Terror of Toony Town
to Part One
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Lee Presents The Condor
2007 (2007) - Starz (Anchor Bay)
As if to prove just how disastrous an animated direct-to-video
Hellboy could have been,
we have The Condor, the
latest attempt at an original superhero series from Stan "The
Man" Lee. As both a creator and a personality, Stan Lee has
engendered so much good will that I'm rooting for him every time
he tries something new. But the sad fact is that outside of the
Marvel Universe, Lee hasn't had much luck. The
Condor extends that dubious track record.
Wilmer Valderrama from That 70s Show
voices our hero, Tony Valdez, a spoiled brat of a rich kid whose
parents own a cutting-edge robotics corporation. Tony couldn't
care less about all that, focusing his energy on becoming a
professional skateboarder. But then his folks are killed by
their partner and he's beaten senseless, his legs left useless.
the robotics-expert-next-door who secretly loves Tony, uses the
nanotechnology to help him walk again and creates a high-tech
skateboard that inevitably makes him become a superhero.
By anybody's definition, this is pretty lame stuff. The material
tries desperately to be hip but it's clearly the work of older guys
who have no idea what kids today actually sound and act like. Tony
is a genuinely unlikable hero and his redemption as a superhero
isn't nearly enough to overcome his snotty behavior of the last
hour. If you've ever read a comic book before, you'll see every beat
of the story telegraphed eons before they arrive. The animation is
stiff and lifeless and Valderrama voices his character as if the
filmmakers simply recorded the very first table read of the script
and called it good.
The disc looks and sounds OK but the extras are as lame as the
movie itself. Stan Lee is all over them, offering up an introduction
and featuring prominently in the 12-minute featurette modestly
titled Meeting of the Giants.
He turns up again to offer his two cents on the characters in a
lengthy gallery section and yet again to cheer you on should you
choose to play Outskating, a
goofy interactive game. I've never had a good time playing any
non-trivia-based DVD game and this one is no exception.
I'm impressed that at his age, Stan Lee is still very much out
there, seemingly as active as ever, trying new things. I grew up on
his creations and nobody would be happier than me if he could come
up with another Spider-Man or Hulk at this stage of the game. But if
The Condor is the best he can
come up with, it's time to move on. Write your memoirs, keep making
cameos in Marvel movies, hell, bring back Stan's
Soapbox! But please, don't "present" any more
Program Rating: D
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/D+
2006 (2007) - Manga/Starz
The vast world of Japanese animation is something of a mystery
to me, I confess. I've enjoyed my share of anime features,
including the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. But I've
never been able to get into any of the anime series like Cowboy
Bebop or Neon Genesis
Evangelion. Frankly, the idea of devoting hour after
hour to the medium is a bit daunting. So I can't really say how
the first volume of Tokko
holds up to other anime series and can only suggest that it may
not be your ideal introduction to the form.
The five episodes collected here introduce us to Ranmaru
Shindo, a new investigator on the Mobile Investigation Force who
is one of the few survivors of a horrific apartment building
massacre years earlier that claimed the lives of his parents.
is plagued by cryptic dreams that begin to make sense when he
encounters a secret branch of the police department known as Tokko.
The Tokko taskforce always seems to be on the scene of mysterious,
ultra-bloody murders, armed with swords that take care of possessed
humans that bullets can't hurt. It appears that Ranmaru is destined
to join Tokko as well, although this volume doesn't take us far
enough into the series to say for sure.
The good news is that the animation here is bloody good fun, with
plenty of creepy demons and swordplay to provide eye candy. And if
you like your bloodletting with a healthy dose of Japanese power pop
and weird sexual tension between Ranmaru and his younger sister,
then Tokko is gonna send you
over the moon. It was all a bit much for my tastes. Neither the
story nor the style was compelling enough to make me all that
excited for Tokko 2 but hey,
at least it's better than The Condor.
The disc looks terrific and sounds pretty good with both Japanese
and English dubs available. The extras are limited to an image
gallery, the opening and closing songs presented without the credits
over the animation, and most amusingly, an excerpt from a Japanese Q&A
with three of the female voice talents. It's not very informative
but it's very Japanese, with odd music and multi-colored Japanese
subtitles plastered all over the screen.
Tokko isn't a bad series and
each episode has at least one sequence that's genuinely impressive.
Anime fans may have a better time with this than I did or at least
an easier one, since it does seem that you need to adopt a different
mindset before plunging into the world of serialized anime. If you
don't have it yet, you're probably better off starting with one
that's a bit more accessible.
Program Rating: C+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/C-
Ghostbusters: Volume One!
1986 (2007) - BCI Eclipse
I'm gonna be honest with you. I didn't really watch this show.
I played the discs, sure, and glanced up at the episodes once in
awhile to make sure that they were playing and looked OK. But
actually sit there and watch all 32 episodes? I couldn't do it.
Usually I do. I watched every second of H.R.
Pufnstuf and Dungeons &
Dragons for this column. But I couldn't make it
For the record, this is the syndicated cartoon show based on
Filmation's live-action TV show The
Ghost Busters. It follows the sons of the original
characters, Kong and Spenser, teamed up with Tracy the gorilla
as they... y'know, bust ghosts, usually foiling a scheme by the
nefarious Prime Evil.
concept was brought back to ride the coattails of the unrelated 1984
movie, only to run smack dab into a competing cartoon that was based
on the film. It's a mixture of comedy and adventure with
episode-ending positive reinforcement messages for the kids. It's no
better or worse than most other animated shows of the mid-80s, which
is part of its problem. Regardless of what property laid claim to
the title first, kids tuning in to a Ghostbusters
cartoon did not want to see a gorilla and a couple of
low-personality bumblers in safari gear. To distinguish itself from
the competing The Real Ghostbusters,
needed to stand apart and emerge as the clearly superior program. It
never really did.
If however you have fond memories of this show growing up, BCI
Eclipse and disc producer Andy Mangels have done their usual
superlative job bringing it to DVD. Picture quality is cleaned up as
much as humanly possible and while some dirt and scratches remain,
it's hardly noticeable. Special features are on disc six, perhaps
not as comprehensive as some releases from the company but still a
lot more than you might be expecting from a release like this.
Producer Lou Scheimer, writer Robby London and directors Tom Sito
and Tom Tataranowicz provide on-camera interviews, none of which are
particularly lengthy but are fairly interesting. Unfortunately,
Scheimer's piece is shortest and his comments are the least
illuminating. Animation fans will find a complete slideshow of the
storyboards for episode 22 and galleries of model sheets and
sketches. There's also the promo pilot sent to networks selling the
show, an anti-drug PSA, a gallery of promotional art and a PDF file
on DVD-ROM of the script to the ambitious five-part origin story
arc. Best of all is the complete first episode of the original
live-action series starring Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch with a
guest appearance by Billy Barty. If you still harbor doubts as to
which Ghostbusters came first,
this should lay those to rest. If nothing else, it's interesting to
compare the cartoon to its predecessor and as far as I'm concerned,
any excuse to see Billy Barty is a good one.
BCI Eclipse does a great job with these sets and I'm sure that fans
of this show will be thrilled to get it in their hot monkey paws.
And having seen what they're capable of on shows I'm not
particularly interested in, I'm eagerly awaiting that Jason
of Star Command set, fully aware of the fact that I run
the risk of wondering what I ever saw in the show in the first
Program Rating: C-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B+
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