TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Season 1 (1985)

Also known as: Action Force (UK)
Release Date: September 16th, 1985 – December 13th, 1985
Directed by: John Gibbs, Terry Lennon
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Bob Remus, B.J. Ward

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, Claster Television, 55 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“As of now, your little project is deader than disco! Hmmm… Deader than disco… I like that… I would have made a great stand-up comedian.” – Cobra Commander

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is the original G.I. Joe cartoon series that ran from 1983-1986. It actually became a full series in 1985, after two separate five-part miniseries in 1983 and 1984. It was created as a big marketing vehicle for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe toy line. It also paved the way for a similar series, The Transformers in 1984. Both of these Hasbro toy franchises followed the same marketing path and also had their shows created by Marvel-SunBow. Both also had ongoing comic book series produced by Marvel.

I already reviewed the three miniseries events that lead to this regular ongoing series. However, I wanted to review just season one here, as there were a lot of big changes between seasons one and two. I will follow up with a season two review in the near future.

G.I. Joe has had several television series come and go throughout the years but none are even as close to the greatness of the original. This series, along with Transformers, created a megafranchise that was only rivaled by Star Wars, at the time.

The series created a lot of heroes and villains that were all cool and still very memorable. Cobra was, and still is, the coolest villain organization in all of fiction. G.I. Joe were the coolest heroes. As a kid who always sided with the baddies, it was hard not to love the good guys too. This was an animated show with surprisingly good character development.

The characters, for a cartoon about toys, had really good backstories and unique personalities. The stories about Shipwreck were always phenomenal. The show could tap into horrific things but serve it in a way that was okay for kids to handle. It took a lot of risks, offered up a lot of serious lessons but did it in a way that was so cool, at that age, you didn’t realize you were being taught anything. It was a perfect package of badass, cool and educational.

The art was top notch for the mid ’80s. The tone of the show was always adventurous. It was like someone took the best of James Bond, the best of The Avengers, mixed it together and gave it a military twist. G.I. Joe are mortal men without any real powers but they are superheroes. Cobra is essentially a much cooler version of SPECTRE or Hydra.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is still the best version of G.I. Joe ever created in animation form. I’m still waiting for a movie or a series that gets it because nothing since has even come close.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness (1985)

Also known as: The Further Adventures of G.I. Joe
Release Date: September 16th, 1985 – September 20th, 1985 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: John Gibbs, Terry Lennon
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Rob Walsh
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Christopher Collins, Zack Hoffman, Kene Holiday, Neil Ross, Keone Young, Corey Burton, John Hostetter, Bill Morey, Lee Weaver, Pat Fraley, Hal Rayle, Will Ryan, Ketty Lester, François Chau, Morgan Lofting

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 22 Minutes (per episode), 100 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Let’s reconnoiter, Snake Eyes. Try not to attract attention… Sure. Who’d notice a wet sailor with a parrot and a silent masked man with a timber wolf.” – Shipwreck

Like the two five-part miniseries events before it, G.I. Joe: The Pyramid of Darkness was made to be combined into a feature length film for VHS release and for weekend replays. Also, this was the first five episodes of the regular G.I. Joe television show. This feels like the third part of a trilogy with the two miniseries releases before it but it is also the start of a much larger G.I. Joe television run. This would also be the last five-part miniseries until the start of season two, which would kickoff with Arise, Serpentor, Arise!

The Pyramid of Darkness really ups the ante. We have all the major Cobra officers from the previous two miniseries but we now get introduced to my favorite fictional twins of all-time Tomax and Xamot, the Crimson Guard commanders. They also run Extensive Enterprises as a corporate front for Cobra and they basically function as Cobra’s CFOs.

We also get the debut of several new members of G.I. Joe. Three of the coolest characters Alpine, Bazooka and Quick Kick have a pretty big spot in the story. In fact, I like their chemistry as a group and they are a good comedic addition to the show.

Like the other miniseries before this, Cobra has a superweapon. In this one, it is the Pyramid of Darkness. The way this one functions is a lot more interesting and cooler than the previous two superweapons. Basically, Cobra positions four giant black cubes around the Earth. They also send the Dreadnoks to space to overtake a G.I. Joe space station, which is needed to link the four cubes. Once all five points are secured and operational, the top half of the Earth is covered by an electric pyramid that works like an EMP, killing the electrical power of anything within its massive reach. This gives Cobra a huge advantage in world domination. The Joes have to then battle it out with Cobra in exotic and dangerous locations once again.

The Dreadnoks in space element is really cool, especially when their genetically engineered beasts, the Fatal Fluffies, grow to monstrous proportions. I actually wished that the Fluffies would have returned to the show and also had toys, back when I was a kid. With Duke on the space station, this makes the third time in three stories that he is a Cobra captive. Really, Duke? Get it together, bro! You’re the leader of G.I. Joe until General Hawk comes along in season two.

I also wanted to mention the character of Satin. She was a pop singer that worked the Cobra nightclub circuit. Really though, she was working her way into the organization because her father was framed by Cobra for crimes he didn’t commit, which ruined his life. Satin works as an ally to Shipwreck and Snake Eyes and was instrumental to the story, yet we never see her again after this.

The Pyramid of Darkness is my favorite story of the Marvel/Sunbow G.I. Joe universe. Actually, it’s my favorite Joe story, period. Well, not counting Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe comic books because that dude wrote some amazing shit.

Film Review: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

Release Date: January 12th, 2018 (Newseum premiere)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Jim Krieg
Based on: Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, Anthony Head, Tara Strong, Bruce Timm, Kari Wuhrer

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 78 Minutes

Review:

“[faces the Ripper] Well, I won’t beg. And I won’t get hysterical. I won’t give you the satisfaction. Know this: I forgive you.” – Sister Leslie

I was a big fan of the old Gotham by Gaslight story, which came out when I was just really getting into Batman circa 1989. It was also the first Elseworlds Tale, which has become a big imprint under the DC Comics banner. Strangely, although this shares the title, the time frame and the villain, it is it’s own story and not an animated adaptation of the famous comic.

At first, I was caught off guard by the alterations and didn’t think I’d like the film but by the time it got to the end, I was digging it.

Reinventions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, sometimes they work quite well and with this film version of Gotham by Gaslight, it was cool going into familiar but really under explored territory in the DC mythos and seeing someone else give their own take on it. Had that take been bad, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel the same but the end result and the story were really good.

The one things that really stuck out for me was the animation. I wasn’t super keen on the character designs but when we got to those high octane action parts, this film really came alive. The big finale, which features a vacant World’s Fair setting and a massive burning Ferris wheel was spectacular. Also, the scenes where Batman was riding through the streets of Gotham on a steam powered motorcycle, looked fantastic.

Ultimately, this film didn’t blow my socks off but it was worth a watch. The animated DC stuff has been really good the last few years, especially the Batman movies. This one is a bit better than their recent average and it was a welcome change to just having another straight up, modern Batman adaptation.

Film Review: Krazy Kat – Bugologist (1916)

Release Date: March 14th, 1916
Written by: George Herriman
Based on: Krazy Kat by George Herriman

International Film Service, 3 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll teach thee bugology, Ignatzes.” – Krazy Kat

The character of Krazy Kat was conceived as a comic strip by George Herriman in 1913. He would go on to be featured in 231 films from 1916 to 1940. This is one of the first films to feature him and his friend, Ignatz Mouse.

It’s hard to really critique something like this as it is almost primitive animation. These films feel more like experiments within the style and certainly aren’t anywhere near as great as the animated shorts that would put Walt Disney and the Looney Tunes on the map, just over a decade later.

Still, without the Krazy Kat shorts, we may not have had Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, which would have completely altered the evolution of animation. Krazy Kat films kind of wedged the door open for other animated features to work their way into the public’s hearts during the earliest era of theater going.

Krazy Kat – Buglogist is very short but that wasn’t uncommon for 1916 where you could see a film that is longer than a television season and the next night, see something shorter than most movie trailers. In those early days, everything was experimental and certain rules weren’t yet established.

In this short, we see Krazy Kat try to teach Ignatz about bugs, which turns into him getting stung by a bee, right in his bum. It then goes off on a tangent about an elephant. It’s a short film with multiple personality disorder but ultimately, it shows that both friends are different yet need each other.

The drawings are pretty crude but I don’t think that the people behind this were as concerned about art quality, as they were about technical prowess and trail and error.

Since the film is so short, I’ve posted it in its entirety below.

 

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (1984)

Release Date: September 10th, 1984 – September 14th, 1984 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Dan Thompson
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, Arthur Burghardt, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Christopher Collins, Zack Hoffman, Kene Holiday, Neil Ross, Will Ryan, Buster Jones, Keone Young

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 21 Minutes (per episode), 98 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Remember, Cobra’s a snake, and “snake” is “sneak” spelled sideways.” – Flint

After the huge success that was the miniseries G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Hasbro commissioned Sunbow to follow it up with this miniseries, which also was released in feature film length for home video and weekend replays.

The Revenge of Cobra is everything that was great about A Real American Hero but with even more cool stuff added into it. This massive G.I. Joe story has a special place in my heart because it was the debut of the Dreadnoks, my favorite branch within the Cobra organization. It also introduced Cobra members Storm Shadow, Firefly, Scrap-Iron and some others. On the G.I. Joe side we got some other awesome debuts: Flint, Mutt & Junkyard, Shipwreck, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, Spirit, Cutter and more. I also realized that G.I. Joe leader Duke spent most of his time in these first two film length stories as a prisoner of Cobra. I guess I never realized he spent more time as a P.O.W. than a hero in the earliest stories.

In this massive tale, Cobra once again has a super weapon. This time the weapon is the Weather Dominator. At one point, it gets split into three parts, which all end up in different locations around the world. This is sort of a rehash of the first G.I. Joe story, as the Joes and Cobra race against one another for three MacGuffins located in dangerous exotic locations. But that’s not a bad thing, as these situations made for the best G.I. Joe stories.

The highlight of this story is the big battle at the derelict carnival that the Dreadnoks call home. The Dreadnoks are holding the last MacGuffin ransom, waiting to see who bids highest for it between G.I. Joe and Cobra. We get a three-way battle at the carnival that is pretty friggin’ glorious. This then segues into the big finale that sees G.I. Joe raid Cobra’s desert fortress.

While the first miniseries was a great kickoff to what would be a long running series, The Revenge of Cobra is where the show finds its stride and style.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Debut Miniseries (1983)

Also known as: Action Force (UK), G.I. Joe: The M.A.S.S. Device (alternate VHS title)
Release Date: September 12th, 1983 – September 16th, 1983 (first run syndication, 5 parts)
Directed by: Dan Thompson
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast (voices): Michael Bell, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, William Callaway, Brian Cummings, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Chris Latta, Morgan Lofting, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Ratner, Bob Remus, B.J. Ward, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, 5 Episodes (first run syndication), 21 Minutes (per episode), 97 Minutes (movie cut)

Review:

“Nobody’s perfect.” – Breaker, “No. But we do okay.” – Duke

This review isn’t for the G.I. Joe cartoon series as a whole. I wanted to review the early miniseries stories as their own bodies of work, as each was five episodes long but edited into movies for home video release and for two hour long weekend broadcasts on television.

This is the first of those miniseries releases and the story that popularized the reinvented G.I. Joe franchise in the ’80s. Some know this as The M.A.S.S. Device, as it was marketed that way on VHS and to differentiate it from the long-running cartoon that shared the name G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

In this inaugural chapter of the modernized G.I. Joe mythos, we meet everyone for the first time. On the G.I. Joe side there is Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Gung Ho, Breaker, Clutch, Cover Girl, Snow Job (I still can’t believe that was his name) and a few others. On the Cobra side we are introduced to four of the big leaders: Cobra Commander, Destro, the Baroness and Major Blood.

We also get introduced to the concept of the show and it’s heavy emphasis on science fiction and Cobra’s love of super weapons.

In the ’80s, probably due to the popularity of the Death Star from Star Wars and all the classic James Bond movies, there was always a need for super weapons. Cobra probably had more than any other fictional organization in history. Here, the super weapon is the M.A.S.S. Device, which require three special elements to operate. When operational, it can beam massive things to other locations or just straight up destroy them with an energy blast. Cobra actually does a weapons test, as a warning to the world, where we see them beam a nation’s entire army into their clutches, where they are captured.

G.I. Joe builds their own version of the device in an effort to combat Cobra. Most of the story is about the race between G.I. Joe and Cobra to collect the three rare elements from incredibly dangerous locations around the world.

For the time, the animation was top notch. Compared to what else was out at the time in the United States, this was well above its competition. Alongside Transformers, also produced by the same studio, G.I. Joe actually moved kids minds away from other toy franchises and locked them in place to Hasbro’s benefit. Today, G.I. Joe and Transformers are still massive franchises even if the live action movies leave a lot to be desired.

This was a really good kickoff to the modernized G.I. Joe franchise and actually, the cartoon universe improved with each new miniseries and eventually peaked with a full show. Things would go downhill in later eras but this was the start of a few years of stupendous G.I. Joe animated material.

Film Review: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)

Also known as: Gojira: Kaijū Wakusei (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 17th, 2017 (Japan)
Directed by: Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by: Gen Urobuchi
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yūki Kaji

Toho, 88 Minutes

Review:

While I have been anticipating this since its announcement some time ago, I didn’t have extremely high hopes for it, as there hasn’t really been a Japanese produced Godzilla animated feature before. I’m also not a huge fan of anime but I do regularly return to some of the classics, from time to time. For example, Robotech is one of my most loved things ever.

Well, I’m going to be blunt: this was terrible. It’s slow, it’s boring, everyone in it is extremely unlikable and it has a giant plot hole large enough to suck Godzilla in.

The plot hole made the film pretty unwatchable. I couldn’t just ignore it and it was a testament to how awful the writing was. You see, humans escaped Earth, which has been overrun by kaiju with Godzilla as their king. For decades, the human race has pushed out further and further into the cosmos and in that time, food and oxygen became scarce. People started dying, some committed suicide and most of the humans that fled Earth are already dead at the start of this movie. So, afraid that they’ll never get to the planets that they set out for, an angry kid decides that going back to Earth to fight Godzilla is the best course of action for survival. The humans then use a warp drive to get back to Earth in literally one second. So, all these people died over the course of decades for a trip that took one second with warp drive? And why not then just use the warp drive to get you to your far off destination? At this point, I was already over this stupid fucking movie.

Then there is everything else wrong with it.

The main character is such an unlikable brat you just want to punch him in the dick. I fucking hated this character and wanted him to die as soon as possible. He doesn’t die by the way, the film ends with a moment that tells you that this screaming emo douche will be back, front and center, in this film’s sequel because I guess this is the start of a trilogy.

Another problem is that I (and I’m sure many people) only watched this for Godzilla. You don’t really get to see him, other than quick flashbacks, until the last third of the film. He also looks an awful lot like the most recent American version of Godzilla, as opposed to the dozens or so Japanese versions. Everything up until Godzilla shows up is just drawn out and boring as hell. This just isn’t an exciting movie and once it should be exciting, you don’t care about any of the characters because they all suck. The terrible characters make it so that the action scenes lack any sort of emotion. This is a soulless, terrible, cookie cutter, basic bitch, anime shitshow.

In regards to the animation, I didn’t like the Godzilla character design. Also, the action stuff is a combination of traditional animation and CGI, which seems to be the norm in anime these days and I don’t like it. What I did like about anime, when I was younger, was the talent of the people who drew these films and shows. It’s similar to how I love classic Disney animation but don’t really give a shit about Pixar, even if the stories are good. But just like I prefer practical effects over a ton of unnecessary CGI, I feel the same way with animation. Yes, that’s my personal preference but I know I’m not alone here.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters isn’t anything I ever asked for and now having seen it, it isn’t anything that I want. I’ll probably watch the sequels because they are Godzilla movies but I doubt that anything will happen in this series that will make me appreciate them.

This just barely escapes the mechanical maw of the Cinespiria Shitometer. Just barely.