Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

The second season of Who Wants to be a Superhero started last week. The show is off to a good start. To me, this is the perfect reality show. The people are not in it for the money - there isn't any. They are not making alliances or practicing politics. Most important - they are being judged on their character.

One woman slipped and fell during a test. She was distraught. Later, Stan Lee singled her out for praise. Yes, she slipped, but she got right back up again.

This show is tricky. The tests are seldom what they seem and often they are not even announced.

At the same time, the whole show has a silliness to it that keeps it from getting grim. You just can't take most of these heroes seriously. Heck - one of them is dressed as a french maid.

Monday, July 23, 2007

RIP Birdman

The Cartoon Channel killed Birdman last night.

The character began in the 1960s when superheroes ruled Saturday morning. Space Ghost was Hanna-Barberra's first realistic superhero. He was a big success and the next year saw nothing but superheroes. Space Ghost was in the future so they flipped it and gave us Mightor, a caveman with a club that could project energy beams. There was Shazam, a genie who fought evil sorcerers; the Herculoids a group of super-powered animals who fought off invading aliens; Atom Ant, an insect-sized hero; the Incredibles, a super-powered rock band; Frankenstein Jr, a super-powered robot; the Galaxy Trio; Underdog; Mighty Mouse; and Birdman.

Unlike other heroes, Birdman used wings to fly. He was solar-powered, able to project energy beams and force fields. He received assignments from a James Bond-inspired character with a tuxedo and an eyepatch who went by the code name Falcon 7. Birdman also had an intelligent eagle helper and both a Birdboy and a Birdgirl.

None of these series lasted to the following year. They were all canceled after an outcry about violence on TV.

Years later Space Ghost reappeared as a talk show host. Two of his villains were with him, one as the musician and the other as the producer/director. The show was a hit and launched Cartoon Chanel's Adult Swim. Birdman popped up a couple of times as a down-on-his-luck hero who needed a job.

Years later Birdman got his own show. This time he was Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. He worked for Phil Ken Seben (Falcon 7). He handled cases for the rest of the Hanna-Barberra universe. Boo Boo Bear was arrested as the Unibooboo Bomber. Fred Flintstone was a mob boss. It was often (but not always) brilliant.

But all good things come to an end and they gave him a great send-off. First, because of a technicality, he had to re-try all of his cases at once. Then he had to revert to being a superhero to fight a major villain.

Then he got run over by a bus.

Good bye, Harvey. I'll miss you.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Disney hyped the new Pixar release so hard that we were in no hurry to see Ratatouille so we waited until the 4th of July. In fact, we almost went to see Pirates again.

The quick take on Ratatouille is that Pixar has the animation Oscar in the bag. This is the best animated movie to come out in years - possibly the best since director Brad Bird's Incredibles.

You've seen the previews (if not the movie) so I don't have to say much about the premise. A gifted rat named Remy wants to cook. He joins forces with a low-level employee of Gusteau's, a formerly five star restaurant that now only has three stars.

The action scenes are amazing as is the animation. CGI has moved a long way past Toy Story. The movie captures the best of traditional animation and CGI.

While most of Pixar's movies have humans in some capacity, this is only Pixar's second movie to feature humans (and Brad Bird directed both). Hopefully this is will be a trend in the future. Too many CGI movies feature talking animals because it is easier.

One interesting conceit in Ratatouille, the rats can talk to themselves and understand humans but humans cannot understand rats. When humans are present, the movie uses rat sounds. Last year's Happy Feet did something similar.

Pixar's dedication to their art is impressive. They studied with real chefs and all of the food looks like what it is supposed to be. Watching the movie is guaranteed to make you hungry.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

PotC Inspirations

I was watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and I was struck by the number of images from this movie that were repeated in last year's Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest. Both feature a ship that resembles a fish and can move beneath the ocean. Both Davy Jones and Nemo have a large organ in their cabin which they play for consolation. Both movies feature an attack by a giant squid. We even see the mouth of each.

Surprisingly, both movies have cannibals and a scene with the cannibals chasing the hero across a beach.

20,000 Leagues was a big Disney hit when it came out in 1954 and inspired one of the rides at Disneyland so it is not surprising that the writers worked some of it in.