15 February 2016

TV DVD Review: "Boy Meets World": The Complete Second Season

Rated: TV-PG for off-color dialogue
Starring: Ben Savage, Rider Strong, and Danielle Fishel
Released: 1994 - 1995 (ABC premieres) / 2004 (DVD)
Synopsis: In this second season of the beloved '90's sitcom, Cory (Ben Savage) and his friends Shawn (Rider Strong) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) make the big leap into high school...and are immediately over their heads.  With their new young homeroom teacher Mr. Turner's (Anthony Tyler Quinn) unconventional teaching style, and their previous year's teacher Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) as their new principal, things are bound to get crazy.  Between Cory leading a student protest, Shawn's mother driving off with their mobile home, and Eric going crazy over the SATs, hilarity and teen drama abound!

The Good: This is one of the best-loved shows from the time in which I grew up, and was successful enough to launch a sequel series that currently airs on the Disney Channel.  It alternates between humor and heartbreak, but does a good job of it.  There's little profanity, which is kind of surprising for a major network sitcom of its time.  All in all, this was enjoyable, except...

The Bad: There was one major problem that ruined it for me: the off-color dialogue, as the TV rating mentioned.  While I expected a little, I didn't think it would be present in almost every episode, and from pretty much every character.  From playful banter between Cory's parents, to teens discussing sexual matters, to even an implied affair between Mr. Turner and another instructor...well, it was just too much.  If this entire set were rated by the MPAA, I can't help but think it would get a "PG-13".

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: As the rating says, off-color dialogue is present...in pretty much every episode, as mentioned above, and some of it comes from teens.  One episode features an implied affair between Cory and Topanga. 1/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; girl in bare-midriff outfit. 4/5
  • Language: Other than about five or six misuses of God's name, no actual profanity. 4/5
  • Violence: Comedic pratfalls, as typical for the "situation comedy" genre. 4/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity throughout, especially in the last two episodes; the Halloween episode is slightly dark. 4/5
Conclusion: Back in the late '90's, I used to watch reruns of Growing Pains on the Disney Channel every day, provided I was at home when it was on and wasn't grounded from it.  Some episodes I saw more than once, and I gave up on it when I thought I'd seen every single episode...but, even if I hadn't jumped ship, I still would not have seen all of the adventures of the Seavers, because the Mouse network never showed some episodes because they weren't appropriate for the intended audience.  I was shocked after reading an online episode guide years later and seeing the synopses of some of the episodes; they were definitely not for children.  I mention this because Boy Meets World also ended up in reruns on the same cable channel...though I can't see how.  While the first season was fabulous, I found this mess hard to get through right from the get-go.  Discerning viewers should definitely take note.

Score: 2/5

14 February 2016

Quickie Movie Review: "Joni"

Rated: PG (for unspecified reasons)
Starring: Joni Eareckson Tada, Bert Remsen, and Katherine DeHetre
Released: 1979
Synopsis: Joni Eareckson (played by herself) was an average teenage girl...until one day, when, at the age of seventeen, a diving accident left her paralyzed from the neck down.  Learning to adapt to her new situation was hard enough, but Joni must also deal with the spiritual ramifications as well: How could God allow this to happen to her? A true story of tragedy and triumph, faith lost and found, and the power of family.

My Review: I hate to give this movie a bad review, because I've known the story of Joni Eareckson Tada all my life; my mom even had the book that inspired this movie when I was a kid.  However, I did not enjoy this film.  It spends too much time on unnecessary details of Joni's life, only to finish up with a rather sudden conclusion.  I have nothing against Mrs. Tada; I just wish the story of her life had been handled better.  Despite this being a classic Christian film, it did not make for very good viewing fare.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing and talk of romance being "more than what happens below the neck". 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; the camera seems to linger on a girl in a bikini; girls are seen in low-cut outfits occasionally; Joni spends much of the first half of the film wrapped in a sheet. 3/5
  • Language: Name-calling, and two or three usages of the n-word (though that is vilified). 3/5
  • Violence: A diving accident with lasting results; a girl uses her wheelchair to trip a nurse. 4/5
  • Drugs: A reference to smoking weed; cigarette smoking is occasionally seen. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity throughout. 1/5
Score: 1.5/5

10 February 2016

TV DVD Review: "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero": Season 1.1

Rated: "General Audiences" (manufacturer's advisory)
Starring: Michael Bell, Neil Ross, and Chris Latta
Released: 1983 - 1985 (TV premieres) / 2009 (DVD)
Synopsis: G.I. Joe is the code name for America's special missions force; together, they defend the entire planet against the ruthless terror organization known as COBRA, who will stop at nothing to take over the world and put an end to the Joes once and for all! It's going to take everything the Joes have got to defeat COBRA and restore peace and order to the world...but, will it be enough?
Based on the line of toys from Hasbro.

The Good: What a ride! This show may have been before my time, but it definitely kept me hooked! The early episodes were better; they had more convoluted stories that kept me on the edge of my seat! Even though you know who will win in a series like this, sometimes it's hard to see how until they actually do.  The animation was great, and the voice work was very well done.  Fans of old-school Saturday morning serials should check this one out.

The Bad: As good as this is, there was one issue: A lack of closed captions or English subtitles makes this inaccessible for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers.  That seems to be a common issue with Shout! Factory releases; hopefully, the studio will work on that in the future, if they haven't already.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Some guys are seen shirtless; others in tribal outfits; one or two female characters show cleavage.  All of it is made less sultry by the animation style. 4/5
  • Language: No actual profanity, but name-calling and lesser terms such as "butt" are present throughout. 4/5
  • Violence: By today's standards, this would likely be rated "TV-Y7" for fantasy violence.  The Joes, COBRA, and various other individuals are hit, kicked, shot at, thrown, etc., countless times; however, there's no blood, and the makers go out of their way to show that there are no fatalities. 2/5
  • Drugs: Occasional smoking. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, COBRA could be scary for some kids, and there are numerous scenes of peril.  Emotional intensity is present at times, and themes of terrorism may hit a raw nerve for some viewers. 2/5
  • Other: A lack of closed captions or subtitles makes this inaccessible for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. 4/5
Conclusion: Prior to watching the first Michael Bay film a few years ago, I was largely unfamiliar with this franchise; other than a game on my Commodore 64, I had next to no experience with G.I. Joe at all.  However, watching this makes me want to check it out some more; while I won't bother collecting the toys, I really enjoyed this show.  I'm glad I already have Season 1.2 in my collection; I hope to watch it fairly soon!

Score: 4.5/5

08 February 2016

Quickie Movie Review: "The Magnificent Seven"

Rated: PG (Canada)
Starring: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, and Steve McQueen
Released: 1960
Synopsis: Merciless Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his band of ruthless outlaws are terrorizing a poor Mexican village...and even the bravest lawmen can't stop them! Desperate, the locals hire Chris Adams (Yul Brynner, The Ten Commandments) and six other gunfighters to defend them.  With time running out before Calvera's next raid, the heroic seven must prepare the villagers for battle and help them find the courage to take back their town...or die trying!
(Adapted from the back cover of the DVD)

My Review: For a film this old, it looked and sounded incredible on every device on which I watched it: my Mac, my iPad, and even my tiny iPod touch! The makers did a great job remastering the sound and picture for the DVD medium.  Also, the cast is expansive, and the sets and scenery are wonderful.  Every good guy is admirable, and the main villain is utterly despicable.  However, this was harder-edged than I expected for an older flick--even a Western--and I was a bit disappointed with the ending, which I won't give away here.  It was still an enjoyable movie, but not without its rough spots; discerning viewers may want to proceed with caution.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Passionate kissing before the camera cuts away; a brief reference to rape. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys in one scene. 4/5
  • Language: At least six uses of the d-word, and four of the h-word; name-calling is also present. 3/5
  • Violence: True to the genre, gunfights are common; countless people are shot dead, especially in the final battle.  Though most of the film is bloodless, the film opens with a slightly bloody shooting, and the finale features two people being stabbed to death. 2/5
  • Drugs: Smoking and drinking throughout; a man is given a sedative of some sort. 3/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Along with the violence, a scene or two of emotional intensity. 2/5
  • Other: Gambling is depicted a time or two. 4/5
Score: 3/5