31 December 2015

Audiobook Review: "The Bible Experience: Old Testament"

Written by: God (original text) / Zondervan (translator/publisher)
Performed by: Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Angela Bassett, Denzel Washington, and countless others
Released: September 28, 2007
Synopsis: Hear the Bible come alive in this dramatic audio presentation! This word-for-word adaptation of the TNIV (Today's New International Version) translation features an expansive cast which includes Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of God, a fully orchestrated soundtrack, and radio-play-style sound effects! Listen as God creates the earth, Adam and Eve sin, the patriarchs have their triumphs and defeats, Moses leads God's people out of Egypt, Saul, David, and Solomon reign as kings, and the prophets foretell of a coming Messiah!

The Good: I love the Bible, and a well-made audio or celluloid presentation can make the words leap off the page! This was very well-produced; the music, sound effects, voices, etc., were all amazingly done.  For people who want to study the Bible, but would fall asleep trying to read it themselves, this would be a valuable tool!

The Bad: The only problem I have is this: While I understand the need for non-gender-specific pronouns in some verses, it makes the wording awkward at times.  That, though, is a minor complaint.

Conclusion: Doing the Bible is audio format is an arduous task, especially when it involves such big-name talent.  Still, the makers of this audiobook prove that they're more than up to the task.  If you like the Bible on audio, but haven't given this one a try, you definitely should.

Score: 4.5/5

iTunes Episode Set Review: "Austin & Ally": Volume One

Rated: TV-G
Starring: Ross Lynch, Laura Marano, Raini Rodriguez, and Calum Worthy
Released: December 2, 2011 - March 4, 2012 (original Disney Channel premieres)
Synopsis: Austin Moon (Ross Lynch, Teen Beach Movie) has just become an overnight sensation, thanks to the music video of his new song going viral! There's only one problem: The song wasn't originally his; he actually used a tune composed by shy songwriter Ally Dawson (Laura Marano, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?) When Ally finds out about it, she isn't too happy...but, they agree to have a partnership: She writes the songs...and he sings them.  With Austin's newfound fame, he needs a manager, and he finds one in job-hopping Trish (Raini Rodriguez, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), while his longtime flighty best friend Dez (Calum Worthy) serves as his music video producer.  In these ten episodes, watch as Trish celebrates her quinceƱera, Ally comes face to face with her crush, Austin becomes the target of a hateful blogger...and more!

The Good: Most of these episodes are ones I've seen before, but, they stand up to repeat viewings.  Cute and funny moments abound, alongside great performances from Ross Lynch.  In typical Disney Channel style, this series keeps it clean...which is just how I like my shows.  The closed captioning was nicely done, and, all in all, I don't have really anything about which to complain.

The Bad: Well, okay, I have a minor complaint or two.  First off, Trish's catchphrase ("Guess who got a job at...?") was cute at first, but, it got a bit grating after a while.  Also, I wish iTunes would release entire seasons of these shows instead of just "volumes."  Those are small potatoes, though.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Ally wears short skirts sometimes; people in swimsuits are seen lounging on the beach at a distance; off-the-shoulder and low-cut tops are seen a time or two. 4/5
  • Language: Mostly nothing worse than name-calling, though there is a scene where a written profanity is implied. 4/5
  • Violence: Entirely slapstick and played for laughs. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Sequences: Some of the insanity can be over the top. 4/5
  • Other: Occasional crude humor, i.e., burping. 4/5
Conclusion: This is one of my favorite shows, so, how could I not give it a positive review? Not only is it cute and funny, but it features great music and my favorite kid from Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? in a main role.  Still, I was late to the party, so, I'm using iTunes to catch up...and, I'm glad I did! Fans of shows like this know what to expect...and that's what they'll get here.

Score: 4.5/5

28 December 2015

Audiobook Review: "NIV Audio Bible Dramatized"

Written by: God (original text) / Zondervan (translator/publisher)
Starring: An expansive cast (names unknown)
Published: 2001
Synopsis: The Bible comes alive in this dramatized, multi-cast, unabridged reading! Featuring an expansive cast, fully orchestrated background music, and the beloved 1984 edition of the New International Version as its text, God's Word leaps off of the page! Hear beloved stories and timeless teachings as never before!

The Good: It's an audio adaptation of the best book ever written, so, how could it not be good? Seriously, though, the readers mostly do a good job, and the vocal effects and background music and sounds mostly make for a good experience.  Since this is based on the older NIV, it doesn't have the genderless pronouns found in the newer versions that annoyed many people.  It stays true to the original text very well, and, all in all, was a good experience, except...

The Bad: Some of the readers, especially when it came to the prophets and epistles, were a bit dull and slow; not only that, but, in those books in particular, they had a single reader instead of letting the guy who did the voice of God in the other books read the divinely spoken words.  Also, the intros to every single book were annoying, and some parts weren't as dramatized as they could have been.

Conclusion: While mostly impressive, this still isn't the best audio Bible I've heard.  The talent is there, but, the production values could have been a bit better.  Still, for fans of the original NIV, this is definitely worth listening to, though, by now, it may be hard to find.

Score: 3.5/5

25 December 2015

Quickie Movie Review: "Saul: Journey to Damascus"

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Kyle Schmid, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Callum Blue, and Brittany Bristow
Released: 2014
Synopsis: Saul of Tarsus (Kyle Schmid) is the most feared man around.  Known as the "Butcher of Jerusalem," he persecutes and murders anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus the Nazarene.  After giving approval to the stoning of Stephen, Saul and his crew are en route to Damascus, when they find a group of Christians at a wedding, and proceed to attack, even trampling the bride-to-be under his horse...when a powerful dust storm comes, and, with it, Saul sees a vision of Jesus that literally blinds him.  Shocked to the core, Saul soon realizes the error of his ways and begins to preach Jesus as the prophesied Messiah.  However, his old friends are still just as bent on killing Christians as they've ever been, and the Christians know of his notorious former life and are scared to death of him.  Will Saul succeed in spreading the Way, or will his newfound life be tragically cut short?
Based on the Biblical book of Acts.

My Review: I randomly came across this movie while shelving DVDs at the library; I had never heard of it before, but, on a whim, I decided to give it a chance...and I was floored.  The production values, the performances, the sets, even the English subtitles were fabulous.  While the ending was a bit abrupt, that would just encourage viewers to grab a Bible to read the rest of the story.  If you're tired of Christian films such as Hollow or C Me Dance that are horribly shoddy and painful to watch, this is a breath of fresh air.  I hope the production team behind this film will adapt other Bible stories into celluloid format, or, at the very least, make more Christian flicks with similar production values and talent.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: Some guys' outfits show off their chest hair. 4/5
  • Language: One profane usage of the word "hell," and two uses of the d-word, none of which are by Christian characters. 4/5
  • Violence: A man is stoned; a woman is trampled and eventually dies of her injuries; another man is stabbed and is seen coughing up blood and falling dead.  All of those scenes are a bit bloody, but not gory.  Also, a sandstorm leaves a man blind, and Jesus' crucifixion is discussed. 2/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, which includes killing of multiple innocents, emotional intensity is present throughout, and some of the villains could be rather scary for some viewers. 2/5
  • Other: This film expands on the Biblical text, which may disturb some viewers. 4/5
Score: 5/5

21 December 2015

TV DVD Review: "The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper": Volume Two

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Malachi Pearson, Kath Soucie, and Brad Garrett
Released: April - May 1996 (original TV premieres) / September 9, 2008 (DVD)
Synopsis: The adventures of Casper and the Ghostly Trio continue in this second volume! Watch as Kat's softball team gets some help from a supernatural source, Casper learns to be "cool" from the ghost of James Dean, the Ghostly Trio scare off a tyrannical bank boss, and plenty more!
Based on the hit 1995 film.  Features the voice work of Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) and voice legend Dan Castellaneta.

The Good: What this series did well in the first volume, it does continues to excel at here.  The animation is great; the voice work is fabulous; and there are plenty of humorous moments.  Also, this volume features less of the musical numbers that made the previous one inane at times.  All in all, pretty good stuff, except...

The Bad: The silliness is a bit over the top; so much so that I'm glad to be done with the series, because ten episodes of this is enough.  Though I enjoyed it, I don't think I could take another five episodes' worth of this.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: Name-calling. 4/5
  • Violence: Comedic, cartoony pratfalls, all of which are played for laughs. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Some sequences are mildly scary; the Ghostly Trio threatens to kill the humans in their house; the themes of death may be too much for some viewers. 3/5
  • Other: "PG"-level crude humor, i.e., burping. 4/5
Conclusion: I missed out on this series when it was originally on television, but, thanks to DVD technology, I've been able to watch it lately.  While cute for what it is, I doubt I'll bother with it ever again; I'm not sure how this show could have gone on for four seasons.  Young people, and those who are young at heart, may enjoy it...but, you'll probably get tired of it after a while.

Score: 3/5

19 December 2015

Quickie DVD Review: "Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving"

Rated: G (Canada)
Starring: Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki
Released: 2009
Synopsis: All the Veggie kids are excited; it's Christmas Eve, which means Santa Claus is coming soon! Unfortunately, Laura Carrot is afraid her father may lose his job, which would not make for a very merry Christmas.  To illustrate the true spirit of the holiday, Bob tells the story of Saint Nicholas, the true Santa Claus! Watch as Nick overcomes serious tragedy to learn that it is better to give than to receive.
Also features a Silly Song with Mr. Lunt.

My Review: Since it's that time of year, I've been watching Christmas movies; this one has been on my shelf for a while, but, I didn't feel right watching it out of season.  While I enjoyed this one and was seriously moved by the ending, I'm not sure it's one of the best of the VeggieTales bunch.  Still, your kids will probably love it.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: Someone is called a "fool". 4/5
  • Violence: Mild slapstick. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The implied death of Nicholas' parents; a mildly scary antagonist. 4/5
  • Other: Despite its references to Jesus, this episode still focuses largely on Santa Claus, which may be a problem for some viewers. 4/5
Score: 3.5/5

18 December 2015

Quickie DVD Review: "Mark Lowry: My First Comedy Video"

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Mark Lowry
Released: 1989 (original VHS)
Synopsis: It's Mark Lowry's very first comedy video! Recorded live all the way back in 1989, this video features some of Lowry's trademark stories! Listen as he tells of when his beleaguered Mama had "enough," his time in Miss Barth's class, and his experience of seeing The Greatest Story Ever Told at the age of four! Full of hilarity and heart, this DVD features Mark Lowry at his comedic best!

My Review: I've been a Mark Lowry fan for quite a while, but, I just saw this live performance for the first time.  The production values were definitely old-school; the title screen looked like something from a Super Nintendo game.  The opening sequence went on too long, and a complete lack of special features--including even English subtitles or closed captions of any kind--are likely to disappoint fans.  Still, it was fun for what it was; unless you're fanatical about Mark Lowry or Christian comedy in general, though, I can only recommend borrowing this from the library.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: None. 5/5
  • Violence: A reference to two kids wrestling in the kitchen; a tussle that is played for laughs. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Sequences: Mark's comedy is over the top at times, which could be scary for some viewers. 4/5
Score: 3/5

17 December 2015

Quickie Movie Review: "High School Musical 2"

Rated: TV-G (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, and Monique Coleman
Released: August 17, 2007 (Disney Channel premiere) / December 11, 2007 (DVD)
Synopsis: The Wildcats are back! It's summer break, and Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and friends want to make this one to remember.  They all end up getting jobs at a country club owned by school diva Sharpay Evans' (Ashley Tisdale, Suite Life of Zack and Cody) family.  Though Troy and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) are still dating, Sharpay is scheming to make him hers.  With the demands of work, his preparations for his future, and Sharpay's wily ways, Troy seems to lose focus, making his friends, including longtime companion Chad (Corbin Bleu), not to mention Gabriella, very upset.  Will Troy learn the error of his ways, or will he succumb to Sharpay?
As seen on Disney Channel.

My Review: Okay, I know I'm really late to the party by just watching this now, but, I don't know if I could have appreciated this back when it first premiered in 2007.  While some of the musical numbers, especially the last two, were fabulous, others of them were just plain weird, such as the one named after the Hawaiian fish that has a name even I can't spell.  Also, while I realize this takes place during summer, and at a country club, I still felt that the fashion sense could have been more modest.  While none of the girls wear bikinis, some of their swimsuits--including Gabriella's lifeguard uniform--and other outfits are low-cut, and Troy is seen shirtless at least two times.  I expected a bit more propriety from the Mouse network.  Despite those flaws, I mostly enjoyed this one; now, I can actually say I've seen it...because what kind of Disney Channel fan would I be if I never did?

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing and flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Girls are often seen in low-cut or bare-midriff outfits; a main character is seen shirtless two or three times. 3/5
  • Language: None. 5/5
  • Violence: Slightly intense sports action. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity in a few scenes. 4/5
Score: 3.5/5

14 December 2015

Quickie Movie Review: "Silver Bells" (2013)

Rated: Not Rated (Dove approved for all ages)
Starring: Bruce Boxleitner, Kenton Duty, and Bridgett Newton
Released: 2013
Synopsis: Bruce Dalt (Bruce Boxleitner) is a successful sportscaster whose motto in life is: For the win! He strives to be the best at everything he does, and encourages his family to do the same...but, that goes too far when a disagreement with a referee during his son's (Kenton Duty, Shake It Up) basketball game ends with not only the ref getting injured, but a video of the incident going viral.  Sentenced to community service, he ends up being a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.  Will he learn the true reason for the season?
From Pure Flix, the makers of God's Not Dead, Jerusalem Countdown, and Apostle Peter and the Last Supper.

My Review: I enjoyed this light-hearted holiday drama; it was cute at times, and rather serious at others.  The actors all did a very good job, and the film's moral is definitely one that we all need to hear.  Though I happened to breeze through this one quite easily--more so than I do most movies--it was still fun and enjoyable.  However, deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers should be warned: The closed captions are apparently from another film, and the English subtitles are missing big chunks of dialogue.  If you have hearing issues, either turn the volume way up or have a sign language interpreter handy before watching this; otherwise, you'll have no idea what's going on.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: Mild cleavage. 4/5
  • Language: None. 5/5
  • Violence: A scene of rough-and-tumble sports action; an argument that leads to implied injury. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity throughout. 3/5
  • Other: The Salvation Army, a controversial institution, gets plugged throughout. 4/5
Score: 4/5

Quickie DVD Review: "VeggieTales: Larry-Boy and the Bad Apple"

Rated: G (Canada)
Starring: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Cydney Trent, and Cynthia West
Released: July 29, 2006 (DVD)
Synopsis: Larry-Boy is back! This time, it's up to him to save Bumblyburg from Bad Apple, a villainess who possesses a deadly weapon: temptation! When the city's mayor, as well as their most trusted reporter, succumb to the Bad Apple's ways, it's up to Larry-Boy and his butler Alfred (Archibald Asparagus) to put a stop to her dastardly plans to overtake the city...if they can keep from falling into temptation themselves! Will they be victorious against the evil Bad Apple?

My Review: The animation in this Veggie episode is fabulous; I particularly enjoyed the effects in the virtual video game world.  Also, as usual for this series, there's a moral included, which is one I really needed to hear, and one from which many adults could stand to learn.  The Bad Apple makes a great villain, and there were also plenty of dashes of humor and fun.  However, the lack of a Silly Song was a bit disappointing, though the performance by "rock band" Shux was great.  All in all, this was a fun one.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: None. 5/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: None. 5/5
  • Violence: Mild slapstick; nothing more. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The Bad Apple is mildly scary. 4/5
  • Other: Larry belches in one scene. 4/5
Score: 4/5

Quickie Movie Review: "Barabbas" (1961)

Rated: PG (Canada)
Starring: Anthony Quinn, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Palance
Released: 1961 (theaters)
Synopsis: Scripture says that when Jesus was sentenced to crucifixion, hardened criminal Barabbas (Anthony Quinn) was released from prison...but, what happened to him after that? This fictionalized account gives us a possible answer; in this film, he goes back to his old friends, denies the power of Jesus, and ends up sentenced to a life of working in the mines...only to be given another second chance.  Will he discover the true meaning of Jesus' sacrifice before it's too late?

My Review: Long, boring, and confusing; that's how I'd sum up this film.  While the message itself is powerful--especially the ending--and the filmmakers' intent is admirable, for me, this movie did not stand the test of time very well.  Fans of older cinema may disagree, but, this was definitely not a winner for me, though it did have its moments; still, I won't be giving this one a second look.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Barabbas interacts with some women; nothing sexually explicit happens. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys are seen in several scenes; a woman in an off-the-shoulder top. 3/5
  • Language: The d-word is used once. 4/5
  • Violence: People are whipped by Roman soldiers; a disaster in the work camp; several gladiator duels, a couple of which are bloody; the finale shows countless people being crucified. 2/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, some emotional intensity is present, especially at the end. 2/5
  • Other: This film takes liberties with people and places from the Bible. 4/5
Score: 2/5

12 December 2015

TV DVD Review: "The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper": Volume One

Rated: Not Rated
Starring: Malachi Pearson, Kath Soucie, and Brad Garrett
Released: February - March 1996 (original TV premieres) / September 18, 2007 (DVD)
Synopsis: In this continuation of the 1995 smash-hit film, Casper the Friendly Ghost gets into some crazy adventures! With his troublesome uncles, Stinkie, Stretch, and Fatso, constantly on his case, it's tough being a friendly ghost...but, he has his human friends Kat and Dr. Harvey there for support! In these five episodes, Casper enters a "spooking bee," Dr. Harvey and the Ghostly Trio encounter Bigfoot, and Kat goes on what seems to be a date...but is it?
Features the voice work of Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) and voice legend Dan Castellaneta.

The Good: The animation in these five episodes is really good; the transparency effects for the ghosts are very well-done.  Despite being based on the 1995 movie, the content is actually cleaner: no actual profanity, less scariness, a more cheerful atmosphere.  A few moments within this set made me smile and chuckle.

The Bad: As cute as this is, it also has some disappointing parts as well.  Each episode is divided into three sections, but the middle part is usually either a song or a weird narration piece.  The tunes are somewhat reminiscent of VeggieTales' Silly Songs with Larry, but none of them are as iconic as "The Hairbrush Song" or "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything".  The English subtitles seem to have been done a bit lazily, as well.  Probably the most disappointing aspect is that this is merely part of the first season; why couldn't they have released it in its entirety?

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. Some of the male ghosts dress in female clothing as a joke. 4/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: Usage of terms such as "heck" and "jeez"; nothing worse. 4/5
  • Violence: Entirely cartoony, slapstick, and played for laughs. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: A mildly scary moment every now and again. 4/5
  • Other: Like the movie itself, these episodes poke fun at death, which could be a sensitive subject for some viewers. 4/5
Conclusion: One of the first movies I remember seeing at the theater was the 1995 live-action Casper flick; after that, I saw it several times on video, including once at a friends' house.  Though I liked it back then, now, the movie depresses me, because it focuses on death, which every adult knows is no joke.  Still, I decided to give the series a chance, and I mostly liked it; it was happier and more cutesy than the film that inspired it.  While it wasn't perfect, it was still moderately enjoyable; let's hope the second volume improves things a bit.

Score: 3.5/5

11 December 2015

iTunes Episode Set Review: "That's So Raven": Volume One

Rated: TV-G
Starring: Raven, Orlando Brown, Anneliese van der Pol, Kyle Massey, T'Keyah Crystal Kemah and Rondell Sheridan
Released: January 17 - April 10, 2003 (original Disney Channel premieres)
Synopsis: Raven Baxter (Raven, The Cosby Show) may seem like a normal teenage girl, but she has a big secret: she can see the future! Though her psychic visions may seem like a gift, they often end up getting her into trouble.  Her friends, ditzy redhead Chelsea (Anneliese van der Pol) and athlete/rapper Eddie (Orlando Brown, Family Matters), help when they can...but, sometimes, Raven finds herself in situations that are way too awkward! With the support of her family--mom Tonya (T'Keyah Crystal Kemah), dad Victor (Rondell Sheridan, That's Funny), and pesky little brother Cory (Kyle Massey, The Electric Company)--Raven realizes that, even though she may see the future, she still has a lot to learn! In these eleven episodes, watch as Raven tries to throw a birthday party for Corey, pretends to be her mother during a parent/teacher conference, and has dueling parties with her neighbor and longtime rival, Nicki (Kirsten Storms, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century)!
As seen on Disney Channel.

The Good: Though Lizzie McGuire was my official introduction to the world of Disney Channel sitcoms, it was That's So Raven that cemented my love for the network.  Hilariously funny, insanely cute, and largely clean, this is the kind of entertainment I like.  Sure, I've seen most if not all of these episodes before, but, I enjoyed watching them once again on my iPad! My two favorite characters are Cory and Chelsea; not only are they rather comedic on their own, but, the whole dynamic of "he loves her, she loves him not" between the two of them is fabulous.  I won't bore you with more gushing about one of my longtime favorite sitcoms, so...

The Bad: Here are my two (minor) complaints: First off, it would have been better if they had released an entire season instead of these "volumes".  Also, some weird captioning glitches could make things awkward for those who depend on SDHs; that is, subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting, and people are said to be "hot". 4/5
  • Nudity: Occasional slight midriff and cleavage. 4/5
  • Language: Other than one misuse of God's name, no profanity. 4/5
  • Violence: Comedic pratfalls; no blood or gore. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: A bit of emotional intensity. 4/5
  • Other: A bit of crude humor (i.e., Cory smelling his feet.) 4/5
Conclusion: This is one of my longtime favorites, so, how could I not like it? I'll admit my previous experience with it makes me biased, but, fans of Good Luck Charlie or Liv & Maddie should definitely check this one out; you'll probably be glad that you did.

Score: 4.5/5

TV DVD Review: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles": Volume Three

Rated: "For Ages 5 and Up" (manufacturer's advisory)
Starring: Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, and Renae Jacobs
Released: 1989 (original TV premieres) / 2005 (DVD)
Synopsis: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are in for their craziest adventures yet in this first part of their third season! Shredder and Krang have one scheme after another, and only the Turtles can put a stop to it! In these twelve episodes, the Turtles meet a robot from the future, April gets mistaken for a foreign princess, and the villainous Rat King uses mind control on the Turtles' sensei, Master Splinter! Can the Turtles save the day once again?

The Good: Maybe I'm just biased or a sucker for entertainment, but, I enjoyed these twelve episodes.  They blended action with comedy very well, and there was enough variety to keep things exciting.  Fans of the series or of the franchise in general know what to expect, and that's what they'll get here.  It's all rather cute and innocent, but, that's how I like my shows.

The Bad: As fun as this is, I did feel that April's outfits could have been more modest, and the closed captioning could have matched up better with what the characters were saying.  Those are minor complaints, though.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Occasional flirting; nothing more. 4/5
  • Nudity: April's usual outfit shows cleavage, and she and another woman are both also seen wearing an off-the-shoulder dress. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling, i.e., "morons," and mild euphemisms such as "gosh". 4/5
  • Violence: Since these Turtles are ninjas, there's plenty of fantasy violence; however, the heroes seem to go out of their way to solve the problems without killing anyone.  (Spoiler: In the final episode, the main villains are still alive.)  No blood or gore is seen, and everything is presented in a light-hearted manner. 3/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Though these episodes are mostly light-hearted, some of the bad guys could be a bit scary for some kids. 4/5
  • Other: A bit of crude humor (i.e., burping). 4/5
Conclusion: My family tells me I was a fan of this franchise as a kid, but, that was so long ago, I don't really remember it.  What I do know is that a random purchase of a DVD of the 2003 version of the Turtles led to me discovering superhero cartoons in general, ranging from Batman: The Animated Series to '90's Marvel fare such as Fantastic Four or Iron Man.  So, that may make me a bit biased, but, I still enjoyed these twelve episodes.  If you like the animated versions of Superman or Spider-Man, you should check these Turtles out; you'll probably be glad that you did.

Score: 4.5/5

08 December 2015

iTunes Episode Set Review: "Lab Rats": Volume One

Rated: TV-Y7 for fantasy violence
Starring: Hal Sparks, Tyrel Jackson Williams, Spencer Boldman, Billy Unger, and Kelli Berglund
Released: February 27, 2012 - June 14, 2012 (original Disney Channel premieres)
Synopsis: When Leo's (Tyrel Jackson Williams) mother gets married, he gets a lot more than just his new stepfather, Mr. Davenport (Hal Sparks)! While looking through his new house, Leo discovers three teenagers--Adam (Spencer Boldman), Bree (Kelli Berglund, How to Build a Better Boy,) and Chase (Billy Unger)--who aren't just mere kids; they're bionic superhumans! Yearning for life outside the lab, Mr. Davenport lets them go to school and hang out with other teenagers...but, their special abilities get them into one misadventure after another! In this first volume, watch as they get into a gridiron match with the school's jocks, stop an impending train wreck, and have a surprise birthday party for Leo...without Leo!
As seen on Disney XD.

The Good: Before trying out Kickin' It, I was a bit hesitant to watch anything from Disney XD, but, their sitcoms are actually really good; at least, the ones I've seen so far...including this one.  Blending action and sci-fi elements with the comedy, it's the same kind of cute and funny production I've come to expect from the Mouse networks.  Kelli Berglund shines as Bree, the lone female in most of the episodes, and the rest of the cast does very well also.  Fans of shows such as this will find plenty to like about these ten episodes.

The Bad: There's nothing really wrong with the show itself; I just wish another episode or two were packed into this "volume".  Since I currently lack any iTunes credit, it'll be at least Christmas before I can get any more episodes...but, I've got plenty of other shows to watch, so, it doesn't really matter.  (I'm not being sarcastic.)

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Innocent romance: kissing, flirting, etc. 4/5
  • Nudity: None. 5/5
  • Language: Name-calling, at worst. 4/5
  • Violence: Action violence is present in pretty much every episode, though it is usually played for laughs.  While no blood or gore is seen and nobody is killed, one episode implies serious injury. 3/5
  • Drugs: An episode features "power pellets," which, when eaten by the bionic kids, enhances their superhuman abilities. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: A scene or two of emotional intensity; the action can be a bit rough-and-tumble at times. 3/5
Conclusion: Fans of kiddie sitcoms, rejoice! This is another fun, cute, and family-friendly sitcom from one of the Mouse networks! If you don't care for such media, I have no idea why you're even reading this review, but I can guarantee you won't like this show; however, for those who do--like me--this is good stuff! I can't wait to get my hands on the remaining episodes!

Score: 4.5/5

07 December 2015

Audiobook Review: "The Word of Promise": New Testament

Written by: God (original text) / Thomas Nelson, Inc. (translator/publisher)
Performed by: Michael York, Jim Caviezel, Stacy Keach, and an expansive cast
Published: 2007
Synopsis: Hear the New Testament come alive in dramatic audio theater! With a star-studded cast, a fully orchestrated soundtrack, and radio-play-style sound effects, this audio Bible is a treat for the ears! Listen to the words and teachings of Jesus, Paul, and John, taken directly from the beloved and trusted New King James translation!

The Good: Adapting the entire New Testament into an audio drama is an audacious task, especially considering how much of it is epistles, not to mention the weirdness of Revelation; however, the makers and performers do an awesome job.  The music and sound effects are very well done, and it sticks to the original text.  Though reading one of Paul's letters after another could be a bit dull, the makers kept my interest throughout.  Where this audio Bible shines the most is in its final book; it's the most demanding, but they pull it off well.

The Bad: As good as this is, I did have an issue or two:  First off, the dramatic swells of music and fade-outs at the end of every chapter were unnecessary, and took up extra time, which meant wasted space on my devices.  Also, the readers mistakenly read headings a time or two, which wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that they were reading the most important Book ever written.

Conclusion: Many Christians want to read the entire Bible, but its length turns them off; at well over a thousand chapters, who could expect a non-reader to read it all the way through? This audio Bible would be a good solution for them; they can listen to it on the way to work, or while eating lunch; with modern technology, they could take it pretty much anywhere.  While it isn't perfect, it's definitely a wonder to behold, and it would be a great aid for Bible students everywhere.

Score: 4.5/5

05 December 2015

TV DVD Review: "Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu": Season Two

Rated: TV-Y7 for fantasy violence (US)
Starring: Vincent Tong, Kirby Morrow, and Jillian Michaels
Released: December 2, 2011 - March 28, 2012 (original TV premieres) / March 5, 2013 (DVD)
Synopsis: The Great Devourer may be defeated, but, the ninjas' fight against evil is far from over! Lord Garmadon is still bent on ruling Ninjago City, and will go to any length to do it! His son Lloyd, who recently discovered that he is the mythical Green Ninja, is training for the fight against his father to save the world...but, with bad guys all around, it's going to take everything that he, Kai, Cole, Jay, Zane, Nya, and Sensei Wu have got to keep evil at bay! Are they up to the task?
As seen on Cartoon Network.

The Good: What this series did well in the first season, it continues to excel at here.  The animation is outstanding, and worthy of a theatrical production; the voice work is spot-on; the action sequences are great; the story kept me hooked, especially towards the end; and, all in all, it was an amazing production.  Even better is the fact that the heroes are likable; though they have their flaws, they do everything in their power to save the day, which is rather admirable.  When faced with potentially being killed, they say they're glad to die alongside their brothers...which warmed my heart.  Sensei Wu also dispatches some great advice.

The Bad: Though mostly cute and innocent, this season has its dark moments, especially in the last two episodes, and the violence can be intense at times.  Also, a bit of Eastern mysticism is present.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Flirting and such. 4/5
  • Nudity: One male Lego character's costume shows off some of his chest hair. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling and usage of mild euphemisms such as "heck"; a play on the phrase "Holy Mother of God" is heard. 4/5
  • Violence: Both the good guys and the bad guys get hit, kicked, thrown, knocked down, etc., countless times.  No blood or gore is seen, but it does get a bit intense.  (Spoiler: At the end of the finale, the main bad guy is still alive.) 3/5
  • Drugs: Two characters drink alcohol, and offer it to a kid; he refuses. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The snakes and the Overlord monster could be a bit scary; so could the scene where helpless people, including some of the heroes, get transformed into mindless zombies. 3/5
  • Other: A bit of Eastern mysticism, and occasional crude humor. 4/5
Conclusion: While I wasn't into Legos much as a kid, I've enjoyed the media affiliated with those infamous building bricks.  Lego Star Wars was the last game I enjoyed on my GameCube, and the first season of this series was a blast...as was this one.  It may be for kids, but, those who are still young at heart would likely enjoy this, too.

Score: 4/5