18 March 2016

TV DVD Review: "X-Men": Volume Three

Rated: TV-Y7 for fantasy violence (US) / PG: "Not Recommended for Young Children, Violence" (Canada)
Starring: Cathal J. Dodd, George Buza, and Norm Spencer
Released: 1994 - 1995 (original TV premieres) / 2009 (DVD)
Synopsis: In this third volume of the adventures of Professor Xavier's school of mutants, the X-Men face their toughest challenges yet! Between a jungle god bent on causing an apocalypse, the return of the Juggernaut, Wolverine discovering his origins, a temporal disturbance causing Professor X to cease to exist, and especially Jean Grey being possessed by an evil space-faring entity, it's going to take everything the X-Men have got to save the day and emerge victorious!
Based on stories from Marvel Comics.  Also features appearances by Nightcrawler and Morph.

The Good: I love superhero cartoons, and these are among the best I've seen.  With plenty of action, convoluted storylines, great voice work, and wonderful animation, this series definitely delivers.  It's no surprise that this cartoon continues to be remembered by those who watched it back in the day; it's fabulous! Also impressive, though unexpected, was a portrayal of Christian faith in a positive light.  When devout Catholic mutant Nightcrawler is introduced, the episode featuring him ends with Wolverine reading from the Bible.  You wouldn't expect that from a secular '90's cartoon, but it's there...and it made me quite happy!

The Bad: As good as this is, I do have to say that this isn't for children.  While it has no notable sexual content and zero profanity, the violence is akin to the theatrical films, which were rated "PG-13" for a reason.  There wasn't any blood or gore, but the action sequences were rather intense, and some kids may be scared by some of the villains.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; women in low-cut outfits; a girl in a tribal outfit; all of it is made less sultry thanks to the cartoon style. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling; nothing more. 4/5
  • Violence: As the rating mentions, "fantasy violence" is present throughout, and it gets rather intense. No blood or gore, though. 2/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Emotional intensity and scary villains throughout. 3/5
  • Other: Remarks about evolution; Professor X makes a disparaging remark about the creation account in Genesis. 4/5
Conclusion: While not exactly for kids, as an adult viewer, I found this third volume to be fabulous.  It's great to see the X-Men come to life without the profanity and sexual content that besmirched the theatrical films.  If you're a comic book fan, and haven't seen this series yet...you should! Just be sure to start with the first volume.

Score: 4.5/5

16 March 2016

TV Episode Set Review: "Shake It Up": Volume One

Rated: TV-G
Starring: Bella Thorne, Zendaya, and Davis Cleveland
Released: 2010 - 2011 (original Disney Channel premieres)
Synopsis: Teenage BFFs Raquel "Rocky" Blue (Zendaya, Zapped) and Cecilia "CeCe" Jones (Bella Thorne) have finally fulfilled a lifelong dream: they've become dancers on Shake It Up, Chicago!, the hottest dance show around! However, being stars comes with a price, and they still have to face the normal problems that come with being a teenager.  In this inaugural volume, Rocky and CeCe enter a talent show in an attempt to one-up Rocky's longtime rival, discover that their friend Deuce (Adam Irigoyen) is in love with an adolescent gold digger, and attend an adults only party only to be busted by a cop (Anita Barone) who happens to be CeCe's mom!
As seen on the Disney Channel.

The Good: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Nobody makes a sitcom like the Disney Channel these days.  The ones on the Mouse network are the closest modern equivalent to the old-school ones (Mork & Mindy, Home Improvement, Growing Pains, etc.) with which I grew up.  This first volume is insanely fun, with many cute moments, fabulous performances, wonderful dance numbers, and, best of all, pretty much squeaky clean content.  It's also fun to see the early days of Rocky and CeCe; since I wasn't "hip" to the show until late in its run, most of these episodes were new to me...but, I enjoyed every minute of them.

The Bad: As good as this is, there was a bit of "PG"-level crudity here and there, which wasn't necessary, especially considering how good the rest of the show was.  That, however, is a minor complaint.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Discussion of an incident where a girl loses her top; a chest bump between two girls that goes wrong. 4/5
  • Nudity: Occasional low-cut or off-the-shoulder outfits. 4/5
  • Language: Nothing worse than name-calling. 4/5
  • Violence: Comedic pratfalls; nothing more. 4/5
  • Drugs: An adult party, which implies alcohol consumption. 4/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: None that I recall. 5/5
  • Other: Some crude humor is present. 4/5
Conclusion: If you know me, you know I've been a big Disney Channel fan for well over a decade.  Say what you will about the network, but, they keep delivering the kind of programming I enjoy; as long as they do, I'll keep watching.  If you're not a fan of the Mouse channel's shows, I'm not sure why you're even reading this; those who are fans know what to expect...and that's just what they'll get, which isn't a bad thing.

Score: 4.5/5

04 March 2016

iTunes Season Review: "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers": Season Three

Rated: TV-Y7 for fantasy violence
Starring: Amy Jo Johnson, David Yost, Karan Ashley, Jason David Frank, Steve Cardenas, and Catherine Sutherland
Released: 1995 - 1996 (original TV premieres)
Synopsis: This third season brings the Rangers' biggest challenges yet! With Rita and Zedd still stopping at nothing to overtake the Earth, it'll take everything they've got to keep our planet safe! Even with a new member joining their group, and allies from the deepest regions of outer space, it may be too much for Zordon and the Rangers to handle.

(Warning: Potential spoilers below!)

The Good: What a rush! I've been watching an episode of this pretty much every day over the past few weeks, and, I have to say, it kept my interest, despite the obvious low budget.  I especially liked the new character of Kat, an Australian girl who replaces Kimberly as the Pink Ranger.  There's plenty of fun to be had in this third season, but...

The Bad: Those expecting everything to come to a neat ending will likely be disappointed.  The season finale ends with the Command Center blowing up, not with a big defeat of Rita and Zedd.  If you followed the series to its end back in the day, you probably won't be surprised, but I was.  Now, I'll have to watch the next season to see how things end up.

Content Concerns:
  • Sex: Kissing, flirting; totally innocent romance. 4/5
  • Nudity: Shirtless guys; girls/women in swimsuits, including two-pieces. 4/5
  • Language: Name-calling throughout, and quite often at that. 3/5
  • Violence: As you'd expect, there is fantasy action violence throughout.  The Rangers, villains, and other characters kick, punch, shoot at, etc., each other countless times.  Slapstick humor is also present in many episodes. 2/5
  • Drugs: None. 5/5
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: Some of the monsters could be scary for some kids, and the finale is a bit intense. 4/5
  • Other: Some of the powers used smack of sorcery. 4/5
Conclusion: I may be nearly thirty years old, but, the kid in me still enjoys shows like this.  After watching the first three seasons in their entirety, I'm curious to see where the franchise goes from here, especially given the cliffhanger ending of this season.  One thing I wonder is: When do the special effects improve? I'll just have to wait and see.

Score: 4/5