Friday, March 17, 2017

Mike & Molly: "St. Patrick's Day"

Premiered March 18, 2013.

It's the morning of St. Patrick's Day and Chicago PD officer Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell) and his partner Carl McMillan (Reno Wilson) are discussing how they plan to celebrate the occasion.  Carl is planning a huge St. Paddy's party, which will be the first time he's entertained at his new apartment. He's got green beer, a pinata and "enough green M&Ms to dam up a levy."

Mike disappoints Carl when he says that he and his wife Molly (Melissa McCarthy) can't make the party.  Molly is ovulating, so they plan to spend their St. Patrick's Day engaging in...other activities.

Molly's sister Victoria Flynn (Katy Mixon) is also planning to attend the St. Patrick's Day party with her friend Harry (David Anthony Higgins).  She's taking a class about the works of Shakespeare, a subject on which Harry is an expert.

They read romantic passages from Romeo And Juliet to each other, which makes Victoria realize she is attracted to Harry.  Their St. Paddy's plans get complicated when Victoria kisses Harry.  He's not sure how to react. 

Meanwhile, with help from his housemate Samuel (Nyambi Nyambi), Carl prepares for his party.  The party turns out to be a bust because much to Carl's disappointment, no women show up.

Carl and Samuel are very disappointed.  Can their St. Patrick's Day party be saved?

J.A. Morris says:

There aren't a lot of St. Patrick's Day episodes and perhaps this one demonstrates why.  There's not a lot you can do with the holiday.  I'm an Irish American myself, I understand the significance of March 17.

But a St. Patrick's Day party being "ruined" because no women show up hardly compares with bad things happening at Christmas (you know, "Christmas is cancelled!," "Mom gets fired on Christmas Eve," etc).  I'd say only about half of "St. Patrick's Day" focuses on the occasion, the rest is just a typical sitcom episode.

Harry and Vincent (Louis Mustillo) celebrate with green beer.
Having said that there are plenty of comments and jokes about green beer to make it appropriate for seasonal viewing.  However, it's not a very good episode.  I'm a big fan of Melissa McCarthy and Katy Mixon, but this was the first time I watched Mike & Molly.

Most of the jokes were flat and sometimes repeated ad nauseam.  For example, Mike mentions that Carl got so drunk the previous St. Patrick's Day that he kissed a horse.  This "joke" gets repeated about four or five times in the first scene and it wasn't that funny the first time.  For good measure, the horse-kissing gets brought up again at the end of the episode.

Fans of the actors might enjoy watching this on March 17, but that's the best thing I can say about "St. Patrick's Day."  It's not terrible, just mediocre.

J.A. Morris' rating:

2 Shamrocks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Teen Titans Go!: "Be Mine"

Premiered February 12, 2014

After defeating the super-villain Terra (Ashley Johnson), Raven (Tara Strong) imprisons her antagonist in alternate dimension, which also happens to be where the Teen Titans' dispose of their trash!

Six months pass and Valentine's Day arrives.  Starfire (Hynden Walch) asks Robin (Scott Menville) to be her Valentine and the Titans plan a Valentine dance party.

Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) isn't happy, because the only girl his heart beats for is Terra and he doesn't know what's happened to her.  Cyborg (Khary Payton) figures out Terra's whereabouts and Raven asks him not to tell Beast Boy.

Of course Cyborg can't keep the secret.  When Beast Boy learns of this, he lowers a rope into the "trash" dimension and rescues Terra.

However, Terra does not appreciate his efforts, she's spent her time in the garbage plotting her revenge on the Titans and especially Beast Boy.  Terra tricks him into helping her steal machinery that increases her earth-moving powers.  Raven tries to warn Beast Boy, but he's not having it.  We also learn that Raven is nursing a crush on Beast Boy.

Meanwhile, Robin is learning that being Starfire's Valentine isn't as fun as he thought it would be.

Finally, it's time for the Valentine party.

Terra attacks and threatens to ruin everyone's Valentine's Day.  Will Terra's plan succeed?  Will Beast Boy figure out that Raven has a thing for him?  Can Valentine's Day be saved by the power of song?  

RigbyMel says:

"Be Mine" makes for excellent, but not saccharine Valentine viewing.

There's teen angst and unrequited crushes.

There is love and vengeance.

Terra plots to destroy the Teen Titans while in the alternate dimension. 

There's Starfire's amusing take on the whole concept of Valentine's Day.

Starfire gives Robin an actual heart for V-day! 
There is Beast Boy in cat form, who remains (as I said in a previous review) adorable.   And he writes a LOVE SONG for Terra.   And it works!!

There are troublesome cupids and Valentine cards as well.

This all adds up to a fun superhero Valentine frolic.  If you dig Teen Titans Go!,  you will dig this installment in the series.  If you're not familiar with the show, this is a fun starting off point.   I recommend this episode for the young and the young at heart.

RigbyMel's rating:

4 Valentine hearts!!

Titans Tower with bonus lovebirds
J.A. Morris says:

I'm in general agreement with RigbyMel about "Be Mine."  It's got humor, romance, action, super-hero fights, all in under 12 minutes!

Cyborg's Valentine Jinx (a villain) is, unfortunately in police custody on Valentine's Day.
Strange it might sound, there are parts of this cartoon that most of us can identify with. We've all likely been in scenarios similar to this one, where Beast Boy's feelings for Terra are not reciprocated. And the same goes for Raven's crush on Beast Boy.

It's got plenty of roses and heart-shaped boxes too, so it makes for nice annual Valentine viewing.

And like my co-blogger said, any episode with a guitar-playing kitty singing a love song has to be good!

In addition to frequent airings on Cartoon Network, "Be Mine" is also available for streaming on iTunes and Amazon.  It can be found on a dvd titled Teen Titans Go!:Couch Crusaders and a blu-ray called Teen Titans Go!:The Complete First Season.

This is a great episode of one of Teen Titans Go! and is highly recommended!  I plan to watch it every February from now on!

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 Valentine hearts!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: "Happy Hanukkah, Howard Weinerman"

Premiered December 3, 2014

"It is On-akkah like Hanukkah!"
-Randy Cunningham

Randy Cunningham (Ben Schwartz) and his friend Howard Weinerman (Andrew Caldwell) are hanging out at the Game Hole, a local arcade.  Howard, whose family celebrates Hanukkah, is complaining about the Hanukkah gifts he's received: socks.

Suddenly, a giant robot breaks into the Game Hole and trashes it.  Randy dons his ninja gear and battles the robot.  He defeats it, but not before the arcade suffers considerable damage and all the games are destroyed.

When the dust settles, local business-creep Hannibal McFist (John DiMaggio) arrives on the scene. He's ready to tear down the arcade and build a shoe store in its place.

McFist has brought along a city building inspector who cites an ordinance that says an arcade must have at least one game in operation at all times to maintain its status.  With no games working, McFist declares the Game Hole condemned and starts planning where to display shoes.

Thankfully, Howard notices one game, called "Fight Knight" is still working.  The Ninja provides Howard with game tokens and tells him to keep playing until he and Greg (Keith Ferguson), the arcade's owner, can go to a storage unit and get another video game.  If Howard loses, the Game Hole will become McFist's property.

Greg is not being overly helpful. 
The Ninja and Greg head for the storage unit and encounter McFist's robot gorillas (on snowmobiles!) and...a yeti!

All are bent upon preventing the Ninja from completing his mission.

The Yeti bot uses Greg's truck like a boom box. 
Can Howard play the game on one token long enough?  Can the Game Hole be saved?

J.A. Morris says:

There's not many Hanukkah-themed specials or episodes, and this one is an interesting "retelling" of the Hanukkah story.  Instead of the Menorah burning for eight night on only one night's worth of oil, Howard saves the Game Hole by fighting for eight rounds of a video game on only one token.

If you're looking for a thorough introduction to what Hanukkah's all about, you won't find it here. However, it's humorous and filled with lots of fun action scenes.  McFist is a good villain and his mechanical minions make entertaining adversaries for the Ninja.  There are also some funny asides about McFist's previous efforts to please his wife with Christmas presents.  The voice acting cast is also very good.

"Happy Hanukkah, Howard Weinerman", like every episode of the show is only eleven minutes long, so it's a bit thin on plot.  Otherwise, there's not much to criticize here.

This episode is currently available for streaming on Amazon.

If you're looking for some light superhero fun during the holiday season, "Happy Hanukkah, Howard Weinerman" will provide it.  The shortness of the episode and lack of plot keeps me from giving it a higher rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 dreidels.

RigbyMel says:

This is a silly, fast paced animated superhero adventure with a clever Hanukkah veneer.   There are some nice touches like the game token stretching long enough to fight eight knights and the robot yeti's head bearing a resemblance to a dreidel.

I also found it interesting that Greg -- the proprietor of the Game Hole -- seems to look like Wooderson -- Matthew McConaughey's character in the 1993 comedy Dazed and Confused.   Which is rather a nice little inside joke for older viewers looking in.

Cartoon Greg -- owner of the Game Hole
Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey)  -- the resemblance is truly striking! 
As J.A. Morris says, this short isn't really a great introduction to the "true meaning of Hanukkah" or anything, but it's certainly amusing and as there are relatively few filmed entertainments dealing with the holiday at all, it's nice to see some inclusiveness.

RigbyMel's rating: 


2 and a half Dreidels.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Silly Symphonies: "Santa's Workshop" (1932) and "The Night Before Christmas" (1933)

"Santa's Workshop" premiered December 10, 1932.

"The Night Before Christmas" premiered  December 9, 1933.

We're going to depart a bit from our usual summary format, since these two connected cartoons don't have a lot of plot to summarize.

In "Santa's Workshop", we see elves making various toys, including rocking horses...


...and alphabet blocks.

Santa Claus (Allan Watson) goes through his naughty or nice list to see deserves a toy. His secretary (Pinto Colvig) informs him about how good or bad each child has been.

When all the toys are made and packed, Santa takes them to deliver toys to children around the world.

"The Night Before Christmas" picks up where "Santa's Workshop" left off.  It's a loose adaptation of the Clement Moore poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas."  Santa delivers toys, we see him make a stop at a house with nine children, sets up the Christmas tree and leaves gifts.

J.A. Morris says:

On a technical level, both cartoons are great.  Most cartoons at this time existed to say "hey, look what we can do with animation."  "Santa's Workshop" and "The Night Before Christmas" are a great example of this practice.  We get to see lots of details involved in how elves make the toys on an assembly line.

The colors are gorgeous and the  movements are nicely animated, but both shorts are a bit slight. There's not a lot of story in either.  Sure it's great animation, but not the sort of thing I plan to watch every December.

The other problem is that both "Santa's Workshop" and "The Night Before Christmas" feature some ugly ethnic stereotypes.  in the first cartoon, the elves making toys that feature blackface and stereotypical Jewish caricatures.  "The Night Before Christmas" short features a sweet moment when a little boy named Junior gets a puppy for Christmas.

This cute scene is undermined by Junior getting soot on his face, which makes it look like he's corked up in blackface.  I don't believe in censoring such things, but it took me out of the moment and feels odd and out of place, even for a 1933 cartoon.

Prancer receives a grooming.
Santa Claus' characterization is worth noting.  His physical appearance hasn't changed much since 1932.   However, other aspects of Santa were not yet codified when these cartoons were made. Instead of the familiar "ho-ho-ho," his laugh sounds more like "ha-ha-ha."  I guess Santa hadn't been codified when these shorts were produced.

"Santa's Workshop" and "The Night Before Christmas" are visually appealing, but the lack of story and reliance on racial stereotypes keeps me from giving them a higher rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:


2 and a half Candy Canes.

RigbyMel says: 

Although there isn't a complicated story underlying these two shorts, there is a LOT of impressive animation on show.    We get to see the whole toy creation and delivery process across these two shorts.

Check out the gnomes/elves working hard in the reindeer stables! (I like the tooth brushing!)
It's also worth noting that the first of the two, "Santa's Workshop" was the fourth Silly Symphony cartoon to be produced in color.  

Technicolor sleigh prep in "Santa's Workshop"
I also enjoy seeing Santa play with all the toys in "The Night Before Christmas."  In my experience, great gift givers tend to retain a sense of wonder and Santa's willingness to engage with the toys illustrates this quality.  

Santa gets a pretty good sound out of that toy piano! 
It's interesting to note that -- as was traditional at the time -- Santa not only brings the toys to go under the Christmas tree, but also the tree itself.  There's a cute gag where Santa unfolds the tree like an umbrella and the toys get in on the act to help with decorating it.

Talented toys (and a zeppelin!) decorate the tree in "The Night Before Christmas"
As J.A. Morris mentions above,  these cartoons contain some less pleasant artifacts from the early 20th century in the form of some ugly stereotypical portrayals of blacks, Asians and Jewish folks.   So when these shorts are made available now, they are often edited to leave out the offensive stereotypes.  They definitely drag me right out of enjoying the beautiful animation.

Ugly stereotypes will get you on the naughty list nowadays! (Rightly so!) 
The complete, unedited shorts are available on the Disney Treasures More Silly Symphonies Volume 2 set, if you want to seek them out.

Nine (!!) small children vs. Christmas tree (Junior is not in the frame though ...) 
On a side note, Mickey Mouse himself makes  an appearance in toy form.   Mickey was a popular presence under Christmas trees from the 1930s onward and it's interesting to think about how DisneyCorp is still pushing the envelope with product placement to this very day.

M-I-C-K-E-Y ... 
Both "Santa's Workshop" and "The Night Before Christmas" are worth seeking out for their beautiful animation and general sweetness, but the ugly stereotypes knock my overall rating down a bit.

The puppy is super-cute though!  And Junior wants him to see Santa ... awww! 
RigbyMel's rating: 

3 Candy Canes.