TV Review: Dungeons & Dragons (1983-1985)

Original Run: September 17th, 1983 – December 7th, 1985
Created by: Kevin Paul Coates, Dennis Marks, Takashi, Mark Evanier
Directed by: Bob Richardson, Karl Geurs
Written by: various
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast: Willie Aames, Don Most, Katie Leigh, Adam Rich, Tonia Gayle Smith, Teddy Field III, Sidney Miller, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Bob Holt

Toei Animation, Marvel Productions, Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Corporation, TSR, CBS, New World Television, 27 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I used to watch the shit out of this cartoon when I was really young. It was one of my favorite Saturday morning treats. However, I haven’t seen it since at least the early ’90s.

But like most animated series that were productions involving Japan’s Toei studio and Marvel, it was top quality stuff for its time and it has aged really well.

Sure, it’s hokey and goofy like kid’s cartoons are but it has a real charm about it and that charm is still effective.

I love the character designs of the show, especially in regards to the villain Venger and the five headed dragon, Tiamat. Also, Venger was voiced by Peter Cullen, best known as the voice of Optimus Prime while Tiamat was voiced by Frank Welker, best known as Megatron.

The show followed six Earth kids, their little unicorn named Uni and the impish Dungeon Master. The Earth kids were magically transported to the Dungeons & Dragons dimension through a theme park ride. I know, it sounds ridiculous but you didn’t care about stupid details or coherent plot when you were five years-old. Frankly, I don’t care about it now because the show works for what it is: a kid’s magical adventure.

Unfortunately, the show never had a proper ending and the kids never actually made it home within the episodes produced. I guess it can be assumed that they eventually saw their parents again but hopefully that happened before they were in their forties.

Anyway, this is still a really cool show. I even showed a few episodes to my nephew and he dug it with his discriminatory 2019 standards.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s fantasy cartoons like Masters of the Universe, Captain N the Gamemaster, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries, ThundercatsSilverhawks, etc.

TV Review: Star Blazers (1979-1984)

Original Run: 1979-1984
Created by: Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Space Battleship Yamato
Music by: Hiroshi Miyagawa
Cast: Kenneth Meseroll, Eddie Allen, Amy Howard Wilson, Mike Czechopoulos, Jack Grimes, Chris Latta, Lydia Leeds, Corinne Orr, Gordon Ramsey, Tom Tweedy

Academy Productions, Group TAC, Yomiuri TV, Claster Television, Sunwagon Productions, Westchester Film Corporation, ARP Films, Inc., 77 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I know that I watched Star Blazers way, way back in the day. I was certainly very young when I saw it, which had to be around the time that I first discovered Robotech. In fact, I remember thinking that they were the same universe and wasn’t sure how they fit together. But I was like six years-old and stupid.

I’ve always wanted to see this since then but the VHS and DVD sets were always too expensive for me to get the whole saga. However, I was able to access it through a friend recently and I’m glad to say that this is definitely on the level and as good as my little mind remembered it.

Star Blazers predates Robotech (or the original Macross) by about a decade and it is pretty clear that Robotech borrowed from this show very heavily. Robotech differs in that their fighter jets transform into robots but other than that, the shows are incredibly similar between space battleships, space fighter jets, all the primary characters being military personnel and fighting a humanoid alien race with bluish skin.

What’s very apparent is that Star Blazers is the godfather of what became anime television. Without this show, there might not have been Robotech (in all its incarnations), GundamEvangelion and the more recent Knights of Sidonia.

This show was a trendsetter and it inspired generations of sci-fi creators. Star Blazers has exciting stories, fun characters, cool vehicles and a solid amount of cosmic swashbuckling. What’s not to like?

Frankly, this show is a bonafide classic in its genre.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: later Space Battleship Yamato shows and films, as well as ’80s Robotech stuff.

TV Review: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (2016- )

Original Run: November 29th, 2016 – current
Created by: Leah Remini, Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Alex Weresow
Music by: various
Cast: Leah Remini, Mike Rinder

No Seriously Productions, The Intellectual Property Corporation, A&E, 36 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I never really had any intention of watching this but I had a few friends always bring it up to me, so I checked it out. To be frank, I don’t give a shit about religion, regardless of what the belief system is.

Anyway, I also know that just about every documentary has an agenda and that the truth is usually somewhere outside of the idea being pushed.

However, this is pretty compelling and it lets people tell their own stories in their own words. Sure, Leah Remini has an ax to grind and she sometimes steers the conversation but her ax seems like it is genuine and the more I learn about Scientology, the more I can understand why she feels that getting all of this out in the open is so important. And honestly, I support her in that.

When you start watching this show, it is hard to turn away. And as more is revealed through the testimonials of former Scientologists, the more interesting the show gets because there are so many layers to the bizarre beliefs and culture of Scientology. And really, it definitely comes across as a legitimate cult in how it tries to control and police its members.

The show can get repetitive after awhile but each episode features a new person with a new story. The thing is, everyone’s account of the way this church is run all lines up from episode to episode and if this was just a bunch of people trying to attack the church in ways that weren’t honest, I think it’d become pretty apparent. But everyone seems to consistently hit the same points.

I think this show is compelling in how it gives you an real insider’s view into the Church of Scientology but it also grabs you and holds on because so much of this seems so unbelievable. That is, until you start hearing similar stories from so many former Scientologists.

In the end, I believe Leah Remini and the people featured on the show. There’s just too much consistency from story to story for this to be a dishonest, bitter condemnation of Scientology.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Scientology.

TV Review: Doctor Who – The Eleventh Doctor Era (2010-2013)

Original Run: April 3rd, 2010 – December 25th, 2013
Created by: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Murray Gold
Cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Jenna Coleman, Alex Kingston

BBC, 44 Episodes, 45-77 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

When the era of the Tenth Doctor came to an end, it was a hard day. But then Matt Smith came on board as the Eleventh Doctor and right out the gate, even if I didn’t love him as much as David Tennant, he was, in many ways, an incredible Doctor.

I think the thing that makes this era of Doctor Who so damn good, is that the show had new blood calling the shots behind the scenes. Russell T. Davies moved on, the reigns were given to Steven Moffat and he did a great job in the first few seasons as show runner. Granted, his era went on for too long and it was pretty lackluster by the end but in the first two seasons of the Matt Smith era, almost every episode seemed to hit the right chords.

Additionally, this era had my favorite Doctor/companion relationship with Matt Smith’s Doctor and Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as the Ponds, Amy and Rory. Also, add in the great performances by Alex Kingston and this group of friends had the best ensemble chemistry out of any Doctor/companion/ensemble lineup in history. And really, it is absolutely the strength of that ensemble that makes this era so f’n spectacular.

Now once the Ponds leave the show and Jenna Coleman comes in as Clara, things sort of fall apart. Coleman was actually fun, in the beginning, and I liked her storyline up until Smith left Doctor Who behind. However, the second half of Smith’s final season, which focused on the Doctor and Clara instead of the Doctor and the Ponds, felt like a dark time in the show. I wasn’t sure why, at the time, but the tone was changing, leading up to Peter Capaldi’s run as the Twelfth Doctor and the era where the show really fell apart for me. In fact, it never really recovered after the exit of the Ponds, except for a handful of Kingston episodes after that.

Had the Eleventh Doctor’s run not have been so dark and almost depressing in the last eight or so episodes, it could have equaled and maybe surpassed Tennant’s run, overall.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth Doctors’ runs.

Documentary Review: Namath (2012)

Also known as: Namath: From Beaver Falls to Broadway (complete title)
Release Date: January 28th, 2012
Written by: Ousie Shapiro
Music by: David Robidoux
Cast: Joe Namath, Liev Schreiber (narrator)

NFL Films, HBO, 86 Minutes

Review:

Joe Namath played before my time but growing up, he was always a former NFL great that older generations always told me about. He had a mystique about him and was a real legend on and off the field.

Once ESPN Classic came into existence and I was really into watching NFL Films productions in my teen years, I really got to see and understand why people loved him. And frankly, I loved him too. He had style and a panache that was unparalleled for the time. In high school, I owned a Namath throwback jersey.

Joe Namath also had that moment where he predicted and guaranteed a Superbowl win when his New York Jets were 17 point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts. But he won and that prediction became as legendary as Babe Ruth pointing to the stands to call his most famous homerun.

In the years since, Joe Namath has had alcohol problems that were made pretty apparent to the public. He’s since gotten help and is living a much better, booze free life but the partying playboy went through rough patches.

This documentary was a really entertaining watch for fans of the game and the man. It doesn’t shy away from Namath’s demons and Joe even goes into depth talking about them and why they existed in the first place. But the real focus of the documentary is on the man’s life, not just his personal faults.

I thought that this was fair and it let Namath clear the air and genuinely express his remorse for certain actions. It also showed how cool Suzy Kolber is in how she handled the situation that involved her because she knew Joe was in a really bad place, at the time.

I love old school football. This documentary just cemented that further and it made me really respect Joe Namath more so than I did already.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documetnaries about the NFL, most notably ESPN 30 For 30 films and HBO documentaries.

TV Review: Brockmire (2017- )

Original Run: April 5th, 2017 – current
Created by: Joel Church-Cooper, Hank Azaria
Directed by: Tim Kirkby
Written by: various
Based on: character created by Hank Azaria
Music by: Adam Blau
Cast: Hank Azaria, Amanda Peet, Tyrel Jackson Williams, Toby Huss, Carrie Preston, Martha Plimpton

Funny Or Die, How 2 Pictures, IFC, 16 Episodes (so far), 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is one of those shows I wanted to watch from the get go but I rarely use cable anymore and kept forgetting about it. But I saw that it was on Hulu, at least the first two seasons, so I finally gave it a watch.

For starters, I’ve always enjoyed Hank Azaria in just about everything and his pairing with Amanda Peet, here, is really enjoyable. They have good chemistry and I was kind of caught off guard by how well they work together.

Additionally, I have been a big baseball fan my entire life and there just aren’t enough baseball television shows. This really fills that void and while it has a similar comedic and dramatic style as another IFC show, Maron, it also calls back to the film Bull Durham a bit. Also, a lot of the baseball team shenanigans reminds me a lot of Eastbound & Down, the Major League movies and the hockey comedy Goon.

Brockmire goes deeper than the laughs on its surface. It is a real character study of the title character and how complicated his life is and how he is trying to overcome the pain of his past. Azaria really hits the ball out of the park with his performance. There are times where the character can be a real dick but there is a very damaged man beneath the surface that is easy to relate to in just how human Azaria makes him.

Peet is both fiery and adorable and her character is just as strong as Azaria’s and she is a good balance to him. Man, I really love her in this and while I’ve liked a lot of her roles in the past, this may be the best she’s been. She owns it, completely.

In the end, this is a show about a wrecked human being trying to pick up the pieces. It’s certainly not a new concept and it’s a narrative style that comes with its own tropes but Azaria keeps things fresh and even at Brockmire’s worst, it’s hard not to root for him.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: MaronEastbound & Down, GLOW, the Major League films, Bull Durham and Goon.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 12 – Spotlight on Whilce Portacio (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Whilce Portacio

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 52 Minutes

Review:

Well, this is it, the final episode of The Comic Book Greats. There was one more video released after this one but that was a “best of” compendium of all the episodes. I’d also like to review that one but it’s not up streaming anywhere that I can find. If it does become available, at some point, I’ll check it out and let you know how it is.

This series really did go out on a bang, though. I didn’t know what to expect from this episode as I never saw it and I also haven’t seen much with Whilce Portacio in other interviews. But I have always liked his work, especially the stuff he did on X-MenX-Factor and his own creation for Image Comics, Wetworks.

Portacio is very engaging and had a good rapport with Stan Lee. Lee seemed genuinely fascinated by Whilce and his backstory, especially regarding Filipino culture.

Whilce also does a good job at the drawing table, discussing his technique during his creation process. Like the other Image guys that had videos before this one, I think Whilce would make a good teacher.

It’s kind of sad that this is the last episode of the series, I feel like there were a lot of other greats that the series could have showcased but this final episode was pretty darn good and a solid end to the series.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.