The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

George Lucas Strikes Back

Yes, the New York Times confirmed with LucasFilm that this is legit. I would be lying if I said I liked "Return of the Jedi" but this was one of the few genuinely powerful moments in the movie. It is also the epitome of the phrase "Show, don't tell."

The original cut told you everything Vader was feeling in spite of his inanimate mask. The music, editing, and reaction shots gave it all to you. But, it seems like George "Money Bags" Lucas decided it was too vague for the dumbest in the audience to get, and had to throw in a gigantic neon sign saying "VADER DOES NOT LIKE THIS!!!! HE'S TURNING GOOD NOW!!!!!!!!!"

Again, show don't tell.

I was on the fence about getting this release, now I'll be saving my money instead. I just want to remind you that George Lucas once spoke out against colorizing classic films. The irony should not be lost on you.

Honestly, at this point I think Lucas is just trolling. He knows the changes have not been well received, and he knows that people hated Vader's giant "NO!!!!!" in "Revenge of the Sith." I think he's actively trying to piss his fans off. He's not THAT out of touch, he can't be. At first I thought there was no way this could be real. Lucas has done some crazy shiat, but he's never gone this far. But then I remembered Vader screaming, "No!" at the end of episode 3, and keeping in mind how much of a hack Lucas is these days, it's pretty obvious that he thinks this is a clever way of connecting the two movies thematically. To him, he's probably thinking, "Oh man, adding this in is so smart. I told everybody I can still write. I know I've made some questionable decisions in the past, but there is no way that anyone can complain about this. This is just good writing."

And while I'm here, I want to plug my friend's blog post on why she's stopped watching "ThunderCats"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Count Me Out, As of Now

I just watched episode six of "ThunderCats" and, wow, where should I start? I think they have dropped any and all pretense of being more interesting and three dimensional than the original series. The lizards are nothing but evil villains, and Slithe is now the typical Dumbass Minion. Welcome back 80's, it's the White Hats vs the Black Hats. Good is "attractive" and Evil is "ugly." We get the back story on the Book of Omens, and how it was hidden in order to keep it out of the hands of the other animals. The other animals, the lizards, happening to be evil.

So, why did Clawdus send Panthro and Grune on an impossible quest to find the Book of Omens when all he had to do was ask Jagga where it was? The entire premise here just falls apart. Grune's betrayal now makes even less sense than it already did, if such a thing were even possible.

Remember in the premiere when Mumm-Ra was about to transform, but fled due to the rising sun? They made a big deal about sunlight being his weakness. And here he is walking around in broad daylight as if it were nothing. Um, I do not have the attention span of a goldfish. I remember this. You made a pretty huge deal out of it. All they had to do was set this episode at night to avoid this stupidity.

So, the temple just happens to be right next to where Lion-O and his merry felines are camping out. I know this is a kid's show, but kids are much smarter than you give them credit for. Don't insult their intelligence like this. That was cheap, and trust me, they'll know it.

Panthro cannot swim. He was one of the greatest warriors in Thundera. He was skilled, well trained, and the king valued him enough to make him a general. We saw him rise through the ranks. You have this extremely well trained soldier, and he cannot swim. The pampered princes can swim. The cleric can swim. The two annoying brats can swim. The one guy with any real military training cannot swim. Pardon my French but what a crock of shit! And then he finds an exit that just happens to lead to the room above the one being flooded?

Mumm-Ra finally transforms into his more powerful, demonic form. Or whatever it is. In the pilot, in his weaker form, he is able to take out all the clerics, and crush all resistance. In his more powerful form, he cannot defeat a band of five. It was laughable. He was much more intimidating in his withered form, believe it or not.

And I still have no clue why he's supposed to be evil. They had this line where he gloated about killing Clawdus that I guess was supposed to be his "BWA HA HA! I AM EVIL! HA HA HA!" moment, but it falls flat on its face because, again, Clawdus was an evil, bigoted king who was conquering and subjugating others. Oh wait, I forgot, the lizards no longer have a point of view anymore. Cats good, everyone else bad.

We saw a brief flashback where Mumm-Ra commanded a space fleet of ThunderCats. The ThunderCats were once a spacefaring race... and yet, that scene is just thrown at us. I guess we're supposed to find it intriguing, but the way it is presented is more like a "what the hell" moment, instead of easing us into such a revelation. We get no further context, and it is all forgotten about as the episode progresses.

And this is where I step off the wagon. I gave it six episodes. That is far more than a fair shake. I gave "ThunderCats" a chance. But this is it, I'm done. I will not be watching any more episodes after this. Why? Because I hate people who despise TV shows and yet keep coming back week after week, year after year. If you hate a show that much, find something better to do with your time. That's what I'm going to be doing here.

The animation on this show is gorgeous. The character designs are well drawn. The direction and boarding is good. The voice acting is good. But the writing is atrocious. The characters are bland and one dimensional. There is nothing intriguing about the story arc. This is a stupid, stupid, stupid show and I predict it will run for at least five seasons.

Ronald Reagan is dead, and I hope the 80's nostalgia craze joins him soon. And that is all I have to say for the abysmal creative failure that is "ThunderCats." Or, to further drive home how terrible this show is, I would rather watch all of "The Goliath Chronicles" again than endure another second of this crap.

"Now get the HELL out of my nuptuals!"

Bruce Boxleitner and Melissa Gilbert are getting a divorce... here is exclusive footage from inside the courtroom:

Tick, you're married. Tock, you're divorced. The only way out is to surrender to tock.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cats! Cats! Cats!

Well, that went well. We're two thirds of the way through season seven of "Weeds", and the game has changed for Nancy Botwin and her family of wacky criminals. What happened? A lot.

Nancy is free of the halfway house, and now free of the SEC. The latter thanks to Doug Wilson, who discovered that Vehement handles the pension plans of the SEC. If Vehement goes down, their pension plans go down with them. So Doug was able to get the case dropped, and Nancy blackmailed the wire tape back from them and they both walked free. I thought it was rather contrived, but this show is a comedy and not a drama. Not to mention the scene was so well done, I'm forgiving a little contrivance.

I thought the CEO of Vehement falling for Nancy fast enough after sleeping with her once to invite her to run away with him was a tad weird. Nancy must really be terrific in the sack. I mean, don't get me wrong, Mary Louise Parker is hot. But I didn't buy it. But when he leaves and hands Nancy the keys to his townhouse, it was a great way to finally get rid of Zoya...

... and good riddance. I don't know how many more episodes of her I was going to be able to take. Don't get me wrong, she was well written and acted. But they did too good a job there. I felt Andy's annoyance with her and was glad to see her go.

Shane landed himself in trouble by stealing documents from the police department. The episode ends with him in handcuffs. Guess he is not such a great criminal mastermind after all.

And now, the real meat of the episode. Silas and Emma, played by Michele Tractenberg. Silas decides that he's hot for her, and wants to hire her away from the competition, Pouncy House. So he buys her lunch, they talk, she expresses frustration with her boss, and agrees to switch teams. He gives her the grand tour and tells her about the entire operation. They have sex, and he wakes up to discover that she is the leader of Pouncy House and their stash and plans have all been stolen. Silas is smart in a lot of ways, but really dumb in others. As idiotic as Nancy is, she wouldn't expose this much information to an outsider.

So, no matter what the Botwins do to one another, I suspect they are going to band together around Nancy, who will get Shane out of jail and take care of the mess Silas made. Like the Bundys before them, don't mess with them.

This episode was packed. So much happened, it felt like three episodes. Four more episodes, lets see what happens. I also suspect, at this point, it is safe to assume "Weeds" will receive an eighth season.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Patience Is Wearing Thin

So, in the pilot for "ThunderCats," Clancy Brown's character, Grune, betrayed the ThunderCats to Mumm-Ra because "serving Clawdus got him nothing." We needed an explanation, we needed to see growth and character development, and what did we get? Something George Lucas could have written.

So we find out that Panthro and Grune are old friends who served in the military together. They rose in the ranks and became generals, but Grune got pissed because he was passed over to become general of the entire military, instead he and Panthro were trusted with a sacred mission to find the Book of Omens and bring it back. Oh, and there was something about how Grune wanted to be king despite not having any claim to the throne, and no daughters to marry.

So, while they're on their mission, Grune is summoned to Mumm-Ra's pyramid and frees Mumm-Ra from his sarcophagus. Mumm-Ra talks about rewarding him, explains to both cats that the jewel in the Sword of Omens was once his, he wants it back. Panthro and Grune start fighting, and Grune has been behaving for the whole time like some mind controlled psychopath, all while copyright safe rip-off "Duel of the Fates" soundtrack is playing. Grune knocks Panthro into a pit, and Pantho is seemingly killed.

Cut to the present, Panthro has his cool tank, and correctly won't take orders from Lion-O. They go to this mine that Grune and some lizards are mining crystals from to power up the tank. Grune is not a drooling rabid beast like he was in the previous flashback, they throw insults at each other, nothing happens, Lion-O proves himself hallowly to Panthro and Panthro agrees to follow Lion-O's orders.

What a crock of shit. I'll start with a smaller complaint before I get to the big one. Lion-O is the king of NOTHING! The first thing they should have done, if they had any brains, would be to put Panthro in charge. There is no more kingdom. All of them are younger and far less experienced. Panthro was a military general, Lion-O is a teenage pampered prince.

If they are that obsessive about tradition, then have Lion-O formally appoint Panthro to be their regent, which was often done when monarchs died too soon for the heirs to take power. Lion-O is not qualified for this.

Again, will someone please tell me why Mumm-Ra is supposed to be evil? Again, what has he done that is wrong. He wants his property back, and he struck down an evil king of an imperialistic nation. And during the flashback, nothing happened in his pyramid until Panthro got verbally hostile.

And that was it? That was what Grune was pissed off about? That he was passed over just once? Really? Really?! That was so abrupt. This should have been a two-parter, this is a story that should have developed more. He goes batshit crazy after being mildly annoyed by the king just once? And what did Mumm-Ra promise him? To be king of the ThunderCats? So, to accomplish his goal of being king, he is going to kill everyone who would be one of his subjects and be king of a desolate wasteland? Really? Well, it is indeed as well thought out as Anakin Skywalker's character arc in "Revenge of the Sith."

Maybe, just maybe, it would have been better if Grune actually sympathized with the bigotry the lizards were facing. That would have been interesting. However, NOTHING will be done with the idea that the cats were racist bastards and the lizards had a reason to attack the kingdom. And you know, by this point they're probably never even going to have the lizards discover Grune was using them. It will be about how Mumm-Ra was using them.

One more episode, "ThunderCats." You get one more episode. And I am rooting for Mumm-Ra. I hate these cats.

Friday, August 19, 2011


While being in situations over her head are hardly anything new for Nancy Botwin, I think having a cold blade rubbed up against her nipples by a psychopathic lesbian is definitely a new one.

Zoya is out of prison and, as predicted, making things awkward at best, and chaotic at worst. I don't know what was worse; how psychotic Zoya was behaving during her version of foreplay with Nancy, or that Dimitri (Zoya's brother!) seemed to be getting off while watching it. This is way outside my kink zone.

Picking up from last week, Nancy asks her boss, Foster, the CEO of Vehement out on a date while wearing a wire in a deal with the SEC to get her out of the halfway house. Naturally, acting against her best interests, Nancy tries to sabotage the mic, because she obviously likes this guy. Well, is a white collar criminal really that much better than a Mexican drug kingpin? Or a dirty DEA agent? At this point, I am convinced her first husband, Judah, was a criminal of some kind. She doesn't fall for anyone that isn't a crook.

Shane's apprentice hood with this detective continues, and we're learning more and more about him as the episodes continue. This is only his third. However, it also serves to highlight how little we know about Dimitri. He's been in the show all season, and we haven't seen anything beyond Nancy trading him back his grenades for some weed, and stopping buy for booty calls. In fact, why is he even involved with Nancy and Silas' drug business? Heylia seems to be the supplier, and Silas is going back and forth, how does Dimitri fit in? It feels a little contrived.

I do give the episode credit for the single most awkward moment I have seen in television in a long time. Nancy brings Foster home, he's drunk and clearly thinks he's getting laid. Dimitri is there with her family to talk about the drug business, and then Zoya shows up, kisses everyone and embraces Nancy as her lover. All while the SEC is listening in their van outside.

Also, this episode introduces Michelle Trachtenberg as a rival drug dealer who looks like she's going to be a love interest for Silas. I'm getting flashbacks to Mary-Kate Olsen in season three. We'll see how this goes.

What I liked most about the episode was the moment in the first act when the woman who ran the halfway house sat Nancy down to tell her the honest truth, that Nancy was a lifer, one who would always be working an angle. Nancy, as one would expect, knows what she is and brushes off the judgement.

Fun episode. But I want to know more about these Russian siblings.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 11 Gargoyles Episodes

The Nostalgia Critic just did his Top Eleven Episodes of Batman the Animated Series list, and I can't really argue with it, and this is definitely not what this entry is about. I considered doing my own list of Batman episodes, but it would be close enough to his to be redundant.

So, instead, I am going to do my "Top Eleven Episodes of Gargoyles" list instead. I will admit, this one was harder to do. While Batman's episodes are all mostly stand-alone, when it comes to "Gargoyles" episodes, it is such a tapestry with events of one episode flowing into the next, you almost want to pick out entire story arcs. And I feel I am already cheating enough by counting multi-parters as single episodes. But, the Nostalgia Critic counted the two-part "Two-Face" as a single, so I feel okay with doing the same.

Anyway, without further ado...

11. Future Tense
I love this episode, but I don't love it for the same reasons a lot of fans do. I never found the events of the episode shocking, or even dark. When I first saw the episode, I knew there was a twist coming. There is no way this could be real. And there is no way this show or these characters would even go in this direction.

But I did see the episode as a loving homage to dark futures like X-Men's "Days of Future Past" and the "Terminator" series. Obviously Puck has seen these movies, read these comics, and was genre savvy. Goliath, on the other hand, is not genre savvy. Wouldn't watch these movies, or read these comics, and this would all be new to him. It also showcases how Goliath was always ready to believe the worst whenever it came to Xanatos. Tricksters are often confused with Satan, and while Goliath is angry, you can almost feel him kicking himself when he discovers that this dark image of Xanatos does not actually exist.

Now that being said, there is a lot of very effective imagery in here. The blind Broadway, the cybernetic and corrupt Lexington (hell, one of his scars even vaguely looks like the Pack symbol), a reformed Demona fighting on the side of the angels, the destroyed Clock Tower, and the Eyrie Pyramid just looks really cool.

This episode also raised the question of how much of Puck's nightmare scenario (all just to get Goliath to hand over the Phoenix Gate) will actually come true. A few things already have, and what was just clearly a fantasy. Only time will tell.

"Future Tense," while nothing in that vision was new, the twists and turns of Puck's epic mind game were a pleasure to watch, and beautifully animated as well.

10. The Reckoning
Family ties come to a head as Goliath's biological daughter, the heroic and naive Angela meets her mother, the genocidal Demona for the first time. Throw in that Demona is shacking up with Goliath's evil clone, Thailog and you have a very exciting episode of "Gargoyles" or a very typical episode of "Maury."

This episode has been building up for a long time. When we first met Angela, it was very obvious who her biological parents were. She was already getting along well with Goliath, but every "Gargoyles" fan was waiting for her to meet mommy. Goliath did all he could to keep Angela away from Demona, because... well, let's face it, Demona is a female gargoyle version of Adolf Hitler. And, let's face it, Goliath did a terrible job of it and pushed Angela away from himself and downplayed the biological connection. However, he was Angela's father by any definition, including the gargoyle definition. So, he was coming off as a distant father and all because he feared what Angela could become if Demona got her talons into her. Angela and Demona met very briefly at the end of "Sanctuary" but there was no follow up on that until this episode aired.... Six. Months. Later. We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.

Not only that, but we waited for a resolution to Demona's doomed romance with Thailog, who didn't care about her beyond the things she could do for him... both financial and sexual. Gotta love Thailog, not even one year old and he already had himself a very rich meal ticket who hadn't gotten laid in over a thousand years who had to be ready and more than willing... and yet not only did he betray Demona, while he was cloning the Manhattan Clan, he created a clone of Demona as well, and mixed in a little bit of Elisa Maza's DNA, to cosmetically alter the clone to be Demona but with Elisa's features. Ouch.

While very exciting, the reason this episode doesn't place as high is because I felt it needed a lot more. Funny enough, "The Reckoning" was originally meant to be a two-parter and the season finale of the second season, but circumstances which I will get to later necessitated a change. So what should have been a very great episode was only a very good episode. But good enough to earn its place on this list.

Where will Demona and Angela's dynamic go from here? Here's hoping we some day find out.

9. Vows
Ah, time travel. It's hard to do time travel well, as it is a storytelling device that is often abused, and many series find it hard to not violate the rules they themselves set. I'm looking at you, Marvel! I found it very refreshing to see a series where the time travel was not only well utilized for dramatic stories rather than "wouldn't it be cool if we did this," but also utilized in a way that made logical sense.

In the "Gargoyles Universe" you cannot change history, you can only fulfill it. If you go back in time it will be because you always did. Demona learns this the hard way when she travels back and tries to convince her younger self to change history and become the all powerful ruler of a human free world. Of course, Demona herself remembered this discussion because she had experienced it herself, and yet she still tries to spit in destiny's eye to force this change. Likewise, Goliath tries to change the younger Demona's outlook and maybe even avert the massacre of their clan. This does not work out for either of them.

However, things do work out for Xanatos who was able to lay the stepping stones that would lead to his eventual fortune via this time travel. How did he know how to do this? He received a letter from his future self. Xanatos fulfills destiny and he is the only one 100% aware of what he's doing throughout the entire ordeal.

This episode is also great character-wise as Xanatos and Fox get married while Goliath finally gives up any semblance of hope that he and Demona will ever reunite. And ultimately, everyone is happier in the long run. Except Demona.

8. Deadly Force
This episode is a given. What can I say about it that hasn't been said already? Everyone knows this episode as the one where Broadway watches a Western movie, goes to Elisa's apartment, picks up her gun and accidentally shoots her. It teaches a strong lesson about the importance of gun safety while never once feeling forced or preachy.

Perhaps the most intense image from the episode is Elisa lying in a small pool of her own blood. This sort of thing was very rare for television animation back then, and still is to this day.

This is followed up by Broadway laying her onto a Hospital stretcher and then gasping at the sight of his hands covered in her blood.

This episode was acclaimed and helped put "Gargoyles" on the map pretty early on. It was even praised by parents groups that normally go after action cartoons. Sadly, the episode was kept off the air by Toon Disney (now DisneyXD) for several years. They thought the episode promoted violence and completely missed the point of what the episode was about. Although they now air an edited version of the episode, and I doubt that shot I posted up there is even visible.

7. Temptation
This episode is memorable for many different reasons. First off, Brooklyn has become a real break out star, building up his own fan base within the "Gargoyles" fandom. While he does have his detractors, one cannot deny that Brooklyn made an impact. And it all started with this episode.

But as strong as this episode is for Brooklyn, it is just as strong a Demona episode. Like Brooklyn, Demona was also a breakout character, and very popular within the fandom. And here we get to see how devious and manipulative she can be. Using half truths to get what she wants and convincingly showing Brooklyn the darkness of humanity.

Jeff Bennett and Marina Sirtis should both be credited for their exceptional performances in this episode, and Jamie Thomason should be credited for directing them through some very powerful scenes that are mostly dialogue.

"Temptation" made an impact, and really set the stage for what "Gargoyles" would be very early on in the show's run.

6. The Mirror
If "Temptation" helped set the stage, "The Mirror" all by itself blew the world of "Gargoyles" wide open. Demona steals an antique mirror from the Metropolitan Museum as our inciting incident, and what follows is a revelation.

We are introduced to an entire new species when we meet Puck, and by extension the Children of Oberon. Before this episode, we had no idea that there was a third race inhabiting the world. This episode alone opened so many doors, you can easily call it a game changer.

It also set up the romance between Goliath and Elisa, as Goliath realizes just how attractive he really finds her. And the feeling is obviously mutual. They have trusted each other, and been close friends for a while now. But for the first time, they see each other in that sexual way. We've all been there where we see someone we have known for a while again for the first time. And funny enough, this happens in the same episode where we learn that part of Demona still wants Goliath. The scene near the end where Goliath wants to discuss his feelings with Elisa only to be cut off is damn near heartbreaking.

The script is clever, the animation is gorgeous, and it plays like a Shakespearan comedy. And I love the final twist at the very end when Demona gets her initial wish to not turn to stone anymore only to look in the mirror and see the thing she hates most staring back at her.

A real classic.

5. Awakening
Let's be honest, pilots are hard. They have to do so much. They need to build a world; introduce the main characters; set up their dynamics; make sure we know what the rules and conventions are; and tell a well developed story that engages the audience. Sadly, most pilots either fail at this, or drop the ball in one of these areas. Either way, the whole ball suffers.

The Disney Afternoon on the other hand had a pretty good track record with pilots. So, when "Gargoyles" came along, and "Awakening" was aired over the course of the entire week, we were treated to a pilot that did everything right and told a very engaging story. You really have to applaud them, because it was a big story that covered a span of a thousand years. It built two worlds, one in medieval Scotland and one in 20th century Manhattan, as well as supporting casts and villains for both time periods and all without ever once dropping the ball. It never felt slow, and the pacing never stopped to introduce us to another character, or a critical rule or event. It was very organic, very natural.

Goliath starts out as a very strong lead character as he undergoes a terrible tragedy, finds himself a stranger in a new world and learns to trust Elisa Maza, and through extension, humans again. Elisa herself quickly proves herself to be more than just another human friend for fantastic protagonists, and is fully fleshed out character in her own right who is never a token female character, or token "normal person."

The rest of the gargoyles also, while not quite having as much to do as Goliath still feel like full characters, and are never dead weight. While their real growth and development comes later, we get just enough in the pilot for all of them to be likable.

And among all that, we are introduced to two of the strongest villains television has ever provided. And while their best material is yet to come, they still shine here. We see Xanatos at his most erudite and manipulative. Arrogant and confident without ever being unlikable. And in Demona, we see one of the all time great female villains, and all time great villains period. From the Dark Ages to the reveal of her betrayal, it all comes full circle.

Had "Awakening" been a five episode mini-series by itself, with no "Gargoyles" episodes ever being made to follow up, I would have been satisfied. It told a great story that while a terrific beginning was also strong enough to stand alone. I've even said in the past that if Disney ever wanted to make a live action "Gargoyles" movie, all they would need to start out with is this same script, and then go from there. In fact, had this gotten the feature film treatment in 1994, I think it would be fondly remembered as one of the better Disney animated features.

But I am glad there was more, and "Awakening" was the perfect introduction to "Gargoyles" and as perfect a pilot as any series in any medium could ever hope to receive.

4. Shadows of the Past
The first, and arguably best episode of the World Tour kicks off with Goliath, Elisa, Angela and Bronx visiting Wyvern Hill in Scotland. But painful memories and vengeful spirits nearly drive Goliath mad as old fears, and a lot of guilt surface. It all culminates in a confrontation with the ghost of Hakon and the Captain of the Guard who perished all the way back in "Awakening Part Two" and ends on a theme of redemption and forgiveness.

This episode features a strong script and is one of the most atmospheric episodes of the series. Keith David turned in a very solid performance, as did the rest of the cast. The animation was gorgeous, and it all came together as a very powerful episode, but unfortunately one that seems to be overlooked by a portion of the fandom.

I am one of those who thinks this is where Hakon should have been left, it was a powerful ending for such a loathsome villain, and I felt bringing him back after "Shadows of the Past" was one of the series' very few missteps. But, all the greatness, and the missteps are what make "Gargoyles" the flawed masterpiece that it is to this day.

3. Hunter's Moon
There is a phrase in the world of show business. Leave them wanting more. "Hunter's Moon," the final episode of the second season, and the final episode of canonical "Gargoyles" does this in spades. Everything comes full circle while a door is opened to the future.

The Hunters come to New York to carry out their generational vendetta against Demona, and the world changes forever. The clocktower is destroyed; the gargoyles are revealed to the world; Elisa almost finds love with one of the Hunters; Demona nearly unleashes Armageddon, Xanatos and the gargoyles reach an accord, and Goliath and Elisa finally kiss.

As "The Reckoning" was originally intended to be the season finale, "Hunter's Moon" was originally meant to be a direct-to-video movie. When the video was cancelled, "Hunter's Moon" became a three-part finale, and "The Reckoning" became a single episode. Was the trade off worth it? Absolutely. It's dark, painful, and yet bright and optimistic at the same time. "Hunter's Moon" takes everything that is great about "Gargoyles" and shines a spotlight on it. The world is changed forever, and yet life goes on. Isn't that an honest truth?

Sadly, it would be ten years before we got more and when we did, it was worth the wait. If you haven't read the three "Gargoyles" trade paperbacks, pick them up. They're terrific and they're canon.

"Hunter's Moon" was a strong contender for number one on this list. A very strong contender. So, let's segue into...

2. The Price
This episode is arguably the most character driven episode in the entire series. There is action, no question. But the real meat of the episode is just Xanatos and Hudson talking while Hudson is in a cage. Only there are moments when Xanatos may as well be the prisoner.

In this episode Hudson does what no other character in "Gargoyles" has ever done before, he finds the chink in Xanatos's armor. As Xanatos talks about becoming immortal, Hudson correctly points out that Xanatos fears growing old. And I'll be damned, but the normally cool collected and always in control Xanatos very nearly loses his shit. He then belittles Hudson, which would normally be behavior that's beneath him and storms off. We've never seen Xanatos run from anyone before, but here he is running from a very uncomfortable truth. We've never seen him do this before, and we've never seen him do this since. But for one, brief moment, Xanatos was brought down to our level, and we saw he could be as petty as anyone else.

However, while not giving up on his quest for immortality, the moment Hudson breaks free, Xanatos just lets him go. He could have easily had Hudson subdued, but regaining his strength of character, he lets Hudson walk. That is powerful writing right there. Even when Xanatos loses, he keeps his own sense of self-respect.

This episode also features gorgeous animation, and a pretty exciting battle as the rest of the clan is battling a robot designed to mimic Macbeth. And it ends on a strong yet ominous note when Owen makes a sacrifice on behalf of his employer.

1. City of Stone
And this, right here, is "Gargoyles" at its very best. Mighty heroes and powerful villains, and enough tragedy to satisfy William Shakespeare. The sheer scope of "City of Stone" has not been matched since, as the series once again tells a story that not only covers one thousand years, but several decades within that time frame.

I often felt a more appropriate title would be "The Tragedy of Demona & Macbeth." While the modern day story is very exciting, the real meat is in the flashbacks which tell the story of Demona and Macbeth. We see the tragedies that led to their survival across the millenia, and their mutual hatred for one another. While my preferred title might be a little too on the nose, it does have that Shakespearan feel to it.

"City of Stone" made a very bold choice in not adapting Shakespeare's play, but rather telling the story of the historical Macbeth who did rule Scotland during the eleventh century, with Shakespearan elements as well as "Gargoyles" elements. And it all adds up beautifully, and never once feels contrived.

The modern day story is just as exciting also, as Demona turns most of Manhattan to stone and then proceeds to go on a killing spree. And why? Because she is angry, vengeful, bigoted, and because she can. She manages to enjoy at least one night of slaughter, before she is confronted by Macbeth, and both are confronted by the Weird Sisters who, along with Goliath talk Macbeth down from murdering Demona in cold blood, and then Demona has her own breakdown. Powerful stuff, and it is a very powerful statement against the endless cycle of vengeance.

I could write an entire blog entry on "City of Stone" alone, and I am more than tempted to do so right now. It just does everything right. There are no right or easy answers. We come to understand Demona and why she became the demon she did. We sympathize with Macbeth, even when he's part of the problem and not the solution... he's not there to save the world, just get his revenge. We end on cliffhangers where Xanatos and Fox, two of the villains are at risk and care about what their fate are. And we're with Goliath as he almost contemplates killing Demona to end her slaughter, but he quickly abandons the idea with the manipulation of the Weird Sisters. But this is his ex-mate, so those thoughts don't come lightly. One gets the feeling if it were anyone else, he would have gone through with it.

Yes, this is a children's show. But, to this day, I have yet to see any children's show go places that "City of Stone" did. Even the other gem of that era in animation, "Batman" didn't delve as deep as this four-parter did. The gem of animation in the last decade, "Avatar the Last Airbender" didn't do it either. Hell, "Gargoyles" itself never quite got this dark ever again. I could be wrong, but I doubt you'll ever see anything like "City of Stone" in television animation again. It was that intense. And I still feel this way, all these years later.

While I liked "Gargoyles" a lot up until this point, "City of Stone" turned me into the lifelong fan that I am to this day. These four episodes were probably the most powerful thing I have watched throughout my then fourteen years being alive. It really stuck with me, even to this day, and displayed the raw power of something as simple as telling a story. Honestly, without "City of Stone," I doubt I would ever have tried my own hand at writing, and attempted a career in the entertainment industry.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

At the Cost Of Their Flesh and Blood

I have recently begun re-reading the "Berserk" manga in anticipation of filling the holes in my collection later this month. I have the first twenty-five volumes of the manga, which puts me short nine volumes from being up to date. So far, it's been just as fun a ride as it was the first time.

I was introduced to "Berserk" after I had just finished watching "Cowboy Bebop" and asked a buddy of mine for a list of anime recommendations. "Berserk" was #14 on his list with the text "You want this anime, you need this anime, you will have this anime." And my local Blockbuster had the first three DVD's and I checked them out and loved them. Ironically, to this day, with the exceptions of "Cowboy Bebop" and "Berserk," I can't think of a single anime or manga that I like. So, if you don't like anime or manga, don't worry, "Berserk" is still really cool.

If you're new to "Berserk," I recommend starting with the anime. You can get the series for about $30 here on amazon. While there are some differences from the manga, and it cuts quite a bit of material, it is a great introduction to the world of "Berserk."

Without being too spoilerish, I will discuss the series' three leads.

"Berserk" is about a young mercenary named Guts. A man who has been taught nothing except how to swing a sword. And he's very good at it. As far as protagonists go, Guts is... different. If I had to compare him to any other character, I suppose it would be Conan the Barbarian, but I am not quite comfortable with that comparison. Near the beginning of the series, Guts joins, against his will might I add, the Band of the Hawk and becomes the captain of the Hawks' raiders. And it is here that over time this troubled, traumatized man grows as a character and begins to learn to relate to others.

And then there is Caska, the second-in-command of the Band of the Hawk. A tough, yet vulnerable young women who is the only female warrior we see in the series (unless you count Lady Farnese in the manga, but her position was ceremonial, and she wasn't trained to actually fight). While her relationship with Guts initially appears to be something we have seen over and over, it quickly and yet slowly develops into something unique. When we meet her, she is completely devoted to being the sword for her leader, the man who saved her life, the man who saved her from being a child concubine for a local nobleman. Which brings us to...

Griffith is the leader of the Band of the Hawk. A strong, handsome, intelligent, pure, special, eloquent, and angelic young man. A commoner who dreams of being a king. He is looked up to, respected, and admired by everyone in the vicinity, like a saintly hero from a classic poem. Of course, being a commoner rising in the ranks, many in the aristocracy hate him and see him as a threat to their way of life even though he is shaping up to be the hero of a desperate war they are fighting. Indeed, Griffith is a shining beacon of light in a very dark world. But, you know what they say about shining beacons of light? They cast very dark shadows. For those of you who have never seen or read "Berserk," chew on that for a while.

There are a lot of other characters who come and go. Only the very lucky stick around, and that is not hyperbole. There is darkness and tragedy to this series, and it is very real. "Berserk" is a series with the power to make you happy, to make you sad, to make you angry, and to scare you. But above all, it makes you think.

One of my favorite things about "Berserk" is that it spits in the eye of just about all the cliches. It takes familiar tropes and really turns them on their heads. No one is what they appear to be, and just when you think you're seeing a Joseph Campbell hero myth unfolding.... well, that would be telling.

The manga is better than the anime. But for a first-timer, I'd recommend the anime first as it gives you a great taste of this series, even though it leaves you wanting more. The manga is still unfinished, and at the moment is more of a financial investment. But I am happy with it so far, and if you like the anime, trust me, you're going to want to read the manga. You're going to actually need to read the manga.

A warning though, "Berserk" is not for the squeamish. So if the thought of reading an epic sword and sorcery fantasy where the swords actually do the unthinkable and not only draw blood, but kill people is unsettling, than this series is not for you. There is no play fighting here. The fights are real and anyone can die at any time. And they will, trust me on this.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Lifetime Truly is a Blink of An Eye

No, that wasn't in this episode. But the moment I saw the Petlars, I couldn't help but wonder if Mumm-Ra was going to disguise himself as a flower and turn Tygra into a junkie.

The two-part pilot was a cornucopia of cliches. I really hated the pilot. The third episode, while fun was just "Moby Dick" being retold. I liked the third episode, but it was spectacularly stupid. Before this episode I aired, I said that this show had two more chances to impress me. Did it?

In this episode the lizards entrap the the ThunderCats in a forest of thorns. While inside the forest, the cats meet and befriend a species of anthropomorphic plants called Petlars. Specifically, Lion-O befriended a newborn Petlar named Emerich. As the episode progesses, we learn the Petlars have a lifespan that lasts one day, and before Lion-O's eyes, Emerich matures into a teenager, a man, an old man, and then passes away.

Finally, the Petlars are led out of the forest and return home. Lion-O finally makes the decision to face the lizards head on, and they meet Jet Black, er, I mean Panthro, who isn't dead and has a tank that I doubt is called the Bebop.

Now, I am going to shock all of you. I liked this one. Not in the same sort of amusement with last week's. I actually liked this one. This was good. It wasn't great, but it was good. There were some moments that were almost stunning in this, even a few that were... dare I say it, moving. And I went into this episode with a terrible attitude, trust me.

I feel I should also point out that this episode was where the show finally felt like it was doing it's own thing. Not following a very obvious Joseph Campbell outlined with wacky pacing issues, or cutting and pasting a famous novel and changing a few names. This episode did it's own thing, and it was better for it. Keep it up.

While I'm still not impressed, if the next episode is at least as good as this one, I will probably be more patient with the show.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vehement v. Vigorous

Pardon my tardiness on this review, but here I am with the latest episode of "Weeds." And now we're about halfway through what may or may not be the final season. Although, at this point, I don't think Showtime is going to part ways with their highest rated comedy, so until I hear otherwise, I shall stop referring to this season as the potential finale. So, what happened in this episode?

Counselor Ed is in deep trouble. He's been given two weeks notice before his time at the halfway house comes to an end, and he blames Nancy. Determined to catch Nancy in the act of criminality so he can keep his job, the episode does not end as well for him as it does for Nancy.

I did enjoy the circular nature of Nancy's journey, and even Andy pointed this out. In the pilot episode of "Weeds," Nancy is selling pot at a local sporting event, Shane's soccer game. Now, she is selling pot at a local sporting event, her company softball game. How far the boomerang has come. While there, she flirts with the CEO of Vehement some, and after he admits to some illegal white collar crime he plans to commit, she admits to being a pot dealer. This only serves to turn him on.

Shane is progressing into his corruption more and more as he takes on an apprenticeship with that police detective. Time will tell where this goes, but Shane is still developing into quite the criminal mastermind. I have a feeling that should he kill again, it won't be self defense of any kind.

And, on a personal note, I really, really appreciate Shane's student loan scheme. Being deep in debt to student loans myself, I love seeing these companies and banks get taken advantage of for a change.

Silas' loathing of Nancy is really brought out when, while in a boxing ring, his opponent uses the words "Momma's boy." He is perfectly willing to work with Nancy, if not for her, but their relationship is in tatters. Will he ever be free of her? Not likely, as he continues in his illegal activities.

And who would have ever thought that Andy would be the sane Botwin? Not I. The poor guy wants his business to be just that. A legit business. Not a front. Although, to be fair, I highly doubt his product has any marketability or chance of success. But how far he has come. When we first met him, Andy was the biggest delinquent out of all of them.

As the episode ends, Nancy makes a deal with the SEC to help expose illegal activity at Vehement in exchange for a ticket out of the halfway house. And now, we can see the direction the season is heading in. Things are looking up for Nancy. However, I expect her to fall farther than she ever has before. What could be lower than prison? Well, I'm sure the returned Zoya has a few ideas.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Weiner Nation

Hee, hee... I'm stealing Wing Nut Daily's bandwith

Allow me a moment to talk about this guy. Before there was Glenn Beck, there was Michael Savage. He is to the right of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Attila the Hun. He is as right as they come. He hosts a radio show called "The Savage Nation" which should really be called "The Weiner Nation." Why? Because his real name is Michael Weiner.

I first encountered this guy back when I worked at Barnes & Noble, found his book on a bench and read the first chapter. It was all about how as a kid, he would go on Christmas vacation to the hamptons on a train pulled by an engine burning tons and tons of coal. And how all that black smoke meant freedom to him and how the gays, single moms, abortionists, elites, Hollywood, and Mexicans took the Freedom Smoke© away from him.

What kind of self loathing does it take to change your last name? Well, I won't lie, there are plenty of good reasons to. And, I will admit that 'Weiner' is probably a hard one to grow up with. But this guy did it for one reason and one reason only, to hide the fact that he is Jewish. I guarantee you most of his white trash teabagging listeners do not know he's Jewish.

I've listened to his show and he is one of those Jews that is so full of self loathing. He desperately wants to be a WASP. A right-wing WASP. I have seen this quite a lot, especially in Westchester and Long Island. And not just among some Jews, but some Italians. And it makes me sick. I don't know who Weiner here is trying to make friends with, but they still won't let you into their country club. You know this, right? Well, probably not since he continues to hide it.

What also amuses me about these people who change their last names is that you can tell a lot about their own insecurities by what they change their name to. With a chosen name like Savage, I guess he sees himself like this:

But, before ever seeing a picture of him, when I listened to him on the radio, and just heard his voice, and heard him talk, I pictured him more like this.

In other words, Michael Weiner is like that nerdy, 95 lb asthmatic weakling who goes on the internet and calls himself "BadAssMofoWithABigCock69." We've all met this guy on the internet. But really, he is obviously a self loathing Jew who likes to teabag himself, while fantasizing about being something else. That's the most bold name, to be a savage. He wants to be a caveman.

I occasionally try to call into his show, but I can never get through. I would love to one day talk to him about all this. I would address him politely as "Mr. Weiner" and I would ask him why he hates himself so much. Why he feels the need to hide his heritage. As a Jew myself, I am quite curious.

He's got so much self loathing he wants to be a savage and not a weiner. Embrace your name, don't be embarrassed. So your name is synonymous with 'cock.' Michael, you're a yid. And all those people you're pretending to be, they won't let you into their country club. And there is not a person I've ever met who can't kick your ass.

Hell, if I met this cock, I bet I could get him to suck my cock inside of ten minutes, and I am most definitely NOT a badass in person. Which says a lot about how lowly and pathetic this guy is.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ahab Vs the Sarlacc

Actually, this is a review of the third episode of "ThunderCats." My negative review of the pilot garnered a lot of attention. Why some kind soul even went as far as to pretend to be me and post a link on 4chan to guarantee I got trolled. I wasn't sure if I was going to continue watching after the premiere, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

I went into this episode with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I didn't love it, but it went over better with me. I suppose one could say I only enjoyed it because of the low expectations, but I don't believe that. I went into "Transformers Dark of the Moon" with the lowest expectations in the world, and it was even worse than I expected.

Pilots are hard to do. They're a difficult balancing act between introducing an entire cast of characters, an entire world, and setting up the inciting incident of a series. Some shows are lucky enough to have great pilots ("Gargoyles," "Batman the Animated Series," "Superman the Animated Series," "Young Justice," and most Disney Afternoon shows), and some aren't but turn out to be great anyway ("Beast Wars," "Transformers Animated," "Avatar the Last Airbender," "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Babylon 5.") So I respect that it's a difficult balancing act. But don't expect me to backtrack on my review of the pilot anytime soon.

This particular episode was a gigantic homage to Herman Melville's "Moby Dick." I can say homage as opposed to "rip off" because it so clearly acknowledges the source, and it does so in a pretty fun way. I don't need to summarize the plot, you pretty much know what happens if you are the slightest bit literate. And if you don't, shame on you, go read a book.

This episode was about Lion-O learning not to let himself be consumed by a desire for vengeance. When the episode opens, he is so single-minded and obsessed with journeying to Mumm-Ra's lair to take vengeance that he doesn't care if anyone around him, even kids, live or die. Then he met a crew of anthropomorphic fish (it's better than it sounds) sailing on a sand sea, led by our Captain Ahab by the name of Koinelius. Lion-O and his friends hitch a ride and witness the story of "Moby Dick" unfolding before their eyes, and Koinelius is killed. While Lion-O doesn't give up his desire for vengeance, he does learn to prioritize.

It's a cliche also, but it was just one cliche, and better executed than the pilot which was a cornucopia of cliches. But, like I said, pilots are hard, and at least this time we got to a better sense of who these characters are, and what to expect as the series continues.

I was wrong about Jaga being dead, although he might be now, since Mumm-Ra imprisoned him in a lantern so that he could learn the location of the Book of Omens, which means he and our protagonists might be running into each other sooner than we think.

While this episode offered nothing new, it was visually stunning. So was the pilot, for that matter. While I don't think I'd go out of my way to recommend this show to anybody, it was an improvement, and I hope it stays an upward trend. I'll give this episode a solid B.

I loved how this episode's B-plot was about a fish who wanted to eat children. Someone's been reading Jonathan Swift.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Amanda Connor

Dear Amanda Connor,

You are a terrific artist. You have done a lot of great work. I hope you do not mind if I briefly roast you with an old shame.

This is a panel from Marvel Comics' "Gargoyles" #9.

"Fee fi fo fum, I think Goliath's so gonna be bummed!"

That is the top of the Empire State Building. Let's take a look at this art from King Kong.

And now, let's look at a real life photo.

There is only one logical conclusion. Demona has super growth powers, and Weisman has been holding this information out on us. I mean, wow, that antenna is 203' tall!

In all seriousness, this was her early work and she's done some great work since then, but I thought I'd poke some good natured fun.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Object Impermanence

In this week's latest installment of the adventures of America's favorite pot dealing MILF, the better parts of her past make a return, albeit not welcoming her one bit. And, honestly, can you blame her?

As I said last week, the return of Heylia James was most welcome. She never took Nancy's crap back in the first three seasons, and she still doesn't now. As Heylia herself said, "people don't change, they just learn."

Returning with Heylia is Dean Hodes, who is living with her in exchange for offering legal advice. Lots of clients in pot land, it seems. He is still terrified of his ex-wife, Celia. But have no fear, Dean. Elizabeth Perkins left the series, and Celia with her. I have a feeling that Celia's fate will never be revealed, and that's fine by me. It's funnier if it isn't. Unless Perkins does return, let's leave Celia's fate to the imagination.

Shane has proven himself to be quite the criminal mastermind. Taking a law class just to learn how to successfully operate a front, while making sure a police detective takes an interest in him as a potential police officer, so he has an ear with the police. Shane Botwin would make a great supervillain, he's already got a body count.

Poor Andy, I've been saying that a lot, but poor Andy. Who would have thought he would be the most normal out of all of them? He just wants to run his own business, and make a legitimate living. But, by virtue of his last name, he is tied to the true family business, and Shane is taking charge. Why do I have a feeling Shane may kill again?

But the real meat of this episode has to be the long, overdue conversation between Nancy and Silas where Nancy comes clean about lying to Silas all his life, and even lying to Judah throughout their entire marriage. And yes, she deserved to be told off like that. And yet, despite having every reason in the world, Silas doesn't walk away. Hell, he's staying on Heylia's farm to harvest the crop of hemp and then bring it back to NYC for Nancy to sell. It's become an interstate operation now.

The end of the episode was very touching, where Nancy got to hug her youngest son, Stevie, for the first time since leaving prison. We'll see how this custody battle with Jill goes.

Overall, Nancy's arc this season seems to be about getting her life together. I don't know if it's a redemption arc, or becoming a better criminal. Maybe it's both, I don't know. But her past slapped her in the face during this episode, and I do not think it's finished yet. There must be some loose ends from her time with Reyes Cartel.

Re-Evaluating Cap

So, I saw "Captain America" again this afternoon. While all my complaints about the movie still stand, it was much more enjoyable this time around. I will freely admit to being human, and as capable of making a mistake as much as anyone. The audience I saw it with the first time really killed the movie for me.

For example, I remember commenting that the old woman not knowing how to use a gun standing guard at the antique shop was stupid. Well, I was wrong, she got shot first, hence why she couldn't fire the gun. I missed that last time because the obnoxious audience distracted me.

Don't get me wrong, I still think the movie needed work and the script was rushed. I still think Red Skull should have been more imposing and Bucky died way too soon. But, it was much more enjoyable and I'm raising the C+ grade to a solid B.