Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes, Vol. 3

Written by Hombre Divertido

This animated series from The Kids WB is based on characters appearing in the DC Comics series. The series centers on the young Superman’s adventures in the 31st century, fighting alongside a group of futuristic superheroes known as the Legion of Super-Heroes. Volume three contains five episodes from season one of the series. Why the series is being released in such a sporadic fashion is certainly curious, and if these episodes are a reflection of the series as a whole, than it is clear why the series only lasted two seasons.

This release gives no explanation of the situation on which the series is based nor does it give any backstory on its heroes. One would have to be a fan of the series, or at least know the history of The Legion to appreciate this release, but even said knowledge may not guarantee appreciation.

For those who don’t know: according to the official press release, the premise of the first season is that a group of teenagers from the 31st century travel back in time to recruit Superman in their fight against evil in their time. Unfortunately, they go too far back and land in a time when Clark Kent was younger and was about to move to Metropolis, already aware of his powers but undecided about his destiny. Taking him back to their future, the young Superman helps the Legion in fighting evil and upholding the laws of the United Planets. It is described as a "fast-paced, character-driven action comedy". It is indeed fast-paced and character-driven, and is even well animated with good sound quality. The problem, in the case of these five episodes, is the stories. They are too busy, have too many characters, and make little sense. Perhaps this is appealing to children, but maybe the series would have lasted longer had the stories contained even the slightest bit of continuity.

The new release contains no extras, and thus must be marketed towards only the fans of the show. That would seem to be somewhat limiting as said fans only massed enough viewership to keep it on for two seasons. Perhaps adding some extras with some backstories on the heroes and the bringing of the series from the pages of the comic books to the small screen might makes this a more attractive purchase.

Recommendation: If you watched the show when it was on, and liked it enough to want to invest the money in collecting all the volumes that it may take to complete the 26 episode series, then pick this up. If you are looking for something reflective of the comic books, this is not for you.

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (Deluxe Edition)

Written by Hombre Divertido

It’s Halloween and Linus is in the pumpkin patch anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. Sally is enamored with Linus and thus gives up her first trick or treat outing to spend Halloween in the pumpkin patch. Charlie Brown manages to get invited to a Halloween party and struggles with making a ghost costume. He also has a run-in with a football-pulling Lucy. Snoopy is a flying ace off to battle the Red Baron. That’s a lot to cover in twenty-five minutes and this story is quite busy. Though generally considered a classic, when you really break this one down, it is a collection of scenes, many of which contain storylines that raise questions and remain unresolved.

We never really understand where Linus gets the idea that there is a Great Pumpkin, or why Charlie Brown is receiving rocks from people instead of candy. The Snoopy adventure never really goes anywhere, and as always, the parents are missing, so it is Lucy that gets up in the middle of the night to put Linus to bed. Add to that, Linus appears to be balding and Charlie Brown is bald.

This new remastered release certainly looks and sounds great, but the memories brought back may leave you wondering why you ever enjoyed this outing as it fails in comparison to the far superior Thanksgiving and Christmas Peanuts classics.

The new release contains some enjoyable special features including a Peanuts adventure entitled It’s Magic, Charlie Brown, which is simple and cute, but lacks the quality vocal talents of earlier endeavors. The best part of this set is a documentary entitled “We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown” that chronicles the pressure that Charles Schultz and producers Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez were under to follow up the success of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The pressure may have been too much as they seemed to have struggled to fill the entire twenty-five minutes.

Recommendation: The documentary alone makes this new release worth owning, and a true Peanuts fan needs to have this in their collection. On the surface this is simple fun with a classic score that will thrust you back to your childhood. Once engulfed in the memories, it will be easy to overlook the flawed storytelling.

This new deluxe edition was released on September 2, 2008. On this same day the Peanuts family lost a valuable member. Bill Melendez died at the age of 91. Aside from his work on Great Pumpkin, he went on to produce, direct, or animate some 70 Peanuts TV specials. He was an extremely versatile and talented artist who will be sorely missed.