Friday, December 8, 2017

What I'm Thankful For, Uhh, Part 2 I guess

I'm thankful for having someone to share my totally healthy "love" of Nick/Disney Channel crap with. - Spongey444, yes one of our regular commentators. Like, about a quarter of them, between the four of you or so.

And I have to admit, with all my sarcastic pot-shots for want of content to post, I feel a little ashamed that I forgot the big thing I actually have to be thankful for, so thanks for reminding me Spongey.

I've told this story enough times on this blog - got dumped by fiancee, got cancer, watched kiddie shows on Disney Channel, started reading YA books, now I work in the publishing industry, yadda yadda - so I'm not going to bother touching up on it any more beyond that. It was nice comfort food at that time, and to this day I still primarily enjoy the comedies even if they...often leave a lot to be desired, but I've definitely come to appreciate the more complex stuff, or at least given its relative rarity in kidcoms and kids entertainment in general I more like appreciate it extra-so when stuff like that actually comes around.

First and foremost I'm thankful for Jessie, even if a lot of people - from Deadspin's Drew Magary to our friends at our own unofficial, kinda-sorta sister blog Girl Meets World Reviewed aren't so much. But...I can't excuse the extreme drop in quality in the third season (actually, it really happened in the second season) and the fourth season which for a few rare exceptions (out of a 20-or-so episode order I can count the number of good episodes on one hand, after a few fingers have been shot off) was damn downright nearly unwatchable, and several episodes from that season being nominated or eligible for worst thing on Disney Channel that year with the first episode of Rossed at Sea ultimately winning with the series finale, Oray for Ollywood/Jessie Goes Hollywood winning worst season/series finale that year (oh and that reminds me, yeah we're going to be doing our annual awards soon!)

I'm also thankful for Liv and Maddie, it really did pick up where Jessie's first and second-ish seasons left off, and then some, and while I'm honestly disappointed it didn't last 100 episodes (it was one of the few shows that maintained a consistent quality all the way to the end) I'm still very thankful it went a full four seasons (quite possibly the very last live-action multi-cam show on Disney Channel to do so, the way things are looking). I could go on more about that show, but I suppose you can just read my retrospective back in March for the same info. I'm also thankful for showrunners John D. Beck and Ron Hart having such a fan-friendly presence on Twitter and for that duo making a return to kidcoms, this time on Nickelodeon with Knight Squad (likely to premiere after the 2018 KCAs).

I'm also thankful for Andi Mack and for proving that yes, you can mix in more serious stuff with comedy, and quite honestly thankful it did it better than Girl Meets World. Even if I haven't been the best fan of the show, or at least the most regular viewer - yes the most recent episodes I've seen still is the second-to-last episode of the first season. I'll catch up I promise.

I'm also thankful for...yes, really, Bizaardvark. Because at the end of the day I still love dumb comedies that are nothing but 24-minute long vehicles for an endless string of jokes and gags. Just as long as those jokes and gags are good. A.N.T. Farm was a blatant 24-minute long vehicle for gags and jokes and it was...wonky to say the best. Especially since it tended to rely on sight gags that might as well have been taken from something that aired during the Eisenhower years.The middle two seasons of Austin & Ally especially went even lower (well, they were still better than AFarm's final season), now it's getting kinda rant-y, you get the point.

But going back to more serious kid shows - running the gamut from "barely more serious than Liv and Maddie if that" to "DeGrassi with a heroin storyline"  - I'm thankful for the serious upgrades from Nickelodeon (and Disney Channel), even if they've had to import a lot of that. This goes back to very early last year, but various series that I didn't bother to watching until recently - Mako Mermaids, Backstage, Ride, I Am Frankie, heck even Hunter Street even though I thought that was average at best (I still haven't seen The Lodge...uhh maybe I'll start on that tomorrow). And while it seems Disney Channel, for whatever reason (could just as likely be rights issues, or ratings as well it...didn't do well on the Disney run) has given up on Mako Mermaids it's still available on Netflix I'll be reviewing Season 2 (in fact I'll be watching the next episode on my cue soon after writing this). Backstage (that would be on the "oh crap DeGrassi heroin episode" side of the scale) is also coming back with a Season 2...on Netflix at least, although the entirety of Backstage as an IP is now owned by Disney Channel by way of now owning its original host network in Canada where it's been airing as of September, so there's still some hope that it could return to Disney Channel in the states (because I *demand* to know what happened to Vanessa and Carly, damnit!) I haven't heard anything about Ride, but (apparently) both Hunter Street and I Am Frankie (being actual, legit Nickelodeon US originals albeit produced by Nick's foreign the U.S., go figure) are confirmed for Season 2 here (Hunter Street likely either next month or February, I Am Frankie likely in either February or March with Season 3 *fingers crossed* near its original premiere monthly slot for late August through September). 

And again, I'm thankful for you guys, even if you are small in number, you're huge in impact on this blog.

Oh, and how can I forget - I'm also really thankful for Mike and how he's put so much time and effort into some really exceptional, high-quality posts, much higher than I've been doing in fact. Hats off to you Mike!

Thank you Ray! I'm thankful to still have this role, even in times where I've been busy with school or just had nothing to talk about so I disappeared for weeks. Maintaining this blog is almost like a full-time job and you've gone above and beyond in doing that so hats off to you for not letting it die!

I'm thankful for the small readership we have because at least when I write something, I know I'll be discussing it with Spongey afterwards. But for anyone lurking around doesn't hurt to drop a line. It still hurts we never collaborated with Christian and Sean on anything. One day. :(

I'm thankful for all of the terrible live-action programming that kids have had to suffer through this decade. There was some weird overlap in 2012-2013 where things started to change for the worse. It was definitely across the board, because all of a sudden, Nickelodeon and Disney both annoyed the hell out of me, and it hasn't been the same since. At this point, I've accepted that the 2000s are over and it will take years before both networks redeem themselves completely (there are small signs of hope, but I'm not counting on a period like 2009/2010, where I was watching multiple shows religiously on both networks, happening for a long time). But as long as these shows exist, somebody has to talk about them and why they don't work. 

I'm thankful that Raven's Home gives me a reason to watch Disney Channel without having to worry about reviewing something afterwards. At this point, the show still hasn't had that one episode I can talk about yet, whether it's exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. It's going to happen eventually, but it just needs to come back with more episodes. Seriously, is the season over or what?

I'm thankful for Mike's Quest, because I'm forced to look at shows I never would if it didn't exist. It's become obvious to me that with some shows, like Stuck in the Middle or Andi Mack, I'm going to have to take my time looking at them. I can't just review any episode and call it a day. That's why those shows will most likely come at the end of the whole thing. I still don't know if I Am Frankie is worth adding because it seems to be just another one of those House of Anubis/Every Witch Way-type shows that will only last for two seasons over the course of a year and then never come back or be heard from again. I don't know, the jury's still out on that one.

I'm thankful for The Loud House, the only kids cartoon right now that doesn't make me want to change the channel or bore me. Keep in mind I'm not the best person to talk about kids animation in this era because I'm unfamiliar with a lot of the shows from this era. I mean, I haven't seen more than one episode of Steven Universe. But The Loud House reminds me a lot of old-school cartoons, the ones that were made in the golden age that were just about life in general. Kids still need shows like that amongst all the action-packed fantasy stuff, and it looks like it's become a huge success in less than two years for Nickelodeon. Hopefully, the show can survive for as long as possible without jumping the shark, and I also hope Chris Savino's firing didn't impact its quality too much.

I'm thankful for Girl Meets World too. With all the emotions it got out of me, it was exactly what the show I needed to become a better reviewer. Everybody needs that foil, that villain, that enemy that brings out the best (and worst) in them. I won't say that Girl Meets World is my enemy because I genuinely cared about it as a show (Henry Danger would make a great enemy if it could piss me off in different ways), but more like, a Will Smith to my Uncle Phil. You know, something that gets on your nerves constantly and always makes mistakes, but you know it has potential and you just want it to get better. 

There was this one episode of Fresh Prince where Uncle Phil just straight up loses it with Will and doesn't understand why he keeps taking the easy way out when he has gifts that other people would kill to have. Will just deflects and doesn't really want to confront the problem. That one scene between them not only is a highlight of their relationship, but also sums up my feelings for Girl Meets World. It had an opportunity to be an incredible show, and at the end of the day, it took the easy way out and just settled for decent at best, with a few incredible episodes lodged in there and an unholy amount of terrible episodes. The only problem is, when Fresh Prince ended, Will was self-aware and recognized his flaws, and Uncle Phil saw that he was just on the verge of realizing his potential. When Girl Meets World ended, I didn't get that feeling at all. But I needed it to take my reviewing to the next level. I think my favorite review so far is "Girl Meets Gravity," and I don't see it being replaced for a while. I'm not done with the show forever, though. There are definitely more episodes worth talking about: "Demolition," "Pluto," "Mr. Squirrels," "Yearbook," "Rileytown," just to name a few. I also never gave the series finale a second review. So stay tuned. 

I'm thankful that Hey Arnold came back after so many years and delivered on a story that fans had been waiting to see concluded since Friends was still on the air. And it was also on Thanksgiving weekend, so I have an additional reason to mention it. I don't even think the show needs another season because everything was wrapped up so nicely in the movie. Plus, would it be fair to other kids cartoons if this one came back and just embarrassed them?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

There's too much going on in the world right now. Also I'm sick.

Hi. Haven't been posting here for a while. There's a lot going on right now just in the news in general - you may remember I said I'd do a follow-up on my #MeToo post. Well...whew! The Silence Breakers made TIME's Person (or is that people?) of the Year, and very deserving so (sorry, but I just really don't want to or feel like saying anything on Taylor Swift being on there, it's fine with me) but that said, there's still a lot of craziness going on. I'd talk more about it but...I'm also horrifically sick right now. As in, I've had about 8 hours of the past 72 hours. So yeah.

Um, I guess I'll take it over back to Mike for the next, um, forseeable future.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Henry Danger Reviewed: Danger Games (crossover with Game Shakers)

So it's come to this........part three?

When I heard about the Henry Danger/Game Shakers crossover in September, I didn't know what to expect. You know, besides it being awful. What could you really do with these two shows that go beyond them being created by the same person? And after the last crossover Henry Danger was involved in, I wasn't really looking forward to it collaborating with another piece of crap show. I understand now why people were dreading "The Simpsons Guy" when it was announced. But at least with that one, it involved two shows that were past their prime and had become unwatchable years ago. If you used to be a fan of either The Simpsons or Family Guy, maybe it was something you were interested in. But who was this going to appeal to? Between both shows, the only good season was the first season of Henry Danger in 2014-2015. And that was the first show to exist.

It's especially unfortunate that I have to write this review right after I was entertained by The Jungle Movie, which was a sign that maybe Nickelodeon was trying to make a comeback. But then I watch this and think......the live-action side of the network still has a lot of work to do. Whatever the case, I told myself I was coming back on Thanksgiving weekend to cover Hey Arnold's return and this crossover. So without any further ado, let's get to it.

Now, the first thing I'll say is that this crossover, as expected, had many problems. But it wasn't a complete, unbelievably disgusting train wreck. In fact, if I'm being honest, this was a way better crossover than "Danger & Thunder" was. "Danger & Thunder" was a marketing strategy that Nickelodeon used to say, "Look! Two superhero shows are meeting up! What will happen?" It was a regular Henry Danger episode that not only had no business being extended, but featured Thundermans characters in a way that made me think they weren't needed at all. Here, both shows were incorporated equally. It was a Henry Danger episode, but you wouldn't even know that with how both that show and Game Shakers moved the plot along. The kids want to go to Swellview to avoid distractions and work on their games, and Dr. Minyak is going to New York City to sabotage Double G's charity concert. Everybody watches Double G's concert in Swellview. The Game Shakers know who Captain Man and Kid Danger are (for some reason), and Captain Man and Kid Danger are fans of Sky Whale. Everything at least builds on each other so it feels like the story has a reason to exist. The shows feel so intertwined with each other, the episode literally won't be the same without one of them. And this is also where the jokes shine through. I don't know if I've said this before, but Jace Norman is a really funny actor. I think if there's any reason why Henry Danger could actually be watchable, it's him and the chemistry that Henry has with Ray. It almost makes me feel bad for Jace and Cooper Barnes, because they have to work overtime and make the bad writing on their show mean something. You know, just like on Game Shakers, Kel Mitchell has to work overtime because he's just that funny but there's only so much he can do.

Anyway, there were a lot of good jokes in here. You know, once the crossover found its sweet spot and started taking advantage of the two shows interacting. The scene where the Game Shakers find out that Henry is Kid Danger was hilarious in a way that I didn't think either show could be. Jace Norman sells everything. His facial expressions, the way he delivers his lines with the constant stammering and pauses, how he treats zapping the Game Shakers and Piper like he killed them. It was almost unbelievable how these two shows, the two worst shows that Dan Schneider has ever created (had Sam & Cat not been based off characters from shows that were actually good, it would have been no different from these two), were able to put together a funny scene like this. They were even able to get a good line out of Hudson ("I'm Kid Danger?!") in a way that gave a legitimate reason for his stupidity. It was an absolute miracle. So to tell you the truth, this crossover felt way more like a crossover than "Danger & Thunder" ever did. I'm guessing the reason there was more effort put in here was because these were both Schneider's Bakery shows. That A.V. Club interview really never stopped being relevant, did it?

Now, with that in mind, this crossover was also a crossover between Henry Danger and Game Shakers. So you would expect it to piss you off in some way. And trust me, it did. It even gave me a headache. I'm not kidding. When I was watching this on Saturday, I got a legitimate headache, went to YouTube to watch something else, and then resumed watching this. And then the headache went away like magic. It was really weird, but I think this headache had something to do with the crossover. Anyway, one problem with this episode is that it is 90 minutes. Without commercials, that's 66 minutes of this crap. Why was it 90 minutes? Because the iCarly/Victorious crossover was 90 minutes too, so this one had to be. You could argue that they had to make it 90 minutes because of the story, but when the opening scene is about seven minutes, that lets you know that this is more of a case of bad pacing.

Henry Danger is notorious for moving as slow as a snail stuck in quicksand, so there are times in "Danger Games" where things stall and drag on for as long as possible. The subplot with Jasper "adopting" some kid he found in a bush was unfunny, nonsensical, and could have been removed from the episode entirely. The final scene at the concert was unholy in how much time it wasted. Any other show would have wrapped it up much sooner, but in order to justify the length, we need it to be as long as we possibly can. I didn't even know this episode was 90 minutes until Saturday. And even now, I still don't understand why. The episode doesn't really pick up until the Game Shakers come to Swellview. The one advantage here is since there are two shows, the episode has no choice but to move faster than it normally would. But that doesn't say much.

The one thing that annoyed me more than anything else is the fact that things were inconsistent. When Kenzie tells the rest of the Game Shakers about Swellview, they have no idea what it is. But they know who Captain Man and Kid Danger are. How does that even make sense? They've never heard of this small town before, but they know about the local superheroes of said town? And we see that Henry and Ray are big fans of Sky Whale, but they don't know anything about the company that made it or who the Game Shakers are until they're told. Henry literally does not recognize them until they tell him who they are. And everyone recognizes Double G, but they have no idea about his partnership with these kids he and his entourage constantly hang around with.

This might be a small thing, but the episode ends up drowning itself in its own inconsistent logic. With crossovers like these, it would make sense if the characters don't recognize each other when they meet. If they do, then it just implies this and that and the episode didn't really need that confusion. Imagine in "iParty with Victorious" if Tori didn't know about the iCarly web show at all, but recognized Carly, Sam, and Freddie. It wouldn't make any damn sense, but this is the same logic "Danger Games" uses. It would make sense if the Game Shakers had no idea who Captain Man and Kid Danger were, but Captain Man and Kid Danger knew who the Game Shakers were. It wouldn't hurt the story any.

At the end of the day, "Danger Games" could have been a lot worse. While we don't find out anything new about either show, Henry being revealed to be Kid Danger ends up not mattering at all, and this doesn't magically make me want to watch either show, this really felt like a crossover event. Both shows contribute to the story and have a reason to interact with each other (seriously, more effort is put into this one than the one involving two superhero shows). When it's funny, it's actually funnier than it has any right to be. And it even pulled off the impossible by making Hudson's stupidity funny. They treated the conflict seriously, like it was a true all or nothing situation. I can't believe all it took for both shows to come close to being entertaining was to come together. You know, it's simple mathematics: Multiplying two negatives make a positive.

I also wanted to find out from this crossover which show was worse. You know, because with "Haunted Thundermans," I ended up finding out that The Thundermans was the better show. So the question you probably want answered right now is....which show is a bigger disgrace to humanity?

I don't know if I found the answer last weekend. Or even during the review. Both shows are garbage, but for different reasons. Henry Danger went from tolerable to downright painful in less than two years. Awful pacing, stupid characters, asshole characters, uninteresting stories. Game Shakers was never good in the first place and it never will be. Kel and his entourage are the only real source of entertainment. It's actually sad how the main characters are constantly outshined on their own show, but they are pretty bland and unappealing besides the fact that they work on wildly successful video games. Plus, it also has the stupidest, most useless character I have ever seen on any television series. You might think that would make me say Game Shakers, but last night was the first time Henry Danger made me laugh that much. The first time Game Shakers did that to me was when Double G's hair caught on fire. So, yeah, I don't think either show is better or worse than the other. They're both bottom of the barrel trash, but at least, they were able to pull it together by joining forces.

On a serious note, how depressing is it that there is a show about a kid that has to hide his superhero identity, and a show about a bunch of kids that have the talent to make video games, and neither of them are that interesting?

Episode Grade: C
Episode MVP: Jace Norman. This guy is seriously underrated as a comedic actor, and I think he's only gotten better since Henry Danger started.

-I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but if I have, it bears repeating: Captain Man is the worst name that I have ever heard for a superhero. It says absolutely nothing about the man's powers or his capabilities. It's just......what? Captain Man? What does that even mean? I'm not even a fan of comic books or superhero movies, but I could come up with a way better name than that. You would think Captain Man's indestructible nature would come up in the name, but it doesn't. It reminds me of the A.N.T. Farm episode where Cameron and Fletcher were trying to come up with a superhero, and one of Cameron's suggestions was "Man Man," a regular guy with no powers that pulled off his everyday clothes to reveal the same outfit underneath. A.N.T. Farm was a hilarious show in its first two seasons, guys.

-Snoop Dogg made a guest appearance in this episode, being the catalyst for Double G's charity concert. He doesn't do much besides that, but he did record a parody of "Gin and Juice" for the "Danger Games" commercials, which I thought was funny and unexpected. It makes me wonder why Game Shakers hasn't had more rappers as guest stars, just as a way to shine a light on the industry and show how Double G looks at his competition. But asking for hip hop to be represented in a tasteful, interesting way on a show like this is like asking to get pushed into traffic.

-Dr. Minyak is such a pathetic villain. Unbelievably pathetic. Captain Man and Kid Danger make short work of him in the beginning of the episode, he comes up with this diabolical plan to ruin Double G's charity concert, and he can't even follow through on his plan because he spends his time stalling and running around like an idiot. Has there ever been a villain on Henry Danger that we were supposed to be afraid of and take seriously?

-Babe and Kenzie's constant flirting with Henry was hilarious. What I like the most about it is that Henry doesn't even seem to acknowledge it. He just stammers a lot and has these creeped out looks on his face whenever they talk to him. Remember in "Danger & Thunder" how Henry was attracted to Phoebe, and it didn't seem like she even cared if he lived or died? This is the version that's actually funny.

-Since this is a Henry Danger episode, we have to have Henry's family join in on the crossover fun. The only problem is, this episode and the show would be a lot better if Henry's family wasn't around. Like, maybe there was a nuclear explosion in Swellview and they couldn't find his family anywhere. They're all awful characters for the same reason: They are both stupid and assholes. The lethal combination. There was this small plot where Piper wanted to send money to the Prince of Yerba (that war-torn country has a prince with millions of dollars?) because he'll send her back some of his fortune. Usually, this thing is a scam, but it ended up being true. I couldn't even laugh at it because of how little I cared.

-Oh yeah, I was supposed to talk about Henry's family. So in order to get money for the prince, Piper turns the house into an Airbnb (they had a different name for it but I don't care enough to remember it) and of course, her parents end up submitting to her wishes to leave the house and get a hotel. Can't there be an episode where Piper dies? That would be the best episode of the series, no question. Anyway, there's this scene where Piper drops an entire suitcase on Henry's head and he ends up pretty hurt, to the point where his head is bleeding. You know what his parents' response is to them finding out that Piper made Henry's head bleed and he has to clean it? His dad saying it's gross and his mom telling him not to use their good towels. These are his parents, by the way. There's also a scene where Jasper removes the Hart family's address numbers (pretty sure that's vandalism) so the police can't find the kid he stole. And then Henry's dad wonders how he's supposed to know if there is a 6 or a 9 in his address. Yes, Henry's dad is so stupid, he doesn't know where he lives. Honestly, if this show was just about Henry, Ray, Charlotte, and Schwoz, it would be a lot better.

-If you're wondering, the Game Shakers find out Henry's house is an Airbnb and that's how they get there.

-I love how worried Triple G is that Dr. Minyak is going to hurt his father. I mean, we know Dr. Minyak couldn't even hurt a piece of paper, and we know that 98% of the stuff that happens on both of these shows doesn't matter, but for one shining moment, it really feels like they're taking something seriously. Triple G doesn't know anything about this guy, and he knows that Captain Man and Kid Danger are the only ones that can help protect Double G. So kudos to them for actually having some genuine drama for once.

-To explain zapping Piper, Henry left a note stating that the Game Shakers went on a "pajama hike" and they're not coming back. He also says he hopes they paid her and to follow her dreams. Not even going to lie, I was on the floor when I read the note, because it had the pauses and stammering inside it. That, combined with the bizarre content and Jace's delivery, was enough to kill me. I'm still in shock.

-The one thing I don't get is that they treat Henry's identity being exposed as this really big thing. Like, World War III combined with New York City going up in flames and then they just drop it. Henry tells Ray not to erase the Game Shakers' memories and it's just never brought up again. You would think that this would affect the plot in some way because of how seriously they handled it and then it just turns into, "Well, they know. Let's move on." Whatever, at least the scene was funny.

-Okay, the final scene was just awful. Straight up terrible because of how much time they wasted. I know it's a Henry Danger episode, but come on, you have a 90-minute crossover with a story that's actually interesting and you still choose to slow down the pace? The worst part is that this is the last scene you should be wasting time in because it's the big climax and everything has to keep moving. It seriously felt like a 15-minute scene because of how much they dragged it on.

-So here we go. Before the final scene, Dr. Minyak is up in the rafters with his assistant while Double G is rehearsing and Henry and Ray are supposed to be keeping an eye on him. Dr. Minyak is right above everyone else and you're telling me that no one sees him? He even goes as far as to blast Hudson with his weapon in plain sight, and still, no one notices him. Henry and Ray suddenly become useless as hell between this scene and the next one. From them not noticing Dr. Minyak until they're told, to not getting the weapon that he drops for some reason, to getting involved with his henchmen, to not even blasting Minyak and foiling his plan, they are complete liabilities to the Game Shakers. They don't even try stopping Minyak from attacking Double G on stage. What the hell is going on here?!

-So Dr. Minyak has the weapon in his hands. All he has to do is get a clean shot of Double G, blast him, and the concert is ruined. And since he was bold enough to use the weapon against an innocent person in plain sight, this should be a snap. Unless he ends up becoming a complete idiot and screws himself over for no reason. There is an eternity that passes while he's trying to blast Double G. He has multiple opportunities, even going as far as to run on stage during the concert and try blasting him, but he never does. Did he get stage fright or something? Then he approaches Double G and starts.....wrestling him? While the weapon is on the floor, which he just abandons because.....because I don't know. Then Babe gets a hold of the weapon, and Henry tells her twice to blast Minyak but she doesn't do it. She waits about five minutes and then blasts him. This whole scene could have been done in half the time. Minyak is about to blast Double G, Henry and Ray stop him and try to get the weapon, the henchmen come after them, Minyak gets desperate and attacks Double G, Babe gets the weapon, Henry gives her the green light, she waits momentarily for her shot, and it's over. There was no point in extending this. I'm not sure which climax scene is worse, this one or the "Danger & Thunder" one. Maybe the "Danger & Thunder" one because this one at least gave me a stronger reaction.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie Review

The return of our favorite football head, Arnoldo.

What is it? A two-hour made-for-television movie based on the legendary Nickelodeon animated series, Hey Arnold.
Who stars in it? Mason Vale Cotton (Arnold), Benjamin Flores, Jr. (Gerald), Francesca Marie Smith (Helga), Anndi McAfee (Phoebe), Dan Castellaneta (Grandpa Phil)......they got a lot of the original voice cast back, that's all you really need to know.
Where did it air? Nickelodeon.
Why are we reviewing this? WHY?!

Here we are. After fifteen years, fans of Hey Arnold everywhere get the closure they've been dreaming about. It wouldn't be right to do this review without putting it in the proper context. When Hey Arnold was on during its original run, there was an episode called "Parents Day" where Grandpa Phil finally tells Arnold what happened to his parents. There were also plans to do two movies based on the series: A made-for-television movie called "Arnold Saves the Neighborhood," and a theatrical release known as The Jungle Movie where Arnold goes on a hero's journey to find his missing parents in the Central American republic known as San Lorenzo. However, Nickelodeon got greedy and decided to capitalize on the show's popularity as soon as they could by making "Arnold Saves the Neighborhood" into the feature film. Hey Arnold!: The Movie came out in 2002, didn't make a big splash at the box office, didn't impress the critics, and it ended up souring Nickelodeon on releasing The Jungle Movie. That same year, the last two episodes made after the movie were aired, "April Fools Day" and "The Journal." "The Journal" was where Arnold found a journal that belonged to his parents, and gave him clues to their whereabouts after it was implied in "Parents Day" that they were probably dead. This episode was supposed to lead to The Jungle Movie, which would serve as the series finale.

However, Nickelodeon didn't want to take a chance on another Hey Arnold movie and Craig Bartlett (the creator of the show) left the network. By the time Nickelodeon wanted to give The Jungle Movie a second chance, Bartlett was already working on a project for Cartoon Network and the series ended unceremoniously in 2004 (several episodes made before the movie were spread out for a few years). Now, in 2017, Nickelodeon decided to right their wrongs and not make the same mistake they made in the 2000s. The Jungle Movie was back in business, and the show was finally getting the closure it deserved.

I started watching Hey Arnold in 2011 when it aired on The 90s Are All That. I became a fan instantly, and when I found out about the show's history, all I could think about was what would happen if The Jungle Movie became a reality. I even called Nickelodeon about it once and left a message on their answering machine. They never answered back, but the fact is, I had that hope that one day, the movie would get made. And here it is.

Let's end the speculation now: This was a good movie. And I think the more times I watch it, the more it will turn into a great movie. I was surprised by how much of the movie ended up being tied to Bartlett's original vision. Or maybe I shouldn't since he was the creator of the show and he wrote the story years ago. I read about the details of the movie when I was younger, and a lot of it was very similar to what happened in the finished product, with some changes. For one, Brainy was supposed to give Helga this speech about Arnold, but he did end up finding and repairing her locket after she threw it into the sea. So some of it was probably just edited for time or whatever.

The one thing I noticed more than anything else was how amazing the film looked. The show's animation improved pretty much every season, and since there hasn't been a new episode in more than ten years, you would expect it to get even better. I'm just happy there was no corny flash animation or anything like that. It's not like the upcoming Rocko's Modern Life movie where it literally looks like the original show in HD, but the animation is beautiful, especially in the scenes taking place at night. I usually focus more on the story and the jokes, but the animation stood out to me as the real winner. This could have easily been in theaters if they wanted it to be, that's how fantastic it looked.

Now as for the actual story, it was pretty much everything we knew it would be for years now: Arnold's class wins a contest (which was originally an essay contest), they all go to San Lorenzo, Helga reveals her love for Arnold (for the second time), Arnold is found out to be the chosen one of the Green-Eyed People, he reunites with his parents, and he ends up realizing his feelings for Helga. The only way the movie could have bombed is if two things happened: Arnold's parents were dead, or it was all revealed to be a dream. And the movie even teases you at the end where we see Arnold wake up after finding his parents. It even has you about to throw something at the wall by making it seem like the movie is starting over from the opening scene in the kitchen and Arnold is in tears, until his parents reveal themselves and we find out that Arnold has been dreaming about him not finding his parents all summer. It really makes you wonder how emotionally scarred Arnold was before he found that journal. Like, he's as good-natured and helpful as he is because his life has no other meaning. Or maybe I'm just looking into this too much.

One of the most important things to take from this movie is that Arnold himself gets something he has desperately needed for a long time: Character development. In the beginning of the series, Arnold was just a regular guy who helped people out. But he was more like an actual kid at one point. As the years went on, Arnold slowly became a parody of himself. He only existed to be morally righteous and full of pure heart, like the absolute perfect human being. It became less realistic and Arnold wasn't really a character anymore. He was just this mythical, angelic figure who could do no wrong. In this movie, Arnold is given more humanity than he has in a long time. He has doubts, he starts questioning himself, he feels lost and incomplete, and he even cries multiple times. Arnold becomes less of a Mother Teresa-type figure and more of a human being, with flaws and uncertainties. It's his desire to see the best in everyone that ends up getting him and his class in trouble when he gets tricked by La Sombra. And for the first time, you really start wondering if Arnold has what it takes to rise up to the challenge. He prevails, but it is really satisfying that he gets there while having moments of weakness. It reminds us that he is a person like everyone else, and we all have moments where it feels like all hope is lost.

So for a great story that wraps up everything the show left on the table, beautiful animation, character development for Arnold, and some great jokes packed in along the way, this is the best way to end Hey Arnold. It's really something how Nickelodeon finally decided to make things right and give people a conclusion they had anticipated and deserved for years. Rest in peace to one of the greatest kid's shows ever made.

Movie Grade: A+
Movie MVP: Tie between Mason Vale Cotton and Francesca Marie Smith. They both being it in their respective performances as Arnold and Helga. I had more sympathy for Arnold as time went on because of how well Mason sold his emotions. I felt every one of Arnold's fears and vulnerabilities. And Francesca is just that damn good. How do you come back after so many years and slip into your character so easily? Only the best can do it.

-There was a sneak preview of the "Danger Games" crossover between Henry Danger and Game Shakers that aired right after the movie. All it did was make me pray that I don't get pissed off watching this. I have very low expectations going in, because when you combine the two worst shows Dan Schneider has ever created, what could you really look forward to?

-The movie is based in 2017, so there are aspects of the modern world that are dealt with. Like, Big Bob's beeper empire is falling apart because who needs a beeper in 2017? Of course, Rhonda is obsessed with her phone (she's low-key the funniest character in this movie), and Phoebe is more of a technology whiz than she ever was in the series. It's interesting to see how the movie handles the way society is now while not really calling attention to it. That's going to be more of Rocko's job when "Static Cling" comes out next year.

-The comedy really picks up after we find out that Eduardo is really La Sombra. La Sombra using his fake mustache to look like Abraham Lincoln and Frida Kahlo, Big Bob being surprised that Arnold's grandparents aren't dead, Miriam sleeping on the couch like the depressed alcoholic she is, Curly volunteering to be La Sombra's inside man until La Sombra says that even Curly's too crazy for him. There were a lot more jokes after that, they just don't come to mind right now.

-Is this the first A-plus I've ever given anything? It has to be. Or maybe the second one? I don't know, but this is a very rare occasion that I have nothing bad to say about the material I review.

-When Eduardo and his guys were trying to shoot down La Sombra's boat, did they think about what might have happened if they ended up killing anybody on board, like Arnold? Pretty sloppy if you ask me.

-I find it funny how the green-eyed girl kept speaking to Arnold in her language, even though he was barely responding to anything she said and couldn't understand it at all.

-The movie is about as dark as Hey Arnold could get, and it feels like everyone is more mature and assured now that they're in the fifth grade going on sixth grade.

-Jim Lang came through for us with the score for this movie. That's all I'm going to say.

-Very sweet ending where Arnold treats his parents like his kids, telling them that he'll leave school at three but his parents are already missing him. It's really something how the movie I was hoping would get made one day ended up happening, and it was just as good as I expected it to be.

Sydney White Movie Mini-Reviewed

Hi, Ho!

What is it? Theatrical-released movie about a solid decade ago, back when these type of movies tended to be more popular (about the same vintage as Mean Girls, for example)
Where did it air? Well, like I said this was actually originally a theatrical-release movie, but in this case I recorded it off HBO all the way back in April. Yeah, my habitual tardiness should be infamous and well-known by now.
Who stars in it? Amanda Bynes who's best known for...well, being Amanda Bynes at this point, and Sara Paxton who's best known for being the replacement Marnie Cromwell in Return to Halloweentown and being the mermaid in the JoJo Levesque/Emma Roberts vehicle Aquamarine (incidentally, both of those were just the year before this one)
Why are we reviewing this? Eh why not

It was ok I suppose, even if maybe some of the sensibilities are a bit obsolete (but hey, it's still the Bush years amirite?) I don't know if it's better than Eurotrip but it's at least better than the Ashley Tisdale vehicle Picture Perfect (man, I feel sorry for Ashley).

Movie Grade: Eh, a C+?
Movie MVP: Danny Strong who plays Gurkin, the Grumpy analog, because I'm really feeling the grumpiness there.

Extra Thoughts:

 - it didn't even occur to me that this was basically Snow White in the Greek/College system until about halfway through the movie. Yeah.

 - I'm sorry but...the quoted section at the top of this review just *may* be my most favorite singular part of the movie (well, either that or when Sydney White goes completely Blue Screen of Death'd) and yeah it's even goes a bit far in why and how Danny Strong ended up getting MVP. I don't condone slut-shaming and I'm glad it's quickly becoming what TVTropes calls a Dead Horse Trope but...considering how the main antagonist isn't even singled out for sexual behavior at any point in the movie, really, I think that makes the context acceptable.

Plus, given the Snow White parody well...fuck, it just works for me. Maybe I'm just a stupid juvenile at heart, dammit.

Richie Rich's Christmas Wish TV Movie Mini-Reviewed

What is it? A made for TV movie all the way back from 1998 using the Richie Rich property, allegedly a sequel to the theatrical 1994 movie. Beyond that I have no effin' idea.
Where did it air? Well I recorded it off Freeform like two days ago, as for where it originally aired, see second sentence above.
Who stars in it? Again, see second sentence of the "What is it?" section.
Why are we reviewing this? Again, refer to the most commonly referred to section.

You know, I gave up just four minutes in as soon as I saw the snowmobiles made to look like really old rich people cars. Why is it that people think the height of luxury is a car made to look like it's older than just about anybody still actually left alive? I get that it harkens back to cars that were popular with the ultra-rich during the Swingin' Twenties but still, get with the times man.

No wonder people stopped reading your comics, you stopped catering to people too young to collect on Social Security.

Movie Grade: Pretty much an F by default, if I can't even be friggin' bothered to finish it. Or even get beyond five minutes in.
Movie MVP: The hell if I know? I guess Donald J. Trump for proving that yes you can buy your way out of having to have taste to the point where idiots will still elect you frickin' President.

Extra Thoughts:

 - this is gonna be an embarrassing admission, but a double-feature of this movie and "Blank Check" were the very first movies I ever saw in an actual movie theater (I think I briefly mention Blank Check in another review buried...I dunno where the hell now).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thundermans Reviewed: Thunder in Paradise (S4E15)

"Two words: Dela. Ware."

What is it? Hour-long Thundermans special in...well, we'll talk about the format briefly in the main review.
Who stars in it? Kira Kosarin, Jack Griffo, Diego Velesquez, Addison Reikke, uh, sun adult guys, Dana Snyder is absent for some reason even though he's the most kickass character. I got all that from memory so if I misspelled anybody's name, I'll include my mailing address so you can sue me.
Where did it air? Nickelodeon
Why are we reviewing this? Eh.

So, more or less paraphrase Mike, that happened.

First of all, the, ummm...interesting format choice. Lately it's been a bit of a kick for Nickelodeon to squeeze NOMs into an hour-length instead of the more traditional 90 minute length, particularly with Rufus and its sequel. They resisted the temptation for Legends of the Hidden Temple and Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library, but probably only because the former is based on one of Nickelodeon's most fondly remembered properties and they were probably banking on a bigger nostalgia contribution in the ratings and the latter is based on a pretty hot middle school book property right now (as it turned out, both ended up being major ratings disappointments, in no small part due to Nickelodeon almost forgetting they even had the Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library movie). With the extended hour-length and the single-cam format it's easy to assume this is in effect a Thundermans movie, the first Nick series to get a proper movie in years (especially if you consider the single-cam format to be closer in spirit to a "movie" than the 90-minute run time of the iCarly movies/specials).

...except they decided to overlay a laugh track onto it, for some reason. 

Look, Nickelodeon has made many bizarre choices over the course of the now over half-decade I've been watching the network as a grown-ass adult. As with most of them, I can't explain this one other than...some kidcom trope obligation? Not to mention many of the shots, especially the interior shots (it got to the point where I'm convinced it's simply most of them) just simply look identical to the multi-cam shots of all the other episodes anyway.

Beyond that it's...a pretty typical Thundermans episode with some admittedly nifty fight choreography. Was that the whole deciding factor as to adopt the single-cam format? Well that and the location shooting, I imagine. Of course they just as easily could've gone with indoor sets and continue the multi-cam format ala Good Luck Charlie's Sun Show, Jessie's Aloha Holidays with Parker and Joey and the entirety of Bucket and Skinner...all, like 8 episodes or so. But hey, the entire cast was probably already in Hawaii for Paradise Run so why not I guess?

Episode Grade: A flat C. Like I said it's just a regular episode of Thundermans with extra pizzaz where it mattered the least. The action and plot is paint-by-numbers, and there were more jokes that were misses than hits.
Episode MVP: Diego for Dela-Ware Jack for actually expressing some convincing concern for on-screen sis and helping to sell his character's total and permanent conversion to the good side, but I'm still tempted to name Diego for Dela-Ware just as a passive-aggressive means of displaying my contempt.

Extra Thoughts:

 - There's still like 10 or 15 extra episodes of Thundermans to go, depending if the extra 5 episode order extended the season to 25 total or 30 total. It's been an enjoyable series and the fourth season is well-deserved...but...I was just expecting more with Thunder in Paradise. I think the average episode of Thundermans, multi-cam format, largely confined to one or two indoor sets and all, has more to offer.

 - also, it's getting to that time of year where we reflect on the past 12 months, namely the shows that have left and what's come to fill their place (and given the fickle nature of the kidcom business, which ended up being both) in our Dearly Departed and New Arrivals annual feature and which network came out on top in our Yearly Winners and Losers annual feature so, hope you're as excited for that as I am!

I have a catchphrase now? I know what I have to do......exploit it until everybody who reads this blog gets sick of it and it becomes a parody of itself.

To be honest, I was going to watch this, but I think I quit halfway through. The one thing that I focused on (and this is probably just my personal thing but who knows?) was the fact that Diego Velazquez is older now. His voice is irritating because he still has to play the role of the idiot, so now instead of him maturing, his character now sounds and acts like he can't spell his own name. I hate it when kid actors get older. They're only hired to be the cute kid and get a few witty lines, but then they go through puberty and because the show only wanted them around to be cute, they keep relying on the old shtick or end up giving them more "mature" stories that nobody cares about while the main characters do their thing. I think it's called the Rudy Huxtable disease or something like that. Anyway, I noticed how badly Diego delivers his lines now that he's older and his character hasn't changed. It reminds me that a lot of these kids don't get hired because they can actually act. Wow, Henry Danger legitimately has one over The Thundermans in that case. That's a scary thought.

I find it weird how this episode looks a lot more like a movie but they sometimes treat it like a regular episode. 

I'm not really sure how I'm going to feel when this show ends. I was never a huge fan of it, but by default, it became the best live-action show on Nick (mostly because other shows ended or got cancelled, while the network pushed much worse shows harder) and it has never irritated me the same way these other Nick shows currently do. It might be bland and forgettable on its worst day, but I've never had problems watching it. A few years ago, The Thundermans would have been a reliable #2 or #3 show, and it was forced to become the leader because no other show could carry the weight. Actually, why don't I just slow down and save these thoughts for next year when the series finale airs? This is starting to get a little depressing. 

What I'm Thankful For, Uhh, Part 2 I guess

I'm thankful for having someone to share my totally healthy "love" of Nick/Disney Channel crap with.  - Spongey444, yes one of...