Author Archives: Dennis Burdziak
Kung Fu Panda 2 Review
This weekend I took my kids (3 and 5 year old boys) to see Kung Fu Panda 2, which, as the TV ads think is very important to remind me, stars Jack Black as the lead character Po.
In this sequel, Po and the Furious Five must defend China against the evil peacock Lord Shen, his secret weapon, and his army of wolves. Po is a kung fu master straight from the beginning of the movie, and while he bumbles through parts of his adventure, his character has changed grown up a little since the first movie. Of course, though, Po must learn a valuable lesson about himself and kung fu in order to save the day. It’s not the most original plot, following the first one’s formula pretty closely, but it’s a fun movie to take the kids to.
The movie delivers on beautiful animation, cool action sequences, including a fun chase scene through the city, and the usual over-the-top kung fu fights, including plenty of Furious Five action. Of course, it’s a comedy, and there are some good laughs in there, too (thankfully, a few less easy fat jokes than the last one). The flashback sequences deliver some handsome stylized 2D animation, which I liked as a device to show kids the difference between present day andPo’s memories.
Several jokes are recycled from the first movie, though not as many as you might expect from a kids’ animated movie trying to stick to a formula. It seems pretty obvious, too, that they’re setting the franchise up for another sequel at the end of this one. It’s also worth sitting through the credits, there is no Skeletor-type post credits moment, but the entire sequence is shown against a pretty cool changing art backdrop.
Overall I enjoyed it, and my boys loved it. I had a hard time keeping my enthusiastic 3 year old in his seat during the fight scenes. If you or your kids liked the original, I recommend seeing the Kung Fu Panda 2.
Hey Kids… Podcasts! Part 3
Mike and Kobe have recommended their favorite podcasts in previous posts, but I’d like to bring your attention to a few shows myself. These are fairly popular shows that feature more non-professional performers. Please note, all these podcasts are explicit and probably not for listening to while the kids are around.
The Geekshow Podcast: Recorded in Salt Lake City, the Geekshow features a large and sometimes changing cast of panelists who discuss the latest in comics, movies, TV and other pop culture topics. The panel will be the first to remind you not to take your fandom too seriously, they certainly don’t. The show features local Salt Lake City morning radio personality Kerry Jackson, and a couple professional movie (Jimmy and Jeff) and television (Scott) critics. The real reasons to listen, though, are the two regular guys on the show, Lee and Shannon. Check out an episode or two and you’ll see what I mean. This show is definitely NSFW and hilarious.
Tell ‘Em, Steve-Dave!: Yes, these guys have been in a few movies, but they are far from professional actors. The cast of this podcast include Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson, who have been featured in most Kevin Smith movies, and their co-host, Brian Quinn. These guys are funny. Having been friends for many years, these guys know how to push each others’ buttons, and do, to great comic effect. It’s a fun show, definitely worth listening to for the banter, bickering and wide range of topics they discuss.
The Panels on Pages POP! Cast: The POP! Cast was born from the Panels on Pages website, a geek review site, and the online community it has spawned. Join Lee, Jason and Jason, and sometimes Jose or any of their other cohorts as they discuss comics, movies, toys and general geek nonsense. These guys are another group that doesn’t take themselves or their fandom too seriously. Listen in as they discuss any number of topics, including semi-regular games of “FMK” (Fuck, Marry, Kill). Additionally, they have a whole weekly schedule of related podcasts they drop into their iTunes feed, on more specific topics like movies or pro wrestling.
The Mediocre Show: Broadcasting from Philadelphia,PA, the Mediocre show has been around since before podcasting was cool. Hosted by Eric Tomorrow, the show has had a few different co-hosts, but has hit its stride with its current cast, including Eric’s wife, Hope, and Tha Mike, formerly of the Awful Show. There is a reason these guys have gathered such a rabidly loyal fan base. They include their listeners in the show, and interact with them regularly, never acting like they think they are better than them. The show is also a fun listen, often discussing current events, pop culture, making fun of Myspace “musicians” and expounding on their deep love of barbecue. Usually clocking in at 2+ hours an episode, prepare to kill some time laughing with the Mediocre Show.
Captain America Movie Toy Line Review
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m a Captain America nut. He’s been my favorite super hero since before I could read the comics I picked up every week from my Grandpa’s book store. Imagine my elation when I heard they were finally going to make a proper big budget movie starring my hero, directed geek demigod by Joss Whedon. Of course, big super hero summer movie means dedicated toy line.
The Captain America toy line from Hasbro follows the model Hasbro set up when they made Iron Man 2 toys last year, two separate lines of 3-3/4” action figures, one based on the movie, and one based on the comic book version of Cap. The movie line has yet to hit stores, but last week the comic series started popping up on shelves at retailers everywhere. So far only the first four basic and three deluxe figures are out, along with a few vehicles and role play items.
These figures are nice. Like the Hasbro Marvel Universe and Iron Man lines, they boast excellent articulation and beautiful likenesses of the characters. The toys combine collect-ability and playability very well, with multiple cool accessories.
So far I have picked up the Winter Soldier and Battlefield Captain America figures, and am very please with both. The Winter Soldier comes with three guns, and has holsters for both of his hand guns. He also comes with a winged rocket pack, adding a cool play option for kids. Battlefield Captain America comes with two guns, his old-style triangular shield, and a removable helmet. The shield can easily fit on his arm, or on his back for carrying. Both are lovely figures, with very nice sculpting and detail, making them very true to their comic book likenesses. Some of the other figures have gimmicky shields, which collectors and purists won’t be happy with, but add a playability factor for kids.
The deluxe figures come with accessories for added play value, but aren’t patently goofy like so many other lines can be. There is a Parachute Cap, one with a winged jet pack, and a Fortress Assault Cap. The Fortress Assault version is the goofy one of the bunch, with Cap in red armor and carrying a missile launcher.
Future waves include characters that have been overlooked by Hasbro in the Marvel Universe collection, including Crossbones, U.S. Agent, the Red Skull and Hydra soldiers. One can only assume they were holding them back, knowing they would be making this line for the Captain America movie.
A few minor complaints, though – the paint apps can be a bit spotty, so you need to look the figures over before buying to make sure you get a good one. Also, The gimmicky shields are a bit silly on some of the figures, I would prefer U.S. Agent and Heroic Age Cap with their standard shields to display in my collection.
The role play items or kids are pretty cool, too. They include a shield that shoots little disks, a standard Frisbee-like shield, a mask, and a full costume.
Overall, I love this toy line. Yes, it has its goofy kid stuff in it, but mostly it is very collector friendly. I will be buying many of the figures, and am especially looking forward to Crossbones, who I was never able to get the Marvel Legends version of. My kids will also probably talk me into picking up many of the role play items for them. This is definitely the best movie tie-in line this summer, easily besting the Thor and Green Lantern lines. Hopefully, the line sells well, and we will see more comic characters pop up, like Batroc the Leaper (I can dream, can’t I?).
YouTube Channels You Should Be Watching
These are nothing new, or hard to find, but they’re some of my favorite things on the internet, and on YouTube for sure. Maybe you’ve seen them or heard of them, but maybe not.
The Muppets, some of my childhood heroes, are on the internets.
Check out Bohemian Rhapsody:
Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher are funny dudes. Check out their videos and sketches on their YouTube Channel.
One of my favorites, Academy Award Winning Movie:
Anybody else have any favorites?
Green Lantern Movie Toy Review
Summer movie season is fast approaching, and with it comes the inevitable movie tie-in toy lines. With typically lackluster offerings over the years (refer to the Playmates 3-¾” Star Trek line from a couple of years ago), the major toy companies have successfully lowered my expectations of what we will see for movie tie-in merchandise, particularly in the action figure department. This year’s Green Lantern movie toys from Mattel stick to the long-standing “Throw anything on the shelves, kids will buy it!” tradition.
We had all had seen pictures of the line from Toy Fair earlier this year, and I was under whelmed to say the least. The toys looked kind of cheap, and the likenesses didn’t look right. Today, however, I got to see the 3-¾” toys in person at a Toys ‘R’ Us store.
Holy crap, what steaming piles of dog turds these are. As fake-y as the CGI characters look in the trailers and TV ads we’ve seen so far, they look even goofier in plastic form. Kilowog looks like a cartoon dog. Hal Jordan looks like a stiff-armed Jerry Seinfeld. Also, the line boasts a whopping 6 points of articulation – shoulders, hips, head and waist, at least on the figures I saw (Sinestro, Hal and Kilowog). It does appear that some of the figures have ball joints at the shoulders, which provide some range of motion, but most of the Hal Jordan figures are simple up-down swivels. So, the only action poses you can do with them are waving, pointing, and goose-stepping. At $8.99 MSRP per figure, are we really supposed to get excited about toys like that?
As toy collectors, we have come to expect better, even in a 3-¾” line. In a hobby where Hasbro is putting out super-articulated G.I. Joes, Jedis and Marvel Superheroes, we demand better. Mattel has really dropped the ball on this line, in my opinion. They can say it’s aimed at kids and not collectors all they want, but it’s no excuse for poor quality. Hasbro has been making beautiful figures at that scale for years, Mattel just can’t seem to get it right. They should have learned from their ill-fated DC Infinite Heroes line a couple of years ago. You need to please the kids and the collectors with a line like this to be successful, and you do that by offering a combination of cool sculpts, reasonably good articulation, and a high level of playability. You don’t achieve that by giving us cheap-looking, stiff-armed junk.
To be fair, the 6” line doesn’t look terrible, but those figures are fifteen dollars each. I’m already stretched thin trying to collect toys I really want, like the great 6” DC Universe and comic-book themed Green Lantern lines Mattel is putting out, which does prove Mattel can make great toys when they try. Too bad they didn’t put in any of that effort here.
In short, I will not be buying these, not for me or my kids, not even when they inevitably end up in the clearance aisle at Wal-mart. Am I completely off-base? Does anybody want any of these? What movie toy are you looking forward to Thor? Captain America? Let me know.
Dennis Burdziak is a toy enthusiast, comic book reader, and friend to people more talented than himself. Follow him on twitter @dburdziak.
Is Bret Harrison Cursed?
Bret Harrison is one of my favorite television actors. I first became aware of Bret when he briefly guest starred on That 70’s Show when Topher Grace left the show. His part was funny, sending up the typical replacement characters sitcoms had seen over the years. Unfortunately, all of the terrific shows he has starred in since then have been short-lived. In all 3 of the shows we have seen him star in, he has basically been the charming straight man to a cast of oddball characters, trying to make sense of a situation he was thrust into. Bret is easy to identify with in each role, and manages to be funny and charming, and the underdog we root for in each series.
The Loop – In this short-lived Series, Bret played Sam Sullivan, a young airline executive, struggling to fit in at work with his older co-workers, and to satisfy his boss. He also tried to fit in a social life with his friends, who were still living the care-free life of the typical early twenty-something. The show was hysterical and charming, typically finding Sam’s personal and professional lives at odds, and him struggling to make both work. TheLoop unfortunately ran for only two abbreviated seasons on FOX from 2006 to 2007, being cancelled before episodes of season 2 ever began airing.
Reaper – Lasting three seasons, reaper focused on Bret’s Character Sam Oliver, whose parents had sold his soul to the devil, resulting in his life of servitude to the Devil, expertly played by Ray Wise. Sam, along with his friends, was tasked with capturing souls escaped from hell and returning them through a drop-off in the DMV. The best part of the show was the interaction between Sam and his friends, Sock and Ben, played by Tyler Labine and Rick Gonzalez as they chased escaped souls while working at the Work Bench, a home improvement store that inexplicably carried every item they could ever need to aid them in their task. The series also built up a pretty impressive mythology in its short run, introducing the devil’s slick son, a demon girlfriend for Ben, and Sam’s dad turned into a zombie, living in a chest freezer in the garage. Reaper ran from 2007 to 2009 on the CW network, and was dropped after the third season ended on a cliffhanger, seeing Sam lose his girlfriend’s soul to the devil.
V – Bret played a scientist drafted into the human resistance by the series’ main characters. The role was small, and the show’s ratings were already low when he joined late in the second season.
Breaking In – A new show this season on FOX, Breaking In followed Bret’s character Cameron Price, a computer expert who is recruited by a security firm that specializes in breaking in to secure locations to test their existing security systems. In its brief run, the series sawCam pine over his beautiful co-worker Melanie, played by Odette Annable. The cast also included cash, a nerdy fanboy gadget expert, who was constantly dropping references to pop culture, including re-making the entire Star Wars trilogy starring him in every role. Christian Slater played Oz, the owner of Contra Security, the eccentric boss who was constantly manipulating the staff into doing whatever he needed. The show was full of funny and nerdy moments, including an office-wide Nerf gun fight that ends with Oz firing a very real arrow through the water cooler to break it up. Or cash having to face off against a Ninja Turtle at Comicon to retrieve a copy of Goonies 2, a movie they had been hired to protect. Apparently a victim of low ratings, the show only lasted a brief 7 episodes on FOX this season.
Three times now, (four if you count V) I have been burned by shows starring Bret Harrison, but I will keep tuning in whenever I see him in the cast of a new program. I hope the next one sticks, and America sees just how brilliant and funny a comedic actor Bret is.
I checked, all episodes of Reaper are available on Netflix instant watch, and the Loop is available on DVD from them as well. Do yourself a favor and check them both out.
Re-watch it With Your Kids: The Littles
As a parent, if you’re like me, you want to share things from your own childhood with your kids. As a child of the 80’s, I naturally wanted to share some of my favorite Saturday morning and after school cartoons with my boys. Unfortunately, many of the shows I remember fondly do not hold up well at all. My most glaring example of this was Voltron, which now I realize is terribly cheesy and badly written.
Imagine my surprise, then, when one of the shows I remember as pretty cheesy turned out to be much better than I remember. My wife started the boys watching the Littles, a show about a group of mouse-sized people who live in the walls of regular-sized people’s homes.
The Littles ran for three seasons on ABC on Saturday Mornings from 1983 – 1985, and had a movie, Titles Here Come the Littles in 1985. The main characters are a family of Littles, Including the young Tom and Lucy, their parents Frank and Helen, their older cousin Dinky and their Grandpa, imaginatively named Grandpa Little. They all live in the walls of the house of Henry Bigg, a human who accidentally discovered their existence, and has come to be a friend to them.
The show follows the Littles as they get into and out of all sorts of trouble. The real surprise to me, though, is the mature themes the series deals with fairly regularly. The Littles are often in danger of capture by a scientist named Dr. Hunter who is obsessed with proving their existence to the world. In one episode, the Littles help a little girl whose mother has a problem with prescription drugs by tricking her into thinking she’s hallucinating. In another, they are run out of their homes by giant evil-looking rats. They also deal with drinking, and in a later episode, a couple of guys who would be called terrorists today, who try to gas an entire art museum full of people. Later episodes see the Littles following the Bigg family (Henry’s parents are archeologists) on trips around the world.
The show is still aimed at children, of course, and more often deals with lighter themes, but it is refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t write for children as if they are all stupid, as so many of its contemporary shows did. Yes, it’s almost thirty years old, but I you have kids and want to share a bit of the 80s with them, check out the Littles on Netflix, the movie and all 29 episodes of the show are available to view instantly. My 3 and 5 year old boys can’t get enough of it.
Hey Kids…Twitter! All-Nerd Edition
So, a while back Kobe posted his favorite funny Tweeters, today I’m going to share my favorite nerdy ones.
@DeathStarPR is on a mission to give all the negative publicity the Galactic Empire has received to a more favorable and humorous spin.
Sample tweet: “If a tree falls on an Ewok in a forest and nobody was around to see TK-827 chop it down, did it ever really happen?”
@grantimahara I’m sure you all know Grant Imahara from Mythbusters.
I follow his tweets because he’s clever, funny, and often posts cool behind-the -scenes pics from the set.
Sample tweet: “This is Murray. He’s a hawk. #fromset #Mythbustershttp://twitpic.com/4twyzm“
@TheNerdyBird Jill Pantozzi is a comics journalist who writes for MTV Splashpage and Newsarama.
Her profile says, “Has Boobs, Reads Comics. Need I say more?”
Her feed is a great place to view the comics industry from the perspective of a self-proclaimed geek girl.
Sample Tweet: “I also asked my BF if he would dress up as Thor for me and he said no. : ( He has the beard AND blonde hair. #meanboyfriend“
@GailSimone is the current writer of Birds of Prey and Secret Six at DC Comics.
Her twitter isn’t really about her comics, though. She’s funny and a bit odd, often times starting strange and funny trending topics like #kingshark or teasing fellow comics creators, especially ones from Marvel.
Sample Tweet: “If I wrote an Avengers movie, I would put the JLA in it instead.”
@CobraCommander is, as if you didn’t know, the leader of a terrorist organization determined to rule the world.
Sample tweet: “When you realize you have a guy named Road Pig on your payroll it seriously makes you rethink your career choices.”
Who are your favorite nerdy twitter users? Let us know in the comments!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 trailer
OK, I know I’m a few weeks late on this one, but give me a break. I’m new to this site and blogging in general.
The trailer for the final installment in the Harry Potter Octology (is that a word?) was released, and has Potter-heads everywhere all atwitter, myself included. I’m a late comer to the Harry Potter world, having waited until my wife made me watch the first 6 movies before I ever cracked one of the books, but I am a full-on Potter nerd now. The trailer is beautiful, and gives us glimpses of some of the coolest parts of the book brought to life. I’ll try to stay spoiler-free, but I make no promises, especially if you haven’t seen the previous movies.
In this final chapter, it’s a race for Harry and friends to complete their mission begun in part one, the destruction of Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes, the items that he has imbued with a piece of his soul in an effort to live forever, and to then vanquish him once and for all. Right away, the familiar theme music brings us back into the magical world. The Voldemort voice-over sets the tone, reminding us this is no longer a kids’ movie series, these characters are grown up now and are dealing with some dark, life-or-death situations. The trailer then gives us glimpses of the roller-coaster ride into the Gringott’s vault, a dragon, Death-eaters galore, wizards flinging spells all over, and a whole bunch of stuff on fire. Only one thing bugs me, I don’t remember the scene with Harry and Voldemort falling off a bridge in the book, so that may be a movie add-on, please correct me if I’m wrong. Everything leads up to the battle of Hogwarts, which we see bits of, not enough to spoil anything, but enough to give those of us who already know what happens glimpses of all the things we are hoping to see.
This movie should shut up anyone who called the last one slow or boring. Everything that I can remember that is left of the story is non-stop excitement and action, which is what the trailer seems to show. There will be battles, there will be death, and there will be fire and explosions. Characters will meet their fates and fulfill their destinies. In the end only one can survive – the Chosen One or the Dark Lord.
Yes, many of us have read the books, but seeing it alive on screen is something completely different. Between this and Captain America, July can’t come soon enough for this nerd. I’m excited, are you?
Dennis Burdziak is a married father of two, a total nerd, and wannabe member of Dumbledore’s Army. Follow him on twitter @dburdziak