22 November 2015

TV DVD Review: "Star Wars: The Clone Wars": Season One

Rated: TV-PG for violence
Starring: Tom Kane, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, and Matt Lanter
Released: October 3, 2008 - March 20, 2009 (original TV premieres) / August 9, 2011 (DVD)
Synopsis: After the events of Attack of the Clones, the Jedi and the Senate are in a fierce war with the Separatists. Among the Jedi are Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and his Padawan Ahsoka Tano.  Alongside the Clone Troopers, they fight droids and other enemies in order to save cities from utter destruction...but, the Separatists will stop at nothing to put an end to the Jedi.  Who will emerge victorious?
As seen on Cartoon Network.

The Good: The animation in this first season is outstanding; sometimes, I felt like I was watching one of the live-action movies instead of a cartoon! The voice work was great; though none of the original cast--save for Anthony Daniels (C3PO)--appears, the voice actors pretty much sound just like them.  Having director's cuts of several episodes was fun, and the stories were engaging; even though you know that Anakin and Obi-Wan have to make it to Episode III, I still found myself glued to the screen the whole time.

The Bad: As good as this is, I do have one serious complaint: What's with the female characters' immodest dress? I get this franchise partly built itself on Leia's metal bikini and Padmé's various outfits, but, to have two main female humanoid characters dress in such a way was just unnecessary; it seemed to be nothing more than eye candy for young male viewers.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: Two main female characters in midriff-baring outfits. 3/5
  • Language: One or two h-words, and just as many misuses of God's name; though nothing by network TV standards, a bit surprising for a series like this. 4/5
  • Violence: Pretty much akin to the movies, though a bit more frequent; droids, Clone Troopers, and other characters get killed quite frequently, though always bloodlessly. 2/5
  • Drugs: Characters are seen drinking in one episode. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Some of the villains could be a bit scary, and there is a scene or two of emotional intensity. 3/5
Conclusion: I was a bit hesitant about this series, but, I'm glad I checked it out.  A more serialized version of the movies, it was rather fun and epic.  While it did have some issues, I still say it's worth checking out for fans of the franchise.

Score: 4/5

iTunes Episode Set Review: "H2O: Just Add Water": Season Two

Rated: TV-PG (US)
Starring: Claire Holt, Phoebe Tonkin, Cariba Heine, Brittany Byrnes, and Angus McLaren
Released: September 28, 2007 - March 21, 2008 (TV premieres)
Synopsis: Ever since Emma (Claire Holt), Rikki (Cariba Heine), and Cleo (Phoebe Tonkin) fell into the pool at Mako Island during the full moon, their lives changed forever; whenever they touch water, they become mermaids! It's a big secret that they haven't told anyone except for their science geek friend Lewis (Angus McLaren).  However, new girl Charlotte (Brittany Byrnes) starts getting close to him, and can tell that the three girls are hiding something.  Will she discover their secret, or can they keep their special abilities hidden?
As seen on TeenNick.

The Good: The content is very clean; there wasn't a single profanity, and sexual content is limited to innocent kissing and flirting.  The three female leads are all very lovely and give excellent performances; plus, their characters are likable individuals.  Lewis is a good guy, too; despite his mishaps, he seems to have a good head on his shoulders.  This season is closed captioned, whereas the first one wasn't; at least, at the time I watched it.

The Bad: During this season, the show officially jumped the shark.  The introduction of Charlotte, the main antagonist, ruined things for this series.  There was way too much catfighting and emotional behavior between the girls as they fought to keep their secret and Cleo and Charlotte fought over Lewis.  The closed captioning was also rife with errors and poorly done.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: While they are mermaids, the girls' cleavage and midriffs are visible; they and other ladies are seen in everything from short shorts to bikinis; shirtless guys are also seen a few times. 2/5
  • Language: Name-calling; nothing more. 4/5
  • Violence: A guy performs a karate move on another guy, knocking him to the floor; one of the mermaids uses her powers to pick people up and throw them down from a great distance; a climactic fantastical final battle; etc.  No blood or gore, though. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Sequences: This season is rife with teenage drama, which means plenty of emotional intensity; it is implied that one character attempts suicide in a fantastical, unrealistic way. 2/5
  • Other: The mermaid powers are akin to magic and spells. 4/5
Conclusion: Ever since Fonzie's water ski incident, it has become a painfully obvious fact that pretty much any series--of any kind, not just on television--will eventually jump the shark and reach a point where it's all downhill from there.  For H2O: Just Add Water, this season is that moment.  With the unnecessary addition of Charlotte here, and the departure of Emma next season, they really messed things up.  People who became fans during the first season are likely to be disappointed.  Sure, it has its moments, but it could have been much better.

Score: 2.5/5

04 November 2015

TV Movie Review: "Invisible Sister"

Rated: TV-G
Starring: Rowan Blanchard, Paris Berelc, and Karan Brar
Released: October 9, 2015 (Disney Channel premiere)
Synopsis: Cleo (Rowan Blanchard, Girl Meets World) has always felt invisible; for far too long, she has lived in the shadow of her sister Molly (Paris Berelc).  When Cleo's science experiment goes awry, it accidentally turns Molly invisible! Worse yet, Molly has a lacrosse game where college scouts are observing the players, and the school's big Halloween dance is that night! Cleo spends the day masquerading as Molly...but, she can only keep it up for so long.  Will Molly finally become visible again, or is she doomed to spend the rest of her life as an invisible woman?
As seen on Disney Channel.  Also stars Karan Brar (Jessie).

The Good: Nobody makes telefilms quite like the Disney Channel; while not always amazing, their Original Movies (also known as DCOMs) are usually quite fun and entertaining...including this one.  I actually identified with the character of Cleo; for quite a while, I've often felt like I was being ignored, though part of it was actually my fault, because I didn't say anything until it was too late.  The actors were all great, and the plot was involving.

The Bad: Really, the only complaint I had was a usage of the d-word in the movie; while nothing compared to most flicks these days, it still didn't seem appropriate for a film like this.  Most people won't mind, though.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Flirting. 4/5
  • Nudity: Slight cleavage; a girl wears an outfit that shows her bra straps. 4/5
  • Language: One usage of the d-word. 4/5
  • Violence: Some rough-and-tumble action during a lacrosse meet; a girl falls from a tree into a puddle. 4/5
  • Drugs: A substance causes a girl to turn invisible. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: A scene of emotional intensity; since this movie takes place during Halloween, some scary background visuals--i.e., decorations--are present. 3/5
Conclusion: I've reviewed countless Disney Channel productions on this blog, and most of them have been pretty good...including this one.  I doubt I'll be watching it again anytime soon, but, for fans of DCOMs, this is definitely worth at least one viewing...even if Halloween may be over for the year.

Score: 4/5

DVD Review: "Bananas: Jeff Allen"

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Jeff Allen and Thor Ramsey
Released: 2004
Synopsis: Christian comedian Jeff Allen performs a stand-up routine in this TV special! Listen and laugh as Jeff tells about the perils of parenthood, keeping his wife happy, and his various automobiles! Hosted by Thor Ramsey, this double-disc set features jokes from Jeff that were not shown on the original television broadcast!

The Good: I've been a big Mark Lowry fan for quite a while, so, if he endorsed Jeff Allen, I figured Jeff's comedy must be hilarious...and it was.  I was smiling throughout the stand-up routine, sometimes laughing out loud! It isn't all jokes, though; Jeff bares his soul by telling how he went from being an atheist to becoming a Christian.  Having the entire performance is great, but...

The Bad: The DVD makers kind of botched this one.  Instead of featuring the original broadcast with the extra scenes added in, they put the TV version on one disc and the full performance on the other.  This meant I had to sit through essentially the same routine twice.  Also, a lack of captions or subtitles will likely frustrate deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.  Though mostly innocent, Jeff's comedy had a "PG" moment here and there.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: A brief "PG"-level allusion. 4/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: Nothing worse than "dorkwad," "moron," and two uses of the expression "for God's sake." 4/5
  • Violence: Jeff talks about smacking one of his kids. 4/5
  • Drugs: In his testimony, Jeff mentions his prior alcohol addiction. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Jeff's testimony is a bit emotionally intense. 4/5
  • Other: Occasional "PG"-level crude allusions. 4/5
Conclusion: Other than Mark Lowry and Taylor Mason, both of whom were featured on various Gaither Homecoming Hour specials, I'm largely unfamiliar with the world of Christian comedy.  I'd hardly even heard of Jeff Allen before watching this, but, I still enjoyed it nonetheless.  While the performance was great, the DVD set was poorly made...which kind of messed things up for me.

Score: 3/5

02 November 2015

Movie Review: "The Last Chance Detectives: Legend of the Desert Bigfoot"

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Crystle Lightning, Ryan Calhoun, Davin Carey, and David Netter
Released: 1995
Synopsis: In this second adventure, the Last Chance Detectives are investigating the possibility of Bigfoot invading their small town! The monster supposedly stole an old man's gold and threatened the lives of some campers...but, everyone knows there's no such thing as Bigfoot...or is there? Winnie, Spence, Ben, and Mike use their deduction skills and gadgets to determine what's going on and who is actually responsible.
From Focus on the Family Films.  Features an appearance by Sherry Hursey (Home Improvement).

The Good: Despite its apparently modest budget, this movie works fairly well.  The story is convoluted enough to keep even older viewers interested, and the kids and most of the adults are rather likable characters.  There's even a bit of intensity.

The Bad: While the action sequences may interest older kids, they may be too much for the older set.  I was surprised to see a scene with a man drinking alcohol, as well as another where a kid nearly falls to his death.  This is supposed to be a Christian movie, but God only gets mentioned once or twice briefly.  Also, product placement was far too present, though that's likely how the film was financed.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: Nothing worse than, "What in the blue blazes...?" 4/5
  • Violence: Several action sequences, including one where a kid nearly dies, and another where a sheriff is knocked out with the back end of a gun.  Two guys nearly get run over.  A scary story told around a campfire has violent references. 3/5
  • Drugs: A man is seen drinking alcohol, which is also talked about. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Sequences: Along with the violence, the scenes involving "Bigfoot" are mildly scary. 2/5
  • Other: Excessive product placement. 4/5
Conclusion: My mom has been a big fan of Focus on the Family for quite a while; when I was younger, I used to get both Clubhouse and Breakaway magazines, both of which were publications of theirs.  Though we don't get their monthly updates or listen to their radio broadcasts anymore, I still find myself checking out their Plugged In website, especially when I get a new album so I can weed out any inappropriate tracks.  You might think that my longtime experience with their ministry would make me like this automatically, but, it didn't.  Though fun for what it is, I doubt I'll be watching it again; it's likely going straight to my trade-in pile.

Score: 3/5

Movie/Miniseries Review: "The Red Tent"

Rated: TV-14 for sexual scenes and violence (US) / 14-A (Canada)
Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Minnie Driver, and Morena Baccarin
Released: December 7-8, 2014 (Lifetime premiere)
Synopsis: Dinah, the only daughter of Biblical patriarch Jacob, grows up enjoying the company of her mother and Jacob's other wives in a place known as the Red Tent.  As Dinah grows up, her skills as a midwife are in demand, but her life seems to be fraught with tragedy.  Just when she seems to have fallen in love, the unthinkable happens.  Will she be able to forgive those responsible?
Based on the book by Anita Diamant, which itself is based on parts of the Biblical book of Genesis.  Also starring Debra Winger (Shadowlands).

The Good: The production values of this movie were outstanding; the performances were amazing and appropriately heart-searing at times, while the scenery and sets definitely took me back to Bible times.  Though Dinah may be the main character, this film also ties into the stories of Jacob and his wives, as well as the well-known account of Joseph.

The Bad: As good as this is, it did have some serious issues.  First off, the sexual content was a bit over the top.  I understand that sex plays a part in a story like this, but, seriously...did we need to see a man touch a woman's private anatomy? Sure, they can't show explicit nudity on basic cable, but, it sure seemed like the makers wanted to do just that.  That and the rather bloody violence makes this inappropriate for kids and even some young teens.  Also, some changes to the story messed things up a bit.  While Genesis 34:2 makes it clear that Dinah was raped, in this version, the sex was consensual.  I realize that some extra scenes are necessary in a celluloid adaptation of a Bible story, but to change a major plot point was just unnecessary.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Several sex scenes feature passionate kissing and orgasmic behaviors; sex is also discussed among the women a few times; right many childbirth scenes, none of which are graphic, but one features a cut made to a woman's private anatomy (not shown). 1/5
  • Nudity: Women's bare shoulders, midriffs, bare legs, and even part of one's chest are seen; bare-chested men are also seen fairly frequently.  Two scenes feature fully nude men seen from the back; no explicit nudity is seen, though. 2/5
  • Language: The b-word is used in reference to a dog, though the context makes it a bit more demeaning. 4/5
  • Violence: Two men go on a rampage and murder the men of another city, which is not gory, but quite bloody, and leaves blood on others' hands and garments; a girl is found dead; some of the men get into brawls; a fisticuff leads to a slightly bloody injury. 1/5
  • Drugs: One character grows herbs for medicinal purposes. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, emotional intensity is seen throughout, and some of the men--especially Jacob and Joseph--get rather angry. 2/5
  • Other: Liberties are taken with the Biblical account. 1/5
Conclusion: The Red Tent is the edgiest movie--okay, it's technically a miniseries; same difference!--I've seen in a long time, if not ever.  While it doesn't violate the rules of basic cable or include much in the way of profanity, it seems to commit every content-related sin but that, including straying from the Book that inspired it.  It's a shame; the production values and performances were so good, this could have been an old-school-style Biblical epic.  Instead, it's one I won't bother with again, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, either.

Score: 2/5