendaya, and Roshon Fegan
Released: November 7, 2010 - August 12, 2012 (Disney Channel premieres) / June 18, 2013 (DVD release)
Synopsis: Cecilia "CeCe" Jones (Bella Thorne, Little Monk) and Raquel "Rocky" Blue (Zendaya, Dancing with the Stars) are two BFFs who decide to audition for their favorite show, Shake It Up, Chicago! They're ecstatic when they end up on the show...but fame ends up bringing some unwanted consequences.  Between a stalker fan (Kerris Dorsey, Moneyball) who wants to replace CeCe on the show, a modeling agency that wants Rocky to leave all her friends behind to start a career, and the two of them both having embarrassing moments on live television, things are bound to get crazy! Add to that their sworn enemies and fellow dancers Gunther (Kenton Duty, Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea) and Tinka (Caroline Sunshine, Marmaduke), as well as their insane siblings Flynn (Davis Cleveland) and Ty (Roshon Fegan, Dancing with the Stars), and you've got a recipe for both laughter and dancing!

Artistic Merit

Plots: 5/5
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: No one knows how to make a sitcom like the Disney Channel.  Even Nickelodeon's best efforts only come somewhat close at best.  Though some of the plots are what you'd expect from such a show, they end up working quite well, and it's all-around fun.

Production Values: 4/5
The actors and actresses, especially the two leads, are awesome, and the dancing is great.  Where it fails a bit is the music.  Though the tunes heard in the actual episodes are moderately good at worst, the background music on the DVD menus is terrible, so much so that I was glad I watched the majority of the episodes on my iPad.  Don't be surprised if you get the urge to select your menu options as soon as possible so you don't have to hear any more of that garbage than necessary.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 5/5
As you'd expect, positive morals abound in this series.  Rocky and CeCe learn the meaning of true friendship, and constantly look out for and encourage one another.  Lying and profiting from others' embarrassment are both vilified.

Sexual Content: 3.75/5
There are a few "PG"-level quips in these seven episodes.  For example: When CeCe describes an embarrassing moment that took place before the events of the show that caused her to lose her shirt, Rocky tells her, "CeCe, you were ten; no one even knew you were a girl." CeCe quickly replies, "I knew!" When a mom is asked if she is expecting, she says, "That factory's closed." A discussion on how to avoid stage fright involves picturing everyone naked, which leads to quips about "more clothes" on an unattractive guy, and, when CeCe is in the spotlight, Rocky repeats her advice, and CeCe says that she is picturing someone naked, "but it's me."

Nudity: 4.25/5
Occasional short skirts and off-the-shoulder tops are as bad as it gets for the most part; however, one scene has a random magazine with a lady--not any of the characters from the show--in a bikini.

Language: 4.5/5
A character says, "Oh, my Godfather!" twice in one episode.  (She ends up being a villainess.)  There is also some name-calling.

Violence: 4/5
Typical sitcom slapstick; no blood, no gore, all played for laughs.

Drugs: 5/5
None.  (This is Disney Channel, folks!)

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 4/5
The stalker fan in "Copy Kat It Up" is a bit creepy.

Other: 3.5/5
The final episode of the set, "Embarrass It Up," references and shows the girls' flatulence and sneezing.  An intentionally exaggerated scene for each one features people being "blown away" in one and covered in goo in the other.  Jokes are made at their expense, though they end up realizing the error of their ways.


On June 18, 2013, DVDs of four Disney Channel Shows were released: Austin & Ally, Good Luck Charlie, Lab Rats, and, yes, Shake It Up.  Of those four, only the latter one had received the DVD treatment previously; ten episodes were released with the Disney Channel Original Movie Geek Charming.  Though the entire series is likely available on iTunes, fans who prefer to have a physical copy should definitely check out both DVDs.  If you're someone who doesn't have cable, this would serve as a good primer to see what the series is all about.  If you're not into Disney Channel shows...why are you even reading this review?
Unfortunately, with Disney Channel's track record, we may never get an entire season set on DVD or Blu-Ray of any of the network's shows; this very likely may be the closest we come, other than on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video.  Though the episodes contained within are fun and entertaining, some fans may rather stick with watching Rocky and CeCe on TV; you'll have to decide for yourself whether this is worth purchasing or renting.

Score: 4.5/5

15 October 2013

DVD Set Review: "Big Time Rush": Season One, Volume One

Rated: TV-G (US) / PG (Canada)
Starring: Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Carlos Pena, and Logan Henderson
Released: November 28, 2009 - April 16, 2010 (Nickelodeon premiere) / March 29, 2011 (DVD)
Synopsis: Four regular guys from Minnesota (Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Carlos Pena, and Logan Henderson) audition for a talent competition held by washed-up music producer Gustavo Rocque (Stephen Kramer Glickman) and his assistant Kelly (Tanya Chisholm).  They end up moving to L.A. and becoming Big Time Rush...but, before they can bask in their stardom, they find out that it's not all that easy being a celebrity.  Between dealing with weirdos at the hotel, breaking things and having to get jobs to pay for the repairs, and dealing with the uptight head of the record company...they're in for some big time craziness!  With the support of band member Kendall's mother (Challen Cates) and little sister (Ciara Bravo), they'll have to figure things out...'cause you gotta live it big time!

Artistic Merit

Plots: 2/5
This is the series' weakest aspect, but it's one of the most important parts of any story or set of stories.  Though Nickelodeon's plots aren't usually anything Shakespearean or grandiose, the storylines in same-network shows such as iCarly and Kenan & Kel are fun while being believable.  However, Big Time Rush relies way too much on silliness and bizarreness, and that just doesn't work all that well.  I mean, seriously: A cat spray-painting on a mansion wall? A girl who is willing to dance with a guy who dated her and another girl at the same time? A talking coffee machine that wants to take over the earth with foam? Sorry, Nickelodeon, but that's just inane and not very funny.  It's pretty bad when the secondary characters of Kendall's mom and friend/significant other are the bright spots of the entire set.

Production Values: 4/5
Though such a show requires everyone onscreen to act insane, the actors play their characters well.  The soundtrack, however, relied too much on the theme song, which was a bit...well, annoying.  Maybe that was just because this set chronicled the beginnings of the group, but they could have used some other songs.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 3/5
The guys look out for each other as friends, and their mom and sister are there for moral support.

Sexual Content: 3.5/5
Some minor kissing and flirting.  One of the guys dresses up as a girl--with Kendall's mom's help--in order to get into a girl's school so he can hear and see a lecturer whom he admires.

Nudity: 4/5
Guys' bare chests are seen--sometimes partially--from time to time, and the ladies tend to wear short skirts/dresses, and you occasionally see girls in off-the-shoulder tops.  Of particular note: Even though the hotel where the guys stay has a pool, you never see any ladies in bikinis or even one-piece swimsuits; they wear shirts while actually in the pool.  Such modesty is the kind rarely seen these days in any kind of media.

Language: 4/5
Mostly name-calling, though you do hear an occasional misuse of God's name.

Violence: 3.25/5
Though the violence is purely of the slapstick/comedic kind, it is prevalent in every episode.  The guys and others crash into and through things; various objects get broken; the guys get slapped by ladies a few times.

Drugs: 5/5
None.  (This is Nickelodeon, people!)

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 4.5/5
Though the series is mostly silly, it could be a bit frightening in the final episode when Gustavo goes on a brief rampage and breaks things.

Other: 3.5/5
In a few episodes, the guys do things they shouldn't, but don't face any punishment or consequences.

Conclusion: When I was younger, I had a friend who laughed at almost everything.  I told him my printer was saying the paper was jammed, when there wasn't any paper in it; he laughed.  Even one time, while watching the "Doctor Looney's Remedy" music video during the trailers on the VHS version of A Goofy Movie, for some reason, he found the lyric, "Pick up your knees high as you please," hilarious.  I mention him because it's only people like him who are likely to find this set all that funny.  Though some moments did have me laughing out loud, most of it was just weird and goofy.  I hate to give a Nickelodeon or Disney Channel production--there's so little difference between the two, many people get them mixed up--a negative review, but that's how it ended up being.  If you're looking for a great music-themed sitcom, check out Disney Channel's JONAS or Austin & Ally.  Now, I just hope MovieStop will give me some decent credit for this set, considering that I bought it from eBay and had to purchase two of the episodes from iTunes because they wouldn't fully copy to my computer for some reason.

Score: 2.25/5

14 October 2013

Book Review: "The Animated Movie Guide" by Jerry Beck, et. al.

Authors: Jerry Beck, et. al.
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Published: October 28, 2005
Instead of doing my usual review, I'll categorize the good and bad about this entertainment reference volume:

The Good: The author(s) of this book did considerably well in reviewing various kinds of animated movies. Though there are ones here practically everyone has seen--Aladdin, The Lion King, etc.--some lesser-known movies, including Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, also get praised. Each review comes with the movie's MPAA rating--if it has one--and other important information; most of the articles also have a screen shot from each film, although it is only in black and white.

Problem One: This book is several years old, which means that some of the landmark films from the past decade--Cars, Brave, Horton Hears a Who!--get no mention, as they were still in the process of being made when this book came out. Also, that makes some of the details incorrect; for example, the reviewer of Jonah says that there hasn't been any more VeggieTales feature films, when The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything came out all the way back in 2007.

Problem Two: Though amazing in its scope, this guide suffers from some serious typos. The reviewer will list the movie as having one rating, and then say it has another in the actual review. Also, some actors' voice credits are messed up; some actors are credited as playing one or two characters "and English version." This will likely frustrate a lot of people.

Problem Three: Some people assume that cartoons--and, therefore, animated movies--are only for kids, but right many of the films reviewed in this movie are rated PG-13 or higher, including several that are rated X. Though such films aren't described in lurid detail, some of the allusions--as well as one or two of the screenshots--are not what you would want your young children to read or see.

Problem Four: Each entry starts out with the movie's main credits, including producer, director, and voice actors. However, at the end of each review, the "additional credits" are listed, sometimes taking up close to an entire page. Unless you are mentioned in one or more of those listings, I'm sure you'd agree that is merely a waste of space, which only added pages and made the book more expensive.

Conclusion: I usually like reading about entertainment, even if it's the kind I don't plan on watching, but this volume has some serious issues. Animation fanatics might somewhat enjoy it, but others should stick with IMDb for film information of any kind. I only paid five bucks for it at Books-A-Million yesterday--less when you add in the coupon I used--and I'm already planning on trading it in to my local used bookstore.

Score: 1.75/5