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Apr 112014

Those lovable Smurfs are back again in The Smurfs 2. In the first film, the main focus was on Clumsy (voice of Anton Yelchon). This time it’s on Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry).

As Smurfs fans would know, Gargamel (Hank Azaria) originally created Smurfette to be an evil femme fatale to trap the other Smurfs. Then Papa Smurf (voice of Jonathon Winters) cast a spell that made her good. Lately, Smurfette has been having nightmares about it, and on her birthday.

I had wondered what became of Gargamel after the first Smurfs movie since he didn’t go back with the Smurfs through the blue moon portal. As it turns out, he is a famous stage magician in France. No one realizes that Gargamel is using real magic with Smurf essence. Of course Azrael is with him, but he doesn’t use as much cat humor as before.

On top of that, Gargamel has created two other evil Smurfs called Naughties. They are Vexy (voice of Christina Ricci) who is smart and mischievous, and Hackus (voice of J.B. Smoove) that’s funny and unintelligent. These two characters must be brand new because I never saw them on the animated series.

Even though Gargamel is living the high life in Paris, he has an evil plan to get rid of the Smurfs. It includes kidnapping Smurfette and forcing her to give him the formula that Papa Smurf used to make her good. Smurfette is no traitor, even if she is confused about whom her true family is.

The other Smurfs quickly find out about Smurfette’s capture. Luckily, Papa Smurf has a plan. He has some magical crystals to travel to the human world. Papa Smurf originally intended for Gutsy (voice of Alan Cumming), Brainy (voice of Fred Armisen), and Hefty (voice of Gary Basaraba) to come along, but due to Clumsy’s klutziness he ends up going instead, along with Grouchy (voice of George Lopez) and Vanity (voice of John Oliver).

At MegaCon 2014, I got to meet Tom Kane. He’s the voice of Narrator Smurf as well as Professor Utonium and Him from Powerpuff Girls.

Upon arriving, the Smurfs meet up with their old friends Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) and ask for their help, which is no problem. Also helping out is Patrick’s stepfather Victor (Brendan Gleeson). It’s sad that Patrick never warmed up to Victor, even though he has always been such a jolly guy.

Throughout this adventure, Grouchy tries to become Positive Smurf, but it’s a real struggle. Can you believe that?

This certainly was a good sequel with plenty of adventure and humor, as well as a real positive message about family. I heard that there’s a Smurfs 3 movie in the works. It makes you wonder what that will be like.

May 212013

The Smurfs were big favorites of mine back in the 80s. You can definitely tell by the old merchandise I have collected over the years. Does anyone remember any of this stuff?

Since the cartoon series ended in 1990, they had not been seen or heard from in a long time until their triumphant return in The Smurfs movie back in 2011. They were also on Robot Chicken, but that’s another story.

In this modern feature, the evil but hilarious wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) plots to capture the Smurfs as usual, but this time he has an edgier plan to use their blue essence to become the most powerful wizard in the world. Meanwhile, Papa Smurf (voice of Jonathon Winters) receives a vision about the Smurfs’ impending doom and Clumsy (voice of Anton Yelchin) is responsible. Clumsy is like the underdog in this movie because nobody believes he can do anything right for he is always clumsy.

Soon, Gargamel finds the village and the Smurfs manage to escape. However, Papa Smurf, Clumsy, Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry), Brainy (voice of Fred Armisen), Grouchy (voice of George Lopez), and new character Gutsy (voice of Alan Cumming) get separated from the others and end up in a portal to modern day New York City. If that wasn’t bad enough, Gargamel and Azrael follow in pursuit. I guess that means we don’t get to see Jokey (voice of Paul Reubens) use his exploding boxes more than once.

While the Smurfs figure out how to get back home, they meet Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife Grace (Jayma Mays) after traveling on top of a taxi. Actually, the Smurfs traveled that way several times but always manage to blend in because there always happens to be a blue ad on top of the cabs. What are the odds of that?

Patrick is a father to be and the new vice president of marketing at a modeling agency, who struggles with self-doubt. His job is on the line because his strict boss Odile (Sofia Vargara) demands a new ad campaign in two days. The Smurfs try to help Patrick out whether he likes it or not, but it’s really Papa Smurf who helps Patrick understand that true success comes from the heart.

Meanwhile, Gargamel sets up a headquarters at an old castle. Azrael manages to get some of Smurfette’s hair for Gargamel to use, despite that it was from a hairball he hacked up. In fact, Azrael is hilarious with his many cat-like behaviors he never did before like licking his butt and jumping on the dinner table during a meal.

Papa Smurf comes up with a plan to get back home. First get a stargazer and then find a book of spells to make the full moon blue in order to open the portal. Such things are hard to find in this world, but the Smurfs manage to find them while dodging Gargamel and other people.

This was a great film with these classic characters. I heard that a sequel is coming out this summer. I wonder if it will feature other reoccurring villains from the cartoon series like Big Mouth, Hogatha, Clorhydris, or allies like Yohan the knight and his squire Pee-Wee. Only time will tell.

Mar 122013

That’s right. Spiderman has been around for a long time, but for the first time ever the franchise came to MTV with Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003-2004).

This show takes place after the events of the first Spiderman movie (2002). It mainly focuses on Peter Parker (voice of Neil Patrick Harris), Mary Jane Watson (voice of Lisa Loeb), and Harry Osborn (voice of Ian Ziering) as a group of friends in college, but each with personal struggles.

Peter, of course, has a difficult time balancing his responsibilities with his double life as a superhero. Mary Jane focuses on making it as an actress and has mixed feelings about Peter. Harry craves revenge on Spiderman for what happened to his father and is the new head of his father’s company Oscorp.

The superhero action is awesome. When Spiderman web slings through the city, it’s very smooth and fast, especially while chasing criminals. Spiderman is also slick in combat with fast moves and witty remarks. He even changes in and out of costume quicker than ever before.

Peter is also clever to contain his schoolbooks and change of clothes within a web and hidden on walls and rooftops. Even when he’s late for class, he can respond to a question the teacher throws at him with ease. Unfortunately, it never gets Peter off the hook for being tardy, even though he was only out saving people and can’t tell anyone about it.

Peter is a photographer at The Daily Bugle, but his employer J. Jonah Jameson (voice of J.K. Simmons) is hardly featured on the series. Unlike other versions of Spiderman, the only times that Jameson is featured is at his office when Peter turns in his photos, which inspire Jameson with possible headlines about Spiderman as a menace to society. It’s bad enough that the police are always after Spiderman, even though he’s a hero.

Unfortunately, Peter can barely make a living at The Daily Bugle, so he sets his standards a little higher by occasionally providing news footage for the Empire One TV studio. That’s where Peter meets aspiring reporter Indy Daimonji, who also becomes his love interest, despite his feeling for Mary Jane. Although, Mary Jane only wanted to be friends with Peter, or does she.

What’s also different about this series is that most of the criminals Spiderman faces are not his archenemies, but some do make an appearance or two. The most common was Electro. He was once an unpopular teen named Max Dillon, who was always picked on. After a freak accident, he becomes an electric monster and the first thing on his agenda is to take revenge on his tormentors. Electro succeeds, but still remains a killer, even though all he ever wanted was to be accepted. I always wandered what Electro’s back-story was.

Other known villains that make appearances are Craven the bounty hunter, the Kingpin, and the Lizard Man. Of course, you can’t have a Spiderman series without a Lizard Man episode.

I enjoyed this series for its smooth action and MTV style of humor. In addition to conveniently having a camera handy, I thought it was great that Spiderman had a camcorder while on patrol to videotape himself talking. It’s too bad he only used it in the first episode. That would’ve added to the humor even more.

Apr 062011

The exciting adventures of the Dark Knight continue in the straight to DVD release, Batman: Under the Red Hood. As it turns out, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake weren’t the only superheroes to wear the Robin suit. There was another, an orphaned young punk named Jason Todd (voice of Jensen Ackles), who Bruce Wayne adopted. Unfortunately, the Joker kills him, or does he.

Five years later, a new vigilante comes to Gotham City, the Red Hood. He takes on top criminals, but not how Batman would handle things. The Red Hood is brutal with his guns and death threats.

Meanwhile, Batman battles with Amaze-o, a powerful android. The battle becomes more exciting when Nightwing (voice of Neil Patrick Harris) arrives to help out, even if the exploding batterangs only make Amaze-o angry.

After that, Batman goes after the Red Hood, but he’s not so easy to catch. The Red Hood is crafty, like Batman, and his identity has yet to be discovered. Several criminals used the guise of the Red Hood, including the Joker. It’s not him though.

This movie also features a new villain, Black Mask. He’s like the Al Capone of Gotham City. There’s no mention of how Black Mask acquired his unusual appearance, but he has a very short temper. Whatever Black Mask wants, he gets.

Soon Batman and Nightwing go after Red Hood again in an exciting chase on the rooftops. They don’t catch Red Hood, but they do discover a clue about his identity. Red Hood knows Batman is Bruce Wayne and was trained very well as if Bruce had taught him. It reminded Bruce of Jason Todd, who had Red Hood’s reckless persona. Could it be that Jason and the Red Hood are one and the same?

Nightwing was injured in the last battle, so Batman goes after Red Hood alone. When Batman finds Red Hood, they temporarily team up in an exciting battle against another group of new enemies called the Fearsome Hand of Four, who work for Black Mask.

Afterward, Batman tries to tell Red Hood that killing the criminals is not the way to stop crime, but no matter what, Red Hood refuses to listen. He now has bigger fish to fry, which involves both Black Mask and the Joker. It doesn’t sound good, even if Red Hood thinks he’s doing the right thing.

I enjoyed this film. I must admit that this was the most violent animated Batman movie I have seen yet. Still, it’s nice to know that even in the direst situations, Batman always manages to find a way around killing anyone he faces.