Arlo Beauregard (Michael J. Woodard) is a singing and dancing anthropomorphic alligator who was found as a baby by a swamp-dweller named Edmée (Annie Potts). She raises him to adolescence, but finally tells him that he has a father named Ansel (Vincent Rodriguez III) in New York City. Arlo sets out into the world and meets a giantess named Bertie (Mary Lambert) who saves him from a group of hillbillies aiming to kidnap him: Ruff, Stucky, and The Beast (Flea, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Tatasciore). The pair then encounter a group of scamming wrestlers: Tiger girl Alia, pink furball Furlecia, fish-man Marcellus, and rodent leader Teeny-Tiny Tony (Haley Tju, Jonathan Van Ness, Brett Gelman, Tony Hale). Together, the whole squad heads up north to New York to try and reconnect Arlo with his father.
So, at the end of this film, it’s revealed that the entire thing was a pilot for a show called I Heart Arlo which apparently revolves around the cast of this film trying to revitalize a dilapidated neighborhood near New York. It’s not unusual for a show to do a feature-length pilot, usually a two or three episode arc, but this is the second one I can think of where a completely independent movie tells its own story just to set up the world and then the show takes it from there. The first was Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which people seem to forget was a movie first. The world this film builds is sufficiently interesting to set-up a lot more stories, but it does it in a way that feels incidental to the story.
The characters are surprisingly well-crafted for a movie like this, mostly due to the fact that the majority of them are foils for Arlo’s outgoing nature, optimism, and innocence. I mean, there aren’t a lot of kids films where they introduce some of the heroes as people who are faking losing a deathmatch in order to scam people for money. Also, the fact that Furlecia, who is a giant pink furball, is the wrestler just makes it that much better. We don’t get a full picture of all of their backstories, but we do get a fairly clear image of who they are, and that’s enough for something like this.
As far as the plot, it’s a pretty straightforward odyssey going from the swamp to the Big City. It’s been done before, so the focus is mostly on the feelings of the people involved rather than the plot. The musical numbers are pretty great. They vary in style throughout the film, but many of them are akin to big Broadway numbers which are in line with the movie’s New York setting. The character designs are excellent as are the settings.
Overall, not a bad movie, but the fact still remains that it holds back on a lot of stuff just to save it for later. I’m sure the show will be fun for kids.
The creator of Powerpuff Girls teams up with a murderer’s row of talent to bring Netflix this show.
Kid (Jack Fisher) is a nerdy kid who dreams of becoming a superhero. One day, he witnesses an alien spacecraft crash and finds five stones which he turns into “rings of power,” despite having NO reason to believe they have powers. However, his instincts turn out to be true and the stones do, in fact, give powers to anyone that wears them, granting him the power of flight. He soon forms a superhero team out of the few people who live nearby: His 4-year-old neighbor Rosa (Lily Rose Silver) gains the ability to grow huge as “Nina Gigantica;” his friend Jo (Amanda C. Miller) becomes “Portal Girl,” mistress of portals; his grandfather Papa G (Keith Ferguson) can make clones of himself as “Old Man Many Men;” and his cat, Tuna Sandwich (Fred Tatasciore), gains the ability to see the future as Precognitive Cat. Together, they must save the Earth from alien threats, including their mostly-captive and sarcastic nemesis Stuck Chuck (Tom Kenny). Unfortunately, it turns out that while they do have superpowers, they’re not very good at using them.
When I saw the ad for this show, I assumed it was a crappy kids show that would quickly be forgotten. Unfortunately, given the lack of attention it’s getting, most people must have assumed the same. The only reason I tried it was because I saw that it was created by Craig McCracken, the creator of The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and Wander Over Yonder. While the only one I ever watched was Powerpuff Girls, I do know that these were supposed to be quality series, so I gave this show a shot and it was amazing. It turns out that it’s not just McCracken, though. Almost every episode has contributions from other great directors and writers, including DuckTales creator Francisco Angones, Amy Higgins from Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch, and My Life as a Teenage Robot creator Rob Renzetti, to name just a few. Lot of talent on the show, is what I’m saying.
The premise of “superteam that just isn’t competent” is definitely not new, but there are few shows that play it as well as this. Part of it is that the team members aren’t exactly suited for their particular abilities, given that the strongest member is an uncontrollable child, the precognitive member can’t speak, and the person who can make clones of himself is a fairly weak old man. However, the show not only demonstrates them getting better at using their abilities in creative ways over time, the show also keeps changing up some of the core dynamics so that the central conceit of “incompetent heroes” never gets stale. I’ve never seen a show so willing to change its premise so many times in just 10 short episodes, but it works. Instead of focusing on episodic adventures, the show focuses on the emotional journeys of the characters as they deal with these changes and that makes it much deeper than you’d expect from this kind of series.
The art style takes a little getting used to. It’s designed to replicate older Newspaper Strips like Dennis the Menace and it definitely stands out a lot among modern series, but it may also throw you off. However, like Into the Spiderverse, once you get used to it, it really feeds into the themes and characterization of the show. It also helps make a number of art conceits easier to accept, like flying saucers or 1950s style aliens. By the end, I was sold on it.
Overall, just a great show that needs more people to watch it. There are hopefully two more seasons on the way, so maybe it’ll get a little more attention by then.
We get a look at all of the fun and adventure that happens to the flunkies of the Federation.
Welcome aboard the starship U.S.S. Cerritos. Captained by the capable Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) and staffed by First Officer Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell), Lieutenant Shaxs (Fred Tatasciore), and Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman), they boldly go to all the places that other, better ships have just discovered. However, we don’t really care about them, because the party is down a few floors in the lower decks. It’s got Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), a drunken ensign so disrespectful that she’s been kicked off multiple ships; Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), an ambitious ensign that often takes Mariner’s abuse; D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells), a medical ensign who is super enthused about being on a starship; and Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), an engineering ensign who is adjusting to his recent cyborg status. Together, these four… exist.
I think at this point I’ve mentioned that I am a fan of Star Trek roughly fifty times on here, including putting multipleepisodes on my 100 Greatest Episodes List, so I’ll skip most of my fanboying and just say that I was probably going to like anything that adds to the franchise that’s better than Enterprise (minus the Mirror Universe stuff). This was definitely better than Enterprise (Sorry, Bakula).
When The Orville came out, I figured that was the closest that I would ever get to a mostly-official comedy Star Trek series, unless they actually made a show out of Galaxy Quest. However, while both of those mostly parodied the original Star Trek, this show couldn’t really try to do that, since the events of Star Trek actually happened here. By setting itself in the universe it was going to mess with, this show ironically had to be a bit more of its own animal. It reminds me a bit more of Futurama than those parodies, but the animation style is more modern and frenetic. On a side note, I think it’s interesting that the first season is set in the year 2380, meaning that, aside from Star Trek: Picard, this show is set the furthest in the future of any Star Trek series. At the end of the first episode, we even hear Mariner start to name drop many of the main characters of the original show and The Next Generation. I don’t think they referenced Deep Space Nine or Voyager, but it’s possible that, since Voyager only got back two years before this show, maybe the full extent of their adventures haven’t become public.
The humor in this show is a little more graphic and a little more base than you might expect from Star Trek, but I still enjoyed it. It makes for a bigger contrast between the typically clinical and sterile settings that we usually expect aboard a starship and the messy, gooey, and sometimes a bit freaky things that Mariner and Boimler get into. Another aspect of the humor appears to derive from how much the crew has become immunized to the chaos that fills an average episode of a Star Trek show. They’re shown to carry on leisurely conversations while dealing with a viral outbreak akin to a zombie horde, which makes some sense, given how often crazy things like this happen. The show also takes shots at the other series’ common trope of attributing all of the successes to the command staff at the expense of the many other people that help keep the ship running and provide support.
Overall, while we’re only two episodes into the show, I think it’s got potential. If you’re a Trekkie, you’ve gotta watch it. If you’re a fan of Futurama, you should probably check it out. If you’re neither… well, try it anyway.
Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy/sci-fi world comes to a final chapter.
Starting right where 3Below left off, it turns out that alien gods and Troll lords were not the only threat to Arcadia and the world at large. The forces of darkness, commanded by the Green Knight, have been attacking Jim Lake, Jr. (Emile Hirsch), the Trollhunter, along with Merlin (David Bradley), Blinky (Kelsey Grammer), and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Medrano), resulting in Jim being mortally wounded. Merlin picks up his apprentice Hisirdoux “Douxie” Casperan (Colin O’Donoghue), along with Douxie’s familiar Archie (Alfred Molina), Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton), Aaarrrgghh (Fred Tatasciore), and Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun). They arrive in the now-floating city of Camelot, only for an attack by the Green Knight to send Douxie, Claire, Jim, and Steve back in time to the original reign of King Arthur (James Faulkner). Now they have to try to preserve the past and stop Morgan le Fay (Lena Headey) and the Arcane Order to save the present, with the help of some of the people of the past, including the troll Callista (Stephanie Beatriz), Sir Galahad (John Rhys-Davies), and Sir Lancelot (Rupert Penry-Jones).
So, it turns out that there’s a movie coming out next year, so this won’t be the last entry into the Tales of Arcadia series. Still, this is the culmination of four years of television and two prior series (Trollhunters and 3Below) that were from relatively different genres, and that deserves respect. I can’t ever really tell how much Guillermo Del Toro was involved in the actual plotting of the shows, but even if he just came up with the premises of the three shows, I have to give him credit for coming up with several distinct worlds that all intersect in interesting ways. Obviously, given that he wrote a book of it, he put most of the work into Trollhunters, but the other two series manage to keep expanding and compounding the mythology in interesting ways until the conclusion.
The show’s main focus is on Douxie, which works well because he’s been a secondary character up until this point but his design, voice actor, and the way characters interact with him has always made him stand out appropriately. He was first shown to be a musician in the third season of Trollhunters, something that doesn’t really come up for part of this series, then becomes relevant towards the end. Douxie benefits from being both young in spirit but also over 900 years old, giving him a wealth of experience. Compared to anyone aside from Merlin, whose approval he craves, Douxie is a powerhouse, but since Merlin is always there, he has massive insecurities. It makes him an easy protagonist to get behind. As for returning characters, Steve Palchuck maintains his status as comic relief, Claire and Jim maintain their dynamic as protagonist couple with added magic baggage, and Merlin continues to be an overbearing jerk who has the terrible trait of usually being right.
I’ll admit that the show’s biggest drawback is that it is only one season of ten episodes. They manage to wrap up a bunch of plotlines, but it is done really quickly, leaving a lot of things to feel like deus ex machinae. We get some happy endings and quality story moments, but it comes at you so fast that you don’t really get a proper amount of time to react to the information before the next thing. Still, being able to rely on the past shows allows them to shortcut a lot of the storytelling, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it would with many shows.
Overall, a really solid conclusion to the Tales of Arcadia… or it would be, except they’re doing a movie next year and that’ll probably lead to more shows. Which is cool, cuz I enjoy this universe.
Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia Trilogy wraps up the second act in a solid season of sci-fi and fantasy comedy.
It’s been a few weeks since the events of the Season 1 finale that coincided with the final episode of Trollhunters. Arcadia is now aware that trolls exist, but the troll battle managed to conceal the presence of any alien life, including the Akiridion protagonists Aja and Krel Tarron (Tatiana Maslany and Diego Luna), as well as their dog Luug (Frank Welker) and their ship’s AI Mother (Glenn “Yes, that Glenn Close” Close). They are joined by Akiridion-5 Lieutenant Zadra (Hayley Atwell), who arrived last season to save them from Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman), who is revealed to have aided General Morando (Alon Aboutboul) in overthrowing the planet before changing back to serve the royals. Varvatos Vex ended up imprisoned on the moon by the Zeron Brotherhood (Darin De Paul and Ann Dowd).
The siblings are still being pursued by bounty hunters, including the powerful Trono (Danny Trejo), sought by the US Government, particularly Colonel Kubritz (Uzo Aduba) who is now willing to start dealing with some devils to get the Akiridion Royals, and soon will face threats to Earth, Akiridion, and the very universe itself.
This season was a massive step up in a lot of ways.
First, it moves the timeline past the end of Trollhunters and the changes to Arcadia that arose from the events of the series finale are played out through this season. A lot of the supporting cast are now quite a bit funnier and more absurd now that the world itself has become more absurd, particularly Stuart the alien (Nick Frost), Coach Steve (Thomas F. “I’m not just Biff” Wilson), and Principal Uhl (Fred Tatasciore). Each of them is just a little bit more exaggerated than their already unusual character traits had allowed and it really helps. Expanding Colonel Kubritz’s role, particularly in a world that has just dealt with an apocalyptic scenario, creates a more compelling villain who progressively represents the kind of hypocritical and almost insane xenophobia seen throughout the world.
Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun) and Eli Pepperjack (Cole Sand) have evolved from just their roles as the stereotypical bully and nerd to being legitimate heroes, something that both feels natural and compelling. Making them have such major character arcs without having them be the main characters of either series is a great set-up for their presumably bigger role in the third Tales from Arcadia series, Wizards.
One expansion that I don’t actually think worked was playing up the role of Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton) as the comic relief. Without Jim Lake (Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.)/Emile Hirsch) and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Madrano) to balance them out and provide emotional moments, Toby and AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore) rely too hard on the “dumb, weird characters” archetype in this season. Granted, the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy does work at several points, including having AAARRRGGHH’s magical nature basically trump a sci-fi trope in a humorous way, but it still needed to give them a little more maturity.
There are a lot of decent gags in the season as well. I particularly love all the jokes about the Foo-foos, a race of robot rabbits on the moon. It’s simultaneously a reference to “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” even having characters threaten to bop them on the head, and to the Asian myth of the rabbit on the moon. Also, their primary battle strategy is breeding an army quickly, because… rabbits breed. Get it? Get it??? GET IT??? Eh, still, it’s mostly funny. Also, they take some solid shots at Michael Bay and I love that.
One thing that really plays well is the season’s theme, because it’s much more coherent than in the last one. This season is mostly about intolerance and the fact that we as humans tend to immediately want to isolate people that are strange to us, but that it’s ultimately better to try to work together. It comes at it from a number of directions and I think it mostly gets the point across without being too preachy.
Overall, it’s a pretty solid show for kids. I’d recommend parents work it into the rotation. If you’re an adult, well, you can enjoy it, too.
Guillermo Del Toro takes an imaginative crack at a kids show.
Jim Lake Jr. (Anton Yelchin/Emile Hirsch) is a high-school outcast, because he’s the protagonist and that’s pretty much the only thing a teen protagonist can be since Peter Parker. One day, while biking to school with his friend Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton), he finds an amulet in what appears to be the remains of a shattered statue. Naturally, it turns out that it’s really a magical talisman left by Merlin (David Bradley) and the statue was actually the remains of its last wielder, the Troll Kanjigar (Tom Hiddleston/James Purefoy). Jim is gifted with the title of “Trollhunter,” the protector of all the good trolls and the slayer of evil ones. Jim is the first human to hold the title. It’s revealed that Jim’s hometown, Arcadia, is actually built on top of a portal to “Trollmarket,” a magical kingdom where Trolls live peacefully, for the most part. However, there is an evil troll named Gunmar (Clancy Brown) who, along with his son, Bular (Ron Perlman), is trying to take over the world. The only thing keeping both the troll and human worlds safe is Jim, along with Toby, his tutor Blinkous (Kelsey Grammer), his protector AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore), and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Medrano), a gifted martial artist and magically-inclined human.
This show’s strength is world-building. Almost everything about the set-up is a cliche that we’ve seen a thousand times before, but the show uses the audience’s familiarity with the set-up to quickly start expanding its mythology and its setting. The recurring characters each become well fleshed-out and distinct as the show goes on. The locations are all interesting designs that each convey a lot more than any of the characters say, something that always gets credit from me. The villainous monsters-of-the-week, too, are usually very clever concepts or at least visually stimulating, ranging from hive-minded goblins who have amusing idiosyncrasies to mummy assassins.
The main strength of the show is that it’s not really “happy” like most kids shows from my youth. The good guys are good and the bad guys are, for the most part, bad, but we do get a lot of gray areas and the entire series constantly has a bittersweet tone. Everyone has to compromise for victory and the mark of the heroic characters is knowing when and where to make those compromises so that they don’t end up destroying the things that they were trying to preserve. The characters make mistakes, sometimes grave ones, when they try to make those calls, and they keep getting more and more consequences for their actions as the series progresses. The emotional growth of the characters is also a big part of the series, with everyone changing a great deal in order to deal with all of the events they go through.
The animation style is going to be divisive, but I thought it was actually pretty spectacular for a television series. The character designs are simple enough for ease of computer animation, but are all distinct enough that you never get anyone confused. Action sequences are, for the most part, very good for this kind of series. It takes a while for them to get more creative than slash and stab, but once it gets there, we start to get fairly inventive sequences.
Overall, this isn’t the best animated series for adults out there (BoJack Horseman exists), and it starts slow, but kids will like it and it does get better over time as you become more invested in the world that you’re watching. It also serves as the first chapter of Tales of Arcadia, which looks to be a very interesting meta-series, combining Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and whatever Wizards turns out to be.
I didn’t intend to see this movie. I didn’t really hear much about this film aside from it existing. But, I was walking back past the theater and it was the next film that started that seemed worth seeing. And I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.
So, I loved the original Teen Titans cartoon. I thought it was well-crafted, well-animated, well-voiced, had great characters that were complex while still being relatable, and had some great plotlines that allowed all those things to shine. But, it came to an end and was reborn as Teen Titans Go! which was… different. Truthfully, I only watched like 3 episodes of the new show (one of which was about assembling a sandwich, another about waffles, and another that was about thwarting a pizza boy, so food is clearly a big thing in the show) before stopping because I just didn’t think it was that funny. It was lighter, to be sure, and definitely was supposed to be a comedy rather than a superhero show, but it was not my thing. Even with the same voice actors (WHO ARE ALL AMAZING), it still just didn’t grab me.
Then I watched this movie. If someone could tell me that the rest of the series after I quit watching was like this film, I would probably go binge it all right now. Hell, I probably will anyway, because this was actually pretty well done. Is it perfect? No, but it was funny and original, which is more than I can give most comedies.
SUMMARY (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE LITERALLY NEVER SEEN A TRAILER)
So, in the Teen Titans universe, every superhero has a movie (and the real ones are parodied and mocked mercilessly) despite also being real superheroes. One person who really wants their own movie is Robin (Scott Menville), leader of the Teen Titans, consisting of Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Raven (Tara Strong), and Cyborg (Khary Payton). The movie consists mostly of them trying to get a movie made, part of which is finding their arch nemesis in the form of Slade (Will Arnett), a villain trying to take over the world, and part of it is convincing Director Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell) to make the movie.
First off, this movie is a DC Fan’s dream. There are references to DC comics, movies, and TV series in basically every shot of the city, ranging from the obvious (Mr. Freeze Pops) to the obscure (The Challengers of the Unknown are actually a minor plot point!) to the ridiculous (there’s a poster for the film Jonah Rex, a T-Rex version of Jonah Hex that should totally be real). There are animation sequences designed to mimic the live-action movies, the DC Animated Universe, the Arrowverse TV Shows, and even Superfriends. The cameos are so frequent I think it’s harder to think of a property that WASN’T in the movie than one that was. And so much of them are used as in-universe product placements that it really makes me think that this entire world runs on superheros. If you’re like me and you think that postmodern style mashups between all of these properties can be funny, then you will be laughing throughout… often at jokes that nobody else got. Laugh anyway.
Second, there are the meta-gags. There are so many of these sprinkled throughout, like everyone mistaking Slade for Deadpool (because Deadpool was a rip-off of Slade’s identity of Deathstroke) or calling Superman (voiced by Nicolas Cage) a “National Treasure.” There are at least two “this is Nicolas Cage voicing Superman” jokes that I caught and I’m sure there are more. There are countless jokes about how much DC and Marvel are willing to exploit their IP as much as possible. There is a cameo that makes fun of Stan Lee cameos. There are jokes about the fact that people will continually see superhero films at the expense of any other form of entertainment. There’s even a running gag about how overpowered Raven is and lampshading how boring a movie of a character like that fighting villains onscreen might actually be. The jokes just keep coming, sometimes buried under other jokes.
Then there are just the bizarre gags, like having an 80s-style song called “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” by MICHAEL FREAKING BOLTON that plays out like you’re on LSD or having the group poop in a prop toilet on a movie set. They’re mostly for the kids but, like I said, sometimes they’re actually just the set-up for a much better joke. And the last line of the film made me laugh for like 5 straight minutes, because it was just such a bizarre shot at children’s movie moralizing. There are also several that I don’t think I got because I didn’t really watch the show, but the fact that they mostly were still entertaining was a good sign.
It honestly made me think of Arrested Development in the way that the humor was just kind of shotgunned at you from every direction. It just wasn’t quite as clever as the writing on Arrested Development, but, again, it’s ostensibly a kids’ movie. Some of the jokes had to be made for kids, but I don’t think they all really speak down to them. Maybe a better comparison is The Lego Batman Movie: you can enjoy it as is and think it’s funny, but the more you know about the property and the world in general, the more you enjoy the movie. Granted, Lego Batman was a better film in general, but that’s a really high bar.
The casting in the movie is perfect, with most of the characters being voiced not by people who would play them in movies, but by people who just love the characters they’re voicing. It gives even the minor cameos a passion that adds something to the experience.
As to the plot, it comes off less as a traditional film and more a collection of 15-minute episodes that loosely interconnect until the 30-minute finale, but, honestly, it worked out great, because you never got bored nor knew exactly what gag was going to come next.
Overall, the only real “problem” with the movie is that it is still a kids’ film. The humor is either referential or juvenile, without a ton of other jokes for people who don’t love DC and are old enough that a 2-minute fart joke is 90 seconds too long. But, I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Hell, there are probably 3 scenes in it that are so funny that I would recommend seeing the movie just to see them.
If you love comic books or have kids, you need to see this movie. Oh, and if *SPOILER* the end credit stinger is true, and we are getting a sixth season of the original Teen Titans show (which Cartoon Network started re-running last year, so it’s very possible), then just finding out about that early might be worth the ticket price.