The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Go Team Venture!

There are people out there who would debate what the best animated series of the last ten years was. Some would say "Avatar the Last Airbender" (a contender), or "Spectacular Spider-Man" (a contender), or "Star Wars Clone Wars" (I never watched it), or "Young Justice" (great, but just shy of being a contender), or "Justice League Unlimited" (great, but not a contender), or "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" (but seriously, please don't... I might have to kill you on principle). My answer has consistently been "The Venture Bros" and season five continues to cement that title as far as I am concerned. If you want to disagree with me, bring it on. But I do acknowledge that the show is not for everybody. That being said, to quote Roger Ebert's review for "Jesus' Son": "No good film is for everyone. Only bad films are for everyone."

Like most shows, "Venture Bros" went through its share of growing pains, but when it found it's voice in late season one and early season two, it has remained consistently brilliant, and Jackson and Doc deserve accolades as two of the most brilliant minds working in animation. They created a wonderful world full of a wide array of colorful characters who, with few exceptions, share one thing in common: sublime failure. That and who can deny that The Monarch is one of the greatest characters in the history of animation?

I really loved the fifth season, new cans of worms were opened that gave us hints to what may be in store for season six. While I have my theories, one thing I have learned is to expect the anti-climatic... and that's not a knock against the show. Anti-climax is taken to an art form and plays into the theme of failure. We've been given a big tease as to the origins of The Monarch's hatred for Doc, and a connection that goes back father than we thought. Are they brothers? Cousins? Clones? I have my theories, but no expectations, because who knows?

Revelations flew out fast about the Guild of Calamitous Intent. We now know the identities of the majority of the Council of Thirteen, even if the Sovereign may not be who we thought he was (which, I admit, disappoints me a little); but who are the Investors and what is their connection to the Guild?

This season really belonged to Dean Venture, though. After four seasons of being a pansy crybaby, he has slowly come into his own. He is by no means admirable, but he's matured. I enjoyed his arc this season. Maybe he has the chance at a normal life, but most likely not.

This show does pop culture references right (suck it, Seth MacFarlane!), the plots and characters are consistently evolving, and there isn't an episode I don't enjoy. If I had to pick one con it's the long wait between seasons; but quality beats quantity and I am willing to wait two to three years for good TV. Maybe more TV shows should take a page out of "Venture Bros'" scheduling, especially if it means keeping the quality high. The BBC already does it with "Sherlock."

I cannot wait for the next season, but it looks like I'll have to. Will season six be the end? Time will tell. Until then: GO TEAM VENTURE!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back to the Well...

So, Warner Bros announced that their "sequel" to "Man of Steel" is going to be a Batman/Superman movie. Okay. I have not seen a more blatant move that reeks of desperation in a long time. I'm not going to say that "Man of Steel" underperformed since it made Warner Bros a modest profit. But it wasn't the smash hit that WB was hoping for. The second and third weeks, it took a huge box office drop. So, WB went back to the well they know they can count on, the Bat.

Am I opposed to a Batman/Superman movie? No. But if "Man of Steel" had made a billion dollars, I guarantee you that we would have seen a solo Superman sequel that would set things up like Clark Kent's role in Metropolis, Lex Luthor, etc. While we might still see those things, that focus is going to be diverted to reintroducing Batman into this universe. Do the team-up later.

Basically, Warner Bros doesn't believe they can do well with superhero movies that don't have Batman in them. "How do we sell Wonder Woman? Toss in Batman!" "We need to get the public to like Green Lantern, hey, let's throw in Batman!" "How do we adapt Sandman to the big screen? I know, Batman!" This is sad. Not to mention the fact that I think they're going to be over-saturating the Batman brand in the process.

I have no hopes for this thing, sorry.

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" sounds cool, though.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sorry I've not been around lately. Been busy getting the new house in order, we still have a lot of work to do. So here's a small rant, and I promise a return to "Tarantino Summer" very soon.

In the mean time...

Yeah, that was my reply on tumblr. And this claim has been driving me nuts for years now. As I've already said, some people really need to broaden their horizons. There seems to be a large group of people who think that pop culture began with Marvel and DC. Stop it, go read the classics.

Rant over.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gargoyles - Season Two, Volume Two

The ancient struggle between heroes and villains continues among the skyscrapers and bridges of a modern metropolis as GARGOYLES returns for a second season. It's an adventure one thousand years in the making!  
Goliath, Hudson, Broadway and Brooklyn are back from their stone-cold sleep and ready to save humanity from evil gargoyle clans, banshees and legendary monsters. But will Demona's diabolical plan to exterminate mankind prove to be the Gargoyles' final reckoning? Prepare for thrills and chills in this collectible 3-disc DVD set of GARGOYLES Season 2 Volume 2.

Yesterday, I finally received my copy of the long awaited "Gargoyles - Season Two, Volume Two." It's been nearly eight years since "Season One, Volume One" was released and nearly nine since "The Complete First Season" hit the shelves. But, after almost a decade of waiting, I finally have the complete run of "Gargoyles".

How does this release step up? Well, considering the long wait, I am deliriously happy to have it. But, on top of that, these are the uncut and uncensored versions of the episodes that have not been seen since 1997. When Gargoyles was aired in re-runs on the USA Network, they were chopped up... and when they moved to Toon Disney (now, Disney XD) they were chopped up even more. The action was toned down, some dialogue was removed; the series really suffered for it. My VHS recordings deteriorated over the years, and I haven't even owned a VCR in seven years... so it has been a long time since I've been able to see these episodes in their original format; and for that I can forgive anything.

There are no extras to speak of. No behind the scenes documentaries, no audio commentaries, nothing. This is a very bare-bones release. But, unlike the previous two DVD's, you have the option of skipping the introduction and even the "Previously on Gargoyles..." segment.  The episode selection menus look like the ones in "Season Two, Volume One" so they match up. Even the main menu matches up, despite having no animation to it this time.

The video and audio quality is great, I think it looks and sounds better than the previous releases, even. Very sharp.

The only real downside is that acquiring this DVD isn't all that simple. It has been officially released in only two venues. As a Disney Movie Club exclusive, and it pops up on the Buena Vista Catalogue Company's ebay store, although it is presently sold out there. The latter is an easy option, so keep an eye on it because it should be re-stocked soon. I suppose keeping this DVD in the vault for eight years was a great way to drive up demand, it's been a Disney Movie Club best seller since week one.

Is it perfect? No. Would special features have been nice? Of course. But that's always been gravy, the real meat is the episodes themselves, and we finally have them in an official commercial release. Stay away from bootlegs and torrents, because you are not getting the complete series, those are Toon Disney recordings. If you are a "Gargoyles" fan, you owe it to yourself to get this DVD. I had to jump through several hoops, but it was worth it. My favorite series now sits on my shelf.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Well, I've been out of the country and OUT OF THE LOOP, but we have some REALLY BIG news on the GARGOYLES front. 
Season Two, Volume Two of Gargoyles has been released on DVD as a Disney Movie Club exclusive. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm planning on getting at least a couple copies, as I'm told by reliable fan sources who have already received their disks that these are the uncut and correct versions of the last twenty-six episodes of Season Two, including such fan favorites as "M.I.A.", Future Tense" and all three parts of "Hunter's Moon". 
Wish I knew more. I've e-mailed a Disney contact for more info but haven't received a response yet. But you can probably find all the information you need by asking the fans in the comment room: 

Anyway, as always, I'm not asking you to spend money you don't have. But if you can afford it, please help us prove to Disney that Gargoyles is a viable property with a strong fanbase. You can do that in two important ways. (1) Buy the DVDs, of course. And (2) SPREAD THE WORD! Use Tumbler, Twitter, Pony Express, whatever. Just help us let people know that these DVDs exist and are out there for sale. 
I was waiting until CONvergence was over on Sunday to announce this, but it seems they've already made the announcement here: 
Next summer, one of my favorite conventions, CONVERGENCE in Minneapolis, will be dedicating their annual convention to the theme of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". And a major part of that theme will be the celebration of the TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF GARGOYLES!!! I'm going to be a guest of the convention, and we've already begun discussions to create a Gargoyles convention within the convention. That's right, folks, the GATHERING OF THE GARGOYLES is back!! There will be a RADIO PLAY! There will be a BLUE MUG!! There will be the ROCKY HORROR GARGOYLES SHOW-ING OF THE TRADITIONAL VIDEOS!! There will be ASK GREG LIVE!! And there will be other Gargoyles related guests to be announced!!! 
If you came to any one of the thirteen Gatherings that we held between 1997 and 2009, you know how much fun this can be. You'll want to be there again! If you missed the Gatherings and always wished you had had the opportunity, now is your chance! If you've never heard of the Gathering, but like Gargoyles (or any of the other shows I've done or am doing - including W.I.T.C.H., Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice, Rain of the Ghosts and/or Star Wars Rebels, etc.) then this is an opportunity to talk with me and other like-minded fans about them. (We'll probably have panels on them all!) 
And if you're interested in just attending a great comic book and science fiction and fantasy and genre convention, then Gargoyles aside, you just can't beat CONvergence: 

The camaraderie of the Gatherings was truly something wonderful, and the closest I've ever come to that outside the Gatherings is CONvergence. I honestly can't think of a better con to merge with, even if it's just for one year. (For starters, the ENTIRE hotel is rented to the convention, and the parties go on all night. No more being told by management that we have to stop talking and/or move to some other location. We can and will continue until we drop!) 
Now, let's think. Let's strategize. CONvergence is going on NOW. As I type this. And it will last through the end of this July 4th weekend. Next year's convention is exactly one year away. That's plenty of time to plan, to save up money, make travel and hotel arrangements etc. But mostly, what we've got to do in that year is SPREAD THE WORD!!! I want to see a HUGE GARGOYLE FAN TURNOUT at CONvergence 2014. Let's stun CONvergence, the world and DISNEY by showing them how immensely popular Gargoyles still is. And for sure, I don't want any Gargoyles fan saying, "Gee, I didn't hear about it." 
So help me, please. I'm sure there are a lot of old fans out there that long ago stopped reading ASK GREG. Contact them. Contact EVERY Gargoyles fan you know, young and/or old. (Don't assume they must already know.) I want to see all my old friends. And a lot of new ones. So, please. Help me. SPREAD. THE. WORD!!!!!!

I, for one, cannot wait!