A Movie Entry – Hole in My Soul: Jurassic World

Yeah, I know this came out in 2015, but I’ve been busy. So, full disclaimer first – when I was a kid, like most kids I thought it would be totally cool to be a paleontologist when I grew up and discover awesome, previously undiscovered dinosaurs. Eventually I figured out most of what I would be doing as a paleontologist would be sweating my butt off doing hard, dirty digging and hauling in the summer in the Badlands working for a pittance of grant money. I decided that wasn’t me, but my love for all things prehistoric (about up to the Pleistocene anyway) stuck with me.

Continue reading A Movie Entry – Hole in My Soul: Jurassic World

Advertisements

Fifteen-minute Movie – Jurassic World

or, “Rightfully Should be a Franchise Killer”

[[The movie opens with the ominous hatching of some kind of carnivorous dinosaur and then white-screens out to an entirely different setting]]

Some People’s House:
Claire’s Sister (no, her name does not matter) – So are you boys excited to be going to see the famous Jurassic World theme park and spending some time with your Aunt Claire over the winter break?

Gray – Dinosaurs are awesome! This will be the best vacation ever!

Zach – As a teenager, I am contractually obligated to be unimpressed by anything and everyone and only interested in girls.

[[The parents bid an oddly tearful farewell for what should just be a two-week break and the boys board the plane, board a ferry, and finally arrive on Isla Nublar only to be met by Claire’s personal assistant who has a name but it doesn’t even begin to matter]]

Zach – So Aunt Claire’s too busy to even see us?

PA – Yeah, but she got you a sweet suite and VIP passes to all the attractions, and she’ll be back this afternoon.

Gray – VIP passes, yay!

Zach – Meh.

Gray – Are you not impressed by this CG window view and swelling John Williams score from the original movie?

Zach – What part of contractual obligation did you not understand, stupid?

Laboratory or Something:
Claire Dearing – Welcome to Jurassic World!

Investor 1 – Um, who are you talking to? We’re behind you.

Claire – So the problem is of course no one is impressed by a real live dinosaur anymore. It’s the same problem actual zoos have. I mean, once you’ve seen one lion you’ve seen them all, right? So there’s no point in going back to the zoo unless there’s something new, right? So we’ll make something new, and I promise profits will sky-rocket.

Investor 2 – But all the dinosaurs are female. How are you going to breed anything new?

Henry Wu – As the scientist from the first movie to further establish continuity, I can tell you that we just made a new dinosaur the same way we made all of the others – by defying God and evolutionary principles by twisting the laws of nature to our every whim and desire. Muahahahahaha!!!

Claire – So, as you can see, Henry is just the man you want creating a new totally awesome kick-ass dinosaur.

Investor 1/2 – We’re sold!

Claire – Good! Now to stop by the control room because I am totally a control freak. That’s, like, my character.

Control Room:
Claire – Lowery, you’re such a slob.

Lowery Cruthers – No, I just love dinosaurs. Check out this shirt I got with the first movie’s logo on it, thus establishing continuity.

Vivian Krill – Lowery’s right. The original park was totally awesome, at least until all those people died.

Claire – Well, that’s not happening here. Clean up that mess while I go see my nephews and pretend I care about them in any way.

Hammond Innovation Center:
Claire – Hey…guys…it’s been, what, three years?

Zach – Seven.

Claire – Yeah, of course, so anyway, I’m super-busy so my personal assistant will keep you guys company while you use those VIP passes and tour the park. I’ll see you later, or tomorrow, or something. Promise. Laters!

[[So Claire goes to meet the new park owner to show off the awesome new hybrid Indominus rex]]

Claire – Um, why are you flying a helicopter? Can’t we just drive?

Simon Masrani – Because helicopters are awesome and I’m this close to being a licensed pilot.

Claire – Oh, god, tell me this isn’t going to be some kind of plot point later.

Simon – Okay, I won’t tell you that.

I. rex Paddock:
Claire – Allow me to give you a helpful exposition dump on how awesome and dangerous this new dinosaur is. She’s part T. rex and also ate her sibling. And despite the fact the paddock is still clearly under construction, we are certain it is totally safe and there’s no way this dinosaur that is 20% larger than a T. rex will ever escape and wreak havoc on the park.

Simon – What you say is pretty convincing, but I think you need to bring an expert in here, like Owen, the crazy guy that trains raptors.

Claire – That really doesn’t make sense but you’re the owner so fine.

Velociraptor Paddock:
Owen Grady – You know, as an expert on raptors, I’m kind of surprised they don’t have feathers.

Blue – <-<Yeah, yeah, there are fossils that prove we were covered in feathers but feathers aren’t scary, okay? We’d just look like a giant turkeys.>->

Owen – Yeah, point. Who would think giant turkeys with claws the size of hunting knives on their back feet would be scary. Okay girls, pay attention to my clicky thing and to me and you’ll get some food, cool?

Blue – <-<It’s cool while you’re up there and we’re down here, squishy food-giver>->

Vic Hoskins – That was amazing! You’ve totally completely tamed those wild, vicious, pack-hunters. As the leader of InGen’s Security Division, I think it would be great to train these creatures for military applications.

Owen – Wait, what? Are you insane? They aren’t totally tamed. They just know I give them the food.

[[And just to drive the point home, some noob ends up falling into the paddock and Owen just barely gets both of them out of there alive because the raptors aren’t quite ready to devour their food-giver just yet.]]

Vic – Yep, like I said, totally tamed and trainable.

Owen – You’re insane and we’re done here.

Owen’s Trailer:
Claire – Okay, so my boss wants you to take a look at the new dinosaur paddock and give us your professional opinion on whether it’s safe.

Owen – I think you’re here because I’m totally hot and you’re regretting messing up our one date.

Claire – Just get over to the paddock and spare me your smug machismo. Also, take a damn bath.

Owen – Hey, smug machismo is my entire character!

I. rex Paddock Again:
Owen – So what’s she made of?

Claire – T. rex and other stuff I can’t tell you about.

Owen – So how am I supposed to give you my professional opinion on whether or not this paddock is safe if you can’t tell me all the capabilities of the dinosaur it’s supposed to contain?

Claire – Yeah, so that’s a total valid point and oh, no, the thermal cameras say the paddock is empty!

Owen – Yeah, and there are claw marks on the wall here. Do you think she got out?

Claire – And no one noticed a 40-ft killer monster stomping through the area? Of course she must have gotten out! I’ll head back to the control room and check on her implanted tracker!

Owen – Couldn’t you just call the control room?

Claire – Um, no, for reasons. [[leaves in a panic in the completely subtle paid product-placement Mercedes]]

Ellis the worker – I know I’m just an extra here, Mr. Grady, but shouldn’t we wait until Ms. Dearing calls back to let us know the dinosaur is really and truly gone before we go investigate her paddock and thus endanger all our lives in case she’s somehow hiding?

Owen – Um, no, for reasons. [[So Owen, Ellis, and Nick the comically overweight security guard, investigate the claw marks]] So, this is weird.

Control Room:
Claire – Lowery, Vivian, activate the I. rex‘s tracker and let me know where she is!

Lowery – Um, okay. Oh, she’s in the paddock. Where did you think she was?

Claire – AAGH! I’ve made a terrible mistake! I’ve got to get back there and tell Owen!

Vivian – Um, you have a phone…

Claire – Can’t talk, gotta go, reasons…!

I. rex Paddock:
Claire (via bad cell reception) – Owen, you’re in terrible danger! The I. rex is still somehow in the paddock!

Owen – I have no idea what you’re saying. It sounds like of like the dinosaur is still in the paddock… oh crap. Run!

[[Their effort to return to the man-door is interrupted by the I. rex herself, who chomps down on the ethnic extra first, as per movie convention; then Nick, the overweight idiot, decides to do the stupidest thing possible, as per movie convention, by opening the dino-door to escape; Owen runs right after him and although the door is already closing the I. rex wrenches it open and eats Nick who can’t even hide properly; the only reason Owen lives is because he coats himself with gasoline to hide his scent.]]

Control Room:
Claire – Okay, I’m sending out the military grade containment unit to re-capture the I. rex.

Owen – Re-capture? Don’t you mean take out?

Simon – Oh, no, she’s worth far too much money to just kill outright. I’m sure those men armed with cattle prods can easily take down a 40-foot long killing machine. No problem.

[[And this goes about as well you imagine as they find out I. rex both gouged out her tracker and can camouflage and that cattle prods do absolutely nothing against a 40-foot long killing machine!]]

Owen – Okay, most of those guys are dead. You need to evacuate the park, now.

Claire – But if we close we’ll never re-open. We’ll just close the part of the park she’s loose in.

Owen – Um, are people supposed to be rooting for your character to die, because if so, that is great motivation you just provided. Mr. Masrani?

Simon – As the owner, I do nothing to countermand this decision to put profits over lives.

In the Park, Somewhere:
Zach – That personal assistant who isn’t interfering in what we want to do in any way is such a drag I say we ditch her and go wherever we want.

Gray – But you don’t want to go anywhere. You were texting your girlfriend while the T. rex was skeletonizing a goat.

Zach – Well, I’d rather text my girlfriend without the unobtrusive presence of any responsible adult who might possibly prevent us from putting ourselves in totally avoidable danger later in the movie. So let’s bail. [[They do so and go watch the mosasaurus (a 50-foot long killer machine of the deep that will haunt your waking nightmares by its sheer size) feeding show]]

Control Room:
Owen – Shouldn’t you at least shut down the damn rides and get everyone back to the resort area where they can be accounted for?

Claire – Yeah, I suppose that’s logical enough.

[[Of course the rides aren’t closed before the boys get into a completely impractical gyrosphere ride that doesn’t have any sort of override mechanism and even though Zach has shown zero interest in anything so far, apparently he decides he was kind of a jerk to his little brother for breaking down over their parents imminent divorce and decides to ignore the recall order and go into unauthorized areas of the park]]

Gray – Are you sure we should be going into an unauthorized area?

Zach – You’re the one that wanted to see dinosaurs, so we’ll see dinosaurs. Anyway, the gratuitous cameo tutorial just told us how safe this thing was.

Gray – Okay, I guess. But I just have this feeling like we’re in danger.

Zach – Bro, even I can see ankylosaurs are plant-eaters.

Gray – Yeah, but whatever is behind us sure isn’t!

[[The I. rex, of course, in her journey across this vast island manages to run across the two kids and scares the hell out of them, smashes the gyrosphere thing, and forces them to jump off a cliff into a river to escape her]]

Claire – Owen, Owen, my nephews are lost on the island! We have to find them!

Owen – And are you ready to order a full evacuation yet?

Claire – What, no, no, listen, I. rex is still well north of all the people. You’ve got to help me save my nephews!

Owen – Fine. Do you want to change into some decent shoes?

Claire – Four-inch beige heels are perfectly sensible for running through a dinosaur-infested jungle.

Dinosaur-infested jungle:
Owen – Oh, man, this poor apatosaurus has been clawed to pieces by I. rex. But she didn’t eat it. That’s weird. Poor thing.

Claire – Wait, my nephews are in danger and you’re taking valuable time to comfort a dying sauropod?

Owen – Yeah. But you know, this is supposed to be a touching moment to establish my hero cred.

Claire – Oh, then I’d better take this moment with you to establish my heroine cred.

[[And the apatasaurus dies and they realize I. rex is on a mass-murdering spree through the park; they also find the busted gyrosphere and realize the boys are safe-ish]]

Abandoned Visitor Center:
Gray – Whoa, what is this place? It looks like a fully functional visitor’s center for the original park but for some reason just abandoned and taken over by the jungle instead of properly demolished. But surely there wouldn’t be that kind of gratuitous fan service, right?

Zach – Right… I’m totally using a thigh bone of a dead velociraptor and part of the original banner as a torch. Maybe we’ll get lucky and find something useful in here.

[[And they find an easily repairable Jeep that somehow starts up after over 20 years of neglect and they head out just about two minutes ahead of Claire and Owen]]

Claire – Now what?

Owen – If they got a Jeep running, so can I, unless, of course, the I. rex is hanging out here and tries to kill us. But what are the odds of that?

[[Shockingly good, it seems, as the I. rex comes out of nowhere and tries to eat them]]

Raptor Paddock:
Vic – Oh, wow, these guys are awesome!

Barry – They’re girls, and have you not noticed how we have them muzzled and restrained so they don’t eat us?

Vic – Nope. I think they’ll make totally awesome kick-ass military hunters.

Delta – <-<I am totally going to rip that stupid beard right off your face before I gut you>->

Vic – See, she likes me!

Laboratory:
Simon – This has gone too far! I’m shutting down your research!

Henry – But you wanted a new awesome dinosaur for the park. I gave you what you wanted.

Simon – No, you gave me a seemingly unstoppable killing machine who can camouflage and become invisible to thermal sensors! What the hell? You’re fired, get out, and I’m going to load up the minigun into my helicopter and take this asset out!

InGen Security Officer – We need to wait for a qualified pilot.

Simon – I can fly! Let’s go.

InGen Security Officer – Yes, that’s very nice, sir, but we need a military pilot who has flown combat missions in similar terrain, not a civilian who’s still two days away from his license.

Simon – Spare me your logic and get in!

[[They do so and not only fail to hit the 40-foot long killing machine with a goddamn minigun, they end up chasing her into the aviary, releasing all the flying dinosaurs, and crashing to the ground and still missing the I. rex!]]

Claire – So I’ll be evacuating the park now.

Owen – Ya think?!?

[[Claire, Owen, and the boys all manage to get back to Main Street at roughly the same time only to be greeted by the flying dinosaurs who for..reasons…decide to attack the visitors and are strong enough to pick people up!]]

PA – There you boys are! We have to…[[And she’s picked up by a pteranodon and killed in the most horrible, gruesome, prolonged manner in the entire movie!]]

Owen – That is it! Asset or no asset, these things are going down! Also, I’m going to kiss Claire even though this is literally the worst time to do so!

[[General chaos and destruction reign until nightfall and Lowery chooses to remain in the Control Room for no good reason when everyone else leaves; then Vic decides to just take over the entire park; incidentally, Henry has escaped with a suitcase full of embryos in what can only be described as the “sequel bait” maneuver.]]

Control Room:
Vic – Okay, people, I think the best thing to do is use the raptor pack to hunt and take down the I. rex.

Owen – That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

Vic – Hey, we’re doing this with or without you.

Owen – But I’m the only guy has any semblance of control over the pack. How exactly would you do this without me?

Vic – Shut up!

Claire – Okay, boys, you stay in the back of this veterinary vehicle and be safe, okay?

[[Owen agrees to this stupid, stupid idea and uses the chunk of I. rex with the tracker in it to give the raptor pack the scent even though the guy that last held the chunk was squashed to death miles away]]

Dinosaur-infested Jungle:
Barry – This is a really stupid idea.

Owen – Yeah, I know.

Barry – Yeah, but I’m black.

Owen – You might get lucky and survive.

[[The raptor pack does indeed find the I. rex and instead of anyone taking the clear shot on her, they wait to see what happens]]

Echo – <-<By Hammond’s beard, she’s enormous! They didn’t tell us how big she was!>->

I. rex – <-<You ladies weren’t thinking of trying to attack me, were you?>->

Blue – <-<Um, no, no, of course not. That would obviously be suicide>->

Barry – Um, Owen, I think the I. rex is part raptor because she’s talking to them.

I. rex – <-<Yeah, that’s what I thought. So here’s the deal, bitches, you either work for me, or I eat you right now.>->

Blue – <-<Ma’am, yes ma’am!>->

Owen – Oh, crap! Shoot her! Shoot her!

[[But the highly trained mercenary force manages to miss the 40-foot killing machine even with sights, scopes, and goddamn rocket-propelled grenades, then decide to split up to run after her and get picked off by the raptors in the tall grass]]

Owen – Oh, man, this was stupid!

Charlie – <-<Hey, squishy food-giver, I’m totally going to eat your delicious face>->

Owen – Oh, come on, we have a bond.

Charlie – <-<Whatever>-> [[But Charlie’s attempt to eat Owen is cut short by an RPG to the face that obviously kills her]]

Back at Base Camp:
Gray – Um, Aunt Claire, did all those guys just die horrible deaths?

Claire – No, no, they’re sleeping…

Survivor – Run for your lives! [[Is killed by a raptor]]

[[Claire and the boys ride away while fending off two extraordinarily determined raptors and eventually they all meet back up at the resort and go down into the lab for some reason]]

Vic – I guess it’s time to reveal my villainous plan to pay Henry to create a killing machine for me to sell to the military. Oh, obviously the actual killing machine will be much smaller than I. rex, but she’s a good prototype. Muahahahaha!!!

Owen – I don’t know what your plan exactly was, but I think just judging by the chaos around us it was probably needlessly complicated and could not possibly be going to spec.

Delta – <-<Also, I am totally going to rip that stupid beard off his face!>->

Vic – No, not my comeuppance!

[[Delta does as she threatened while the others try to escape, only to run into the rest of the pack, which somehow includes Delta, unless Charlie actually survived the RPG; this is not clear]]

Blue – <-<Now what, squishy food-giver?>->

Owen – Come on, we have a bond, and that camera looks stupid. Let me get that harness off, okay?

Blue – <-<Aw, squishy food-giver, thanks. Just between us, I wouldn’t have attacked you if the I. rex hadn’t threatened to kill us>->

I. rex – <-<I heard that, traitors! You’re all out to get me! I’ll kill everything!>->

Owen – Um, ladies, a little help here?

Blue – <-<Alright, ladies, even though I said it would be suicide to attack the I. rex, let’s attack the I. rex>->

[[And the raptors attack I. rex, but it doesn’t do any good and all three are seemingly killed]]

Claire – Oh, great, now what do we do?

Gray – We need more teeth.

Claire – More teeth? Oh, I have an idea, and it’s both terrible and awesome! Owen, keep the boys alive!

[[And Claire instigates the scene that probably is the only reason this movie exists – she gets Lowery to open up the T. rex paddock and uses a flare to lure the original T. rex (as identified by the scars) to fight the I. rex and somehow doesn’t break her ankles running in those stupid high heels]]

T. rex – <-<Oh, hells no! This is my territory!>->

I. rex – <-<You’re old and washed up! I’m taking over this town!>->

[[The two monsters proceed to fight one another but it looks like the younger, more powerful I. rex may actually take out T. rex when Blue comes in out of the, well, blue, to distract I. rex and give T. rex a breather; the fight ends when I. rex gets too close to the mosasaurus tank and she lunges out of the water and drags I. rex to her doom]]

Blue – <-<I, er, don’t speak tyrannosaur, but, um, we cool?>->

T. rex – <-<Some things are universally translatable. Yeah, we cool, little lady, we cool.>-> [[T. rex walks off freely through the now abandoned park]]

Owen – Blue, your pack is dead, so what are you going to do?

Blue – <-<I get the feeling I can’t stay with you, squishy food-giver, not after this disaster, so I’ll head out in the park and try to get by. I guess I’m a lone raptor now.>-> [[And Blue runs off into the wilderness]]

Evacuation Center:
Claire – You know, I think we really hit it off back there. Also I have learned that I really do love my nephews and that I am brave when I have to be, which totally makes me a fully realized character. Think we can try again?

Owen – Well, in real life, you’d be going to jail for criminal negligence for a long, long time and I should tell you to go to hell because you needlessly endangered thousands of people, but since this is a movie I’m going to forgive you and I guess we’ll live happily ever after.

Claire’s Sister – And also because this is a movie, I’m going to totally forgive you for neglecting and endangering my children.

Claire’s Brother-in-Law – And it’s strongly implied we aren’t getting divorced after all.

[[So the movie ends with Claire and Owen walking past hundreds of injured and traumatized park visitors completely oblivious to the pain and misery and for some reason the audience is supposed to like either of this people?]]

T. rex – <-<Whoa, whoa, we’re not ending this thing just yet. I get the last word. *Ahem* The queen is back! All hail the queen!!!!>->

—fin—

A TV Entry – First Impressions

Many modern TV shows have lousy introductions. I understand that as the demand to add more commercials to every hour of TV has increased, some parts of the actual show itself need to be decreased. But the introduction is important to pull potential audiences into the show. Older shows had elaborate intros and slick theme songs. More modern ones have a 30-second bit of music and some relevant shots. Kind of lame. If the premise is a bit odd, I think an intro should try to inform the audience of that premise. And if the premise is pretty typical (like yet another sitcom), then the intro should at least be memorable.

Cartoons in general have not forgotten the importance of a good intro. This may be because a lot of cartoon producers think children are stupid and/or easily drawn to bright flashy lights. Even if the reason may be condescending, some of those intros still stick with me.

Honorable mention – Sailor Moon. I’m going to stick with traditional Western animated shows for the rest of this list because anime has its own introduction conventions. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention this because “Moonlight Densetsu” as performed for “Sailor Moon S” (third intro) is my favorite introduction(s) (this song had a lot of iterations). While I had a lot of issues with “Sailor Moon Crystal,” I did like “Moon Pride” a lot as well. I am a sucker for electric guitar.

Honorable mention 2 – Kim Possible. This intro was set up as a music video and while I didn’t care too much for the actual song, I appreciated the effort.

10) Thundercats – This show is in the unique position of not only having a kick-ass introduction, but having an introduction that is ten times better than the show ever was. Like many shows of the ’80s, the production values of the opening animation were better than that of the show. With a rapid ’80s backbeat, we are introduced to each character via a few seconds of seeing them in action and see some of the villains. Gets the blood pumping for the show, which sadly could not live up to the intro.

9) Scooby Doo, Where are You? – Anyone who didn’t see this entry coming is obviously new to my blog, so welcome! While this show has had several iterations as well, I prefer the original song from the original show (Season 1 and 2 both work for me; incidentally, the video of all intros is a trip through musical history as well). I didn’t welcome having Shaggy sing parts of the intro in later versions, and “Scooby Doo Movies” had little going for the intro anyway. But I like the peppy ’60s pop beat and the fast-paced montage of series scenes which at least gave some idea of what was going on (although not the most thorough explanation of the premise).

8) The Real GhostbustersThis intro benefits from the cinematic theme song sung by Ray Parker. It’s ’80s pop but damn catchy. The first intro of the series (my favorite) briefly shows a day in the life of the Ghostbusters: Janine gets the phone call, rings the bell, Slimer is obnoxious, and the guys get to show off the relevant parts of the show (Ecto 1, the packs, the traps, and a whole bunch of ghosts).

7) Beetlejuice – I don’t know who thought this movie was something to adapt to a kids show, but it was the ’80s and this seemed to be a popular thing to do. This is another that benefits from using the movie’s theme (by Danny Elfman) as the music. I like both intros, because they are both absolutely insane. The idea of Lydia being taken on this wild rollercoaster ride/crazy circus tour through the afterlife is conveyed perfectly and the characters are quickly introduced as part of this crazy ride. It sure builds up energy and makes the viewer excited to see the show.

6) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The original ’80s intro. Like Thundercats, the animation of the intro was much smoother and better than the show itself. With fast ’80s pop and a frentic pace, the lyrics introduced the turtles and Splinter by name and with a little description before closing on that synthetic and oddly catchy “Heroes in a Half-Shell” tagline. Unlike the Thundercats, the actual show was as good as its introduction except for the animation quality. For those who are curious about the answer to life’s most important question, I’m Raphael. This should surprise nobody.

5) X-men – Fox wasn’t about to miss out on opportunities to sell kids stuff they didn’t need in the afternoons, so they tried a bit of a superhero line-up (and once upon a time, Fox handled its Marvel properties pretty well). This was my first introduction to comic books, no pun intended. The way the intro ramped up and increased pace combined with the name of each character and a quick demonstration of their power all leading up to a confrontation with all the bad guys was just really well done. I had no clue what this show was about, but I knew I definitely wanted to find out.

4) Ducktales – When Disney decided to get back into the afternoon animation game, Disney did not pull its punches. This theme is insanely catchy (whoo-ooo!). The intro features mostly scenes from the five pilot episodes (which are a much better Indiana Jones-esque romp than “Crystal Skull“) but also shows other scenes from the show including Scrooge leaping into the Money Bin and some of the villains that would plague them. Whoo-ooo indeed.

3) Tiny Toon Adventures – Disney’s competition for the afternoon animation game came from Warner Brothers, who attempted to revive their classic cartoon characters with younger characters that were similar but not quite the same. Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation) sing the introduction song which explains not only the premise (they are in school learning from the original characters) but also introduces pretty much every character that shows up. In a bit of a meta-twist, it’s clear the characters know they’re singing the theme song to their own show.

2) Animaniacs – Perhaps the best WB cartoon to come out in the modern age. The amount of talent assembled was fantastic. “Tiny Toons” was good, to be sure, but by the time this show came around, the good from “Tiny Toons” was made better and the bad (not that there was much) had been worked out. Like “Tiny Toons,” the introduction of Animaniacs explains the premise (via a narrator; which I cannot find a clip of), introduces the main characters, and then goes into the actual song, which introduces many of the other characters. And again, because the creative teams likes meta-humor, at one point the Warners look directly into the camera and sing, “and now you know the plot.”

1) Batman: the Animated Series – This one is kind of a ringer because the theme music is taken directly from Danny Elfman’s cinematic composition. But the animation helps make this theme so memorable. The intro is essentially a night in Gotham City; it’s dark, it’s gritty, it introduces the main character, captures the essence of the show and Batman perfectly, and not a word is spoken. Amazing. This is absolutely my favorite intro.

Of course, there may be other amazing introductions in the future. I hope so. Some of the cartoons are getting a bit lackluster in the introduction department as well. But I hold out hope there will be more investment in the part of the show specifically designed to draw viewers in.

A TV Entry – I Heart the A-Team

Does anyone else have the problem where the “Indiana Jones” theme turns into “The A-Team” theme in their heads? No one else? Just me? Okay, well, there you go.

The Premise:
This show started in the early 80s when nearly all dramas were the brain-child of the late great producer Stephen Cannell. Like many shows in the 80s, this one used the intro to helpfully narrate the conceit. “Ten years ago (so Vietnam) a crack commando troop was sentenced to military prison for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped and fled to the Los Angeles underground. If you have the money, and you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.” Or roughly that. Also, it turned out they did commit the crime, but were under orders to do so, and the orders were subsequently lost or destroyed. And there was never any explanation of what the “Los Angeles underground” was either (it sounds like it should be a level of some first-person shooter). Anyway, for a show about ex-Vietnam military fugitive mercenaries, there was surprisingly little blood and almost no one ever died or even got shot. The show ended with the A-Team barely evading the authorities, until the mid-point of the series in which they started working for the military. I didn’t like that premise as much.

The Characters:
The group was a four-man band, with occasional sidekick or companion of the episode (or perhaps more of a five-man band with a rotating Chick). You may argue that perhaps I have the Lancer and Smart Guy mixed up, but I think there’s no doubt as to the other two.  And honestly, the did switch things up a bit in the show so these tropes aren’t absolute.

The Leader – Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (after the great general). A distinguished gentleman in his 50s with a penchant for cigars, elaborate (and not always convincing) disguises, and overly complicated plans that usually came together. Interestingly, when Hannibal means business, he’ll put gloves on, if he’s not already wearing them. Woe be to the bad guy if Hannibal puts his gloves on while they’re talking. Often accused by other members of “getting on the jazz.” Oh, sure, sometimes even he’s put off by Murdock’s antics. But he really, really enjoys the scheming and in particular the winning. He is never the only sane man; in his way, he’s as crazy as Murdock.
“Ever notice you run into the nicest people in tanks?”

The Lancer – Lt. (I don’t know if it’s first or second) Templeton “Face Man” Peck. Con-man, grifter, ladies’ man, but not exactly a gentleman. He could get nearly anything if given enough time. Often put upon for his skills in acquiring what was required for the mission. Typically tried to avoid being punched in the face, for obvious reasons. In certain circumstances, he was the only sane man. However, in other circumstances, Face got on best with Murdock of any the team. My impression was that Face served as a sniper in Vietnam (which is part of the Lancer trope).
“Don’t smile at me like that! That’s not even a smile; it’s just a bunch of teeth playing with my mind!”

The Smart Guy (and probably a Cloudcuckoolander as well) – Captain H.M. Murdock (I never found out his real name; in the show he said it stood for “Howling Mad”). He can pilot anything with wings, and sometimes things without wings, and sometimes things he’s built from scrap. Partially responsible for B.A.’s fear of flying, perhaps not entirely without cause, but then again, their missions are sometimes pretty dangerous and crashing is always a risk.
“No, no, no, no! I merely relocated the aircraft with extreme prejudice because of a total loss of thrust and lift functions!!!”
He was actually not on the lam. He was a patient in the VA hospital’s psychiatric wing. Even as a kid, I always thought Murdock acted like a sane guy who only has a dim idea of how crazy people behave. But as I watch the show now, I see the writers snuck in some phrases that indicate that while Murdock probably acts crazier than he is, he actually probably is suffering from severe PTSD. He’s also the only one who still calls Hannibal “sir.”
“I’m not nuts! I’m condiments! I got promoted!”

The Big Guy – Sgt. (again, I don’t know precisely what rank) B.A. Baracus (the incomparable Mr. T). He was the big guy. He wore about seventy pounds of gold jewelry between the rings and necklaces. So ’80s he could not be more ’80s. In fights, he tended to throw people over tables and bars and take punches like they were nothing. And yet he was quite soft-hearted, especially when it came to children. And he was also deathly afraid of flying, although with Murdock as the pilot, I’m not sure I could blame him. This lead to the rest of the team drugging him, tricking him, or outright knocking him unconscious to get him on a plane. Probably the most sane man on the team and least tolerant of Murdock.
“Shut up, fool!”

The Chick – The first season (and some of the second) they also had Amy Amanda Allen (Triple A) who was the stereotypical plucky girl reporter (and how she didn’t end up in Levinworth herself I’ll never know). She often helped the A-Team find cases and then went on the mission to report about it. She left somewhere in the second or third season and there were a couple of replacements, but eventually this band member was dropped. This is actually too bad as she ended up in danger far less often than say, Face.
Amy – “Hannibal’s plans never work right. They just work.”

The Bad Guy – There were two types of Bad Guys: the villain of the day, and the military.
a) The villain of the day was of course the main antagonist in the team’s mission. Drug lords, corrupt small-town police, mobsters, and so on, tended to be on the receiving end of Hannibal’s plans. One would think, in fact, every small town was at the mercy of a corrupt sheriff if this show was anything to go on.
b) The A-Team was pursued by the military police and sometimes would almost nearly get caught, until they actually got caught and were forced to work for the military. The MPs weren’t really bad guys. The A-Team were fugitives as far as they knew. They were just trying to do their jobs and weren’t adverse to taking care of the villain of the day if their paths should cross.

The Plot:
Team gets mission (most episodes started with Hannibal in an elaborate disguise to feel out his client to make sure they weren’t feds). Then they set out to rescue someone or find something which usually involved an elaborate con. Sometimes they had to start with an elaborate con just to break Murdock out of the hospital, although sometimes the show started with him already busted out, or him just flat-out making a run for it. The bad guys actually think they can win against the team. Hannibal makes a plan. It may or may not go right (actually, it probably won’t go right). The military may or may not show up to attempt to thwart them. The team will probably have to build something awesomely implausible, or implausibly awesome. And in the end the plan comes together. Also, despite lots of gunfire (I mean LOTS) no one ever dies. No one even gets shot. Well, that’s not exactly true. A couple of times the team members do get shot but that’s because the gunshot is a plot point.

The Result:
Ridiculous ’80s fun. It was disposable. It was all in good fun. And it’s still fun to watch. The show didn’t take itself too seriously, which seems to a rarity these days. Cars jumped over obviously hidden ramps, lots of stock footage was used, huge explosions could be set off with the merest of light breezes if that made the fight scene more awesome.  Heck, the intro (which I linked to) included a Cylon walking past Face, which is an inside joke/reference to the actor’s work on the (at that time) recent series “Battlestar Galactica.” Oh, sure, the acting isn’t the best in the world. And logically, of course, the A-Team’s van is only one of the most distinctive vehicles ever and should have been easy to track. And pretty much everything they ever built probably wouldn’t actually work. When the villains did manage to capture the A-team, they never seemed to learn not to put the highly trained crack military unit in a room full of everything they need to escape (although I suppose they didn’t already know that; however, once the ARMY locked them an army base’s ARMORY). It’s quite formulaic, which is unfortunate since some episodes would have been more interesting if they had deviated from the formula. And sure, it would have been nice to have a female character who was not the token Chick (and following Amy’s exit, any steady female character [as opposed to Face’s date of the day] would have bene nice too). But Hannibal and Face are smugness personified, Murdock is crazy, or maybe not, but entertaining either way, and B.A. is sheer ’80s awesomeness personified. I wouldn’t recommend watching too many episodes in a row, or thinking too hard about the plotholes (of which there were many). Still, it’s upbeat and enjoyable and I really appreciate that.  If you need a fun show to watch, and you can find it on Netflix, maybe you can watch… the A-Team!

A TV Entry – I Heart Darkwing Duck

Disney churns out television shows of uneven quality, to say the least.  I have noticed that most if not all of their live-action TV shows are not very good, to say the least.  Yet in contrast most if not all of their animated TV shows are quite clever.  I have also noticed a lot of humor in many animated Disney shows would be lost on the target demographic (children) but would not be missed by their parents, making me wonder who the shows were really aimed at.  I’m guessing parents stuck watching cartoons with their kids.  This does not make the shows any less enjoyable and in fact makes them more enjoyable (at least for me as I got older and started to understand the pop culture references that made my parents laugh).

“Darkwing Duck” was aired sometime in the early 90s after “Ducktales” was on the air (there were a few crossover characters).  The show, like many animated Disney offerings, was chock full of puns and pop culture references, many of which I didn’t get when I originally watched the show.  Now I can re-watch the show and it’s even funnier.  The dialogue also features some of the best one-liners in any show ever (even Joss Whedon’s shows).

DW: Fortunately, we have a psychological advantage.
LP: Because we’re sane, and he’s not?

The show is about, clearly, Darkwing Duck.  Darkwing Duck is a cross between the Shadow and Batman, with a healthy dose of Iron Man’s egoism.  He dresses almost exactly like the Shadow but relies on all sorts of duck-themed gadgetry to fight crime.

Princess of Oilrabia: Are you crazy?
DW: Well, maybe a little manic-depressive on weekends.

His sidekick is Launchpad MacQuack, from “Ducktales,” the affable pilot who can’t land a plane and sometimes crashes the Thunderquack, which has V-tol capability.  Darkwing is the protector of St. Canard (which is hilarious if you know French) and fights criminals that are certainly reminiscent of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery but also has a touch of James Bond thrown in (he occasionally works for S.H.U.S.H. [acronym never revealed], whose head is of course J. Gander Hooter [of course; because kids in the early 90s will totally understand that reference]).  Darkwing’s real name is Drake Mallard (of course) who is not a millionaire but nonetheless has enough money to make his gadgets.  In the pilot episodes, he ends up adopting a red-headed and headstrong orphan named Gosalyn (of course) who often accompanies him even though she’s not supposed to.  Drake/Darkwing also has the misfortune to live next to the Muddlefoots, who are a very stereotypical 1950s suburban family, although their son Honker, who is very smart, also accompanies Darkwing on adventures.

The Rogues’ Gallery features such characters as Quackerjack, a deranged clown, Bushroot, a deranged plant-duck, Mega-volt, a deranged living conductor, F.O.W.L. (the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny), which is clearly SPECTRE and features, I kid you not, Eggmen (of course; kids in the early 90s will completely miss this reference but wonder why their parents are laughing so hard).  Steelbeak is a stand-in for Jaws with all the style of a 1920s mobster.  His arch-nemesis is Negaduck and his love interest/femme fatale is Morgana McCawber, a sorceress from a creepy family who occasionally uses her magic for evil ends.

The whole series is pretty much a parody of pulp superheroes.  St. Canard itself bears a not coincidental resemblance to Gotham City.  Being of course a parody of pulp comics, it does try to touch on all the major comic book themes.  Time-travel episode?  Check (more than one, actually).  Villain origin story?  Check.  Alternate universe?  Check.  Alien invasion?  Check.  Rival super-powered hero who shows up to make the title hero feel inadequate and jealous?  Check.  That’s “Ducktales” Gizmoduck, if you were wondering, who is basically Iron Man although his secret identity is much nicer.  Affable if slightly bumbling sidekick?  Check.  Plucky if annoying sidekick?  Check (and possibly a parody of Speedy and/or Arrowette).

I love all the puns and pop culture references, many of which I get in the re-watching of the series.  The title of pretty much every episode is a pun.  Even the bit character’s names are often puns (such as the Dr. Rhoda Dendron).

DW: Oh great.  Another pun-obsessed supervillain.

I love Darkwing’s unabashed egoism.  His stealthy entrances might work a little better if he didn’t loudly announce his presence (“I am the terror that flaps in the night!”  I am a metaphor that isn’t totally relevant to the situation!).  I love Launchpad’s amiable sidekickiness and Gosalyn’s pluckiness and Honker’s sadly often un-listened to voice of reason.  Actually, pretty much everyone except Darkwing is a voice of a reason.  I also love how meta the series is.  Darkwing makes not infrequent references to the unbelievability of cartoon physics while being subjected to them.  Occasionally he even talks to the camera.  Heck, there’s one episode where he’s trying to write his own comic book.  When it’s rejected, he says he’s going to take his comic to Disney so they can make it into a cartoon.  The whole cast displays this genre awareness sometimes as well.  There’s an episode in which Darkwing and Goslin go back in time and as Darkwing prepares to stop a crime, Gosalyn stops him and says, “Haven’t you ever seen a time travel movie?”  Or there’s this brilliant quote from Gosalyn – “Forget it Dad.  Who would want to watch you on TV for half an hour?

If you love Batman, the Shadow, Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Iron Man, superhero/pulp parodies, clever dialogue and puns galore, this is the show for you.

DW: Let’s get dangerous!
LP: Do we have to get that dangerous?