Mythbusters 10th Anniversary Collection
January 24, 2015

I’ve watched a bunch of Mythbusters episodes, although I couldn’t tell you what order they all came in. That’s one of the virtues of the series, that any given show can be watched in any order, since they stand alone.

If you’re not familiar with the show, each installment takes on a few “myths”, although these days, it’s as likely to be a viral video as a classic urban myth. The team, with their special effects experience, builds something — a measurement apparatus, a fake house, a rebuilt car, a dummy equivalent to a person — to test whether an assumption is plausible, confirmed, or busted. Many times, things blow up, or firearms are involved.

I was looking forward to the Mythbusters 10th Anniversary Collection because I loved the concept. Each of the five cast members — Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci — picked ten favorite episodes, making for fifty shows to watch (on ten discs, out of 222 episodes through 2014).

Unfortunately, this set isn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been, since there’s nothing here but episodes. There’s no explanation of why a particular person chose their selections, and there’s no information on where in the series a particular installment fell, and there are no special features. So instead of seeming like an anniversary celebration, this seems more like a way to sell the show in another arrangement. (I’m also confused by the 10th Anniversary mention, since the show debuted in 2003, making this year the 12th Anniversary.)

Fans probably already know all these episodes. As a less dedicated follower, I found this set neat as a kind of sampler pack, with famous show moments like “Alcatraz Escape”, “Confederate Rocket”, and “Five Second Rule”. The full episode listing is (with each person’s picks in alphabetical order, as the set has it — and episode numbers via Wikipedia):

Adam’s Picks

  • Airplane on a Conveyor Belt – Season 6, Episode 3
  • Alcatraz Escape – Season 1, Episode 8
  • Birds in a Truck – Season 5, Episode 8
  • Bullets Fired Up – Season 4, Episode 7
  • Inverted Underwater Car – Season 8, Episode 19
  • Jet Assisted Chevy – the original pilot
  • Lead Balloon – Season 6, Episode 2
  • NASA Moon Landing – Season 6, Episode 10
  • Penny Drop – Season 1, Episode 4
  • Swimming in Syrup – Season 7, Episode 5

Jamie’s Picks

  • Big Rig Myths – Season 5, Episode 11
  • Breaking Bad Special – Season 11, Episode 10
  • Confederate Rocket – Season 3, Episode 16
  • Drain Disaster – Season 9, Episode 17
  • Fire vs. Ice – Season 10, Episode 2
  • Motorcycle Water Ski – Season 11, Episode 6
  • Ping Pong Rescue – Season 2, Episode 13
  • Seesaw Saga – Season 7, Episode 7
  • Shattering Subwoofer – Season 4, Episode 15
  • Trench Torpedo – Season 10, Episode 13

Kari’s Picks

  • Blue Ice – Season 9, Episode 2
  • Chinese Invasion Alarm – Season 3, Episode 15
  • Duct Tape Hour 2 – Season 8, Episode 8
  • Exploding Pants – Season 4, Episode 10
  • Fright Night – Season 10, Episode 15
  • Myth Evolution – Season 7, Episode 18
  • Paper Armor – Season 9, Episode 11
  • Phone Book Friction – Season 6, Episode 12
  • Red Rag to a Bull – Season 5, Episode 16
  • Viral Hour – Season 6, Episode 11

Tory’s Picks

  • Alaska Special – Season 6, Episode 7
  • Cannonball Chemistry – Season 10, Episode 17
  • Duel Dilemmas – Season 10, Episode 10
  • Indy Car Special – Season 11, Episode 4
  • Killer Brace Position – Season 3, Episode 9
  • Revenge of the Myth – Season 10, Episode 7
  • Salsa Escape – Season 3, Episode 2
  • Titanic Survival – Season 10, Episode 12
  • Vodka Myths – Season 3, Episode 17
  • Zombie Special – Season 11, Episode 11

Grant’s Picks

  • Baseball Myths – Season 5, Episode 14
  • Bikes and Bazookas – Season 9, Episode 12
  • Bouncing Bullet – Season 10, Episode 8
  • Bubble Pack Plunge – Season 10, Episode 9
  • Coffin Punch – Season 6, Episode 18
  • Crimes and Myth-demeanors 1 – Season 4, Episode 11
  • Flu Fiction – Season 8, Episode 11
  • Prison Escape – Season 7, Episode 9
  • Underwater Car – Season 5, Episode 3
  • YouTube Special – Season 7, Episode 4

Inspired by the spirit of scientific exploration that drives the Mythbusters show, here’s a breakdown of how many episodes from each season are represented. The small showing for the first two years makes sense, since Grant, Tory, and Kari weren’t in place as a trio until season 3. All the Season 1 picks are from Adam. Season 10’s showing is helped by Tory picking four of those episodes, with Grant and Jamie each picking two.

Mythbusters Episodes per Season in Anniversary DVD Set

(The studio provided a review copy.)

Supergirl Has Been Cast
January 22, 2015

Melissa Benoist

The Supergirl series announced last fall now has a star: Melissa Benoist. She’s best known as one of the “new class” from season four of Glee, playing a “girl next door” type that would be well suited to the character. As described,

Benoist will play Kara, who after arriving on Earth was taken in by a foster family, the Danvers, who taught her to be careful with her extraordinary powers (which she shares with her famous cousin, Superman).

Now 24, Kara feels un-empowered, a slave to having repressed her innate abilities. She’s still pretty, but with her face hidden behind glasses and her hair pulled back, she doesn’t know it herself. An unexpected disaster forces her to use her powers in public. Energized by her heroic deed, for the first time in her life, Kara begins embracing her extraordinary abilities.

Sounds like the addition of a coming-of-age twist, but the Supergirl comic series quite often went in for soap opera and emotional dramatics, focusing on a young woman finding her place in the world. That aspect, if foregrounded in the show, could be quite appealing.

Batman vs. Robin Details Announced
January 22, 2015

Batman vs. Robin box art

Batman vs. Robin, the next original DCU animated movie (after Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, out next week), has had details released. It will be available April 14 in either a Blu-ray combo pack (with DVD and UltraViolet versions) or standard DVD edition. There will also be a deluxe edition with the Blu-ray combo pack and a collectible Batman figurine included. Here are key elements from the press release:

The shadows of Gotham City are no place for a child but Damian Wayne is no ordinary child. Now bearing the mantle of Robin, he blazes a headstrong and sometimes reckless trail alongside his father, Batman. While investigating a crime scene, Robin encounters a mysterious figure, Talon, who leads him on a life-altering course through the depths of Gotham’s secret society, known as the Court of Owls. It’s a dangerous journey that will force Batman and Robin to face their most dangerous adversary, each other! Based on the #1 best-selling graphic novel, Batman: The Court of Owls [by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo], this action-packed caper is one that fans won’t want to miss!

Television stars Jason O’Mara and Stuart Allan reprise their roles as the voices of Batman/Bruce Wayne and Robin/Damian, respectively. Adding to the celebrity-laden voice cast is Jeremy Sisto as Talon, singer/songwriter/comedian Al Yankovic as The Dollmaker, David McCallum as Alfred, Grey Griffin as Samantha, Sean Maher as Nightwing, and Kevin Conroy as Thomas Wayne.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, the film is directed by Jay Oliva (Batman: Assault on Arkham) from a script by award-winning comic writer J.M. DeMatteis.

The Blu-ray extras will include the following special features, in addition to the usual audio commentary and “bonus cartoons from the DC Comics vault”:

Gotham’s City Secret: The Mythic Court of Owls — The Court of Owls is the secret society that directly connects the past of Gotham to the current city. Are they silent guardians that are the noble benefactors or are they the malevolent force that manipulates a city toward their grand design?

Talons of the Owl — If the Owls are the masterminds, their instruments of destruction are their assassins. Appropriately called The Talons, these warriors are designed to carry out the will of the Owls.

A Sneak Peak at Justice League: Gods & Monsters — An advance look at the next DC Universe Original Movie with the creators and cast.

The Gods and Monsters sneak peek is the only extra also on the DVD.

Big Hero 6 Out on DVD, Digital in February
January 18, 2015

I’ve been meaning to see Big Hero 6 since it was released in November, but the holidays aren’t a great time for me to go see a movie. Instead, I was preparing for celebrations and spending time with family (and traveling). I know theater owners don’t want to hear this, but now that they’ve announced the film will be out on home video next month, I’ll just wait. Especially since I can (with Amazon discount) preorder the Blu-ray for the same amount I’d spend on tickets for two adults, and the snacks are much cheaper in my home theater.

I don’t mind buying the movie without seeing it first, since I’ve enjoyed the two previous releases from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph. Typical these days, the film will be available digitally on February 3, with the Blu-ray combo pack (or single-disc DVD) coming out on February 24.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the robot Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit), since I find him adorable and I’ve heard good things about his portrayal. I like the design being the opposite of the usual gears and hard angles style tech. I’m also curious to know more about the team — robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon, and fanboy Fred.

Baymax hugs Hiro from Big Hero 6

I’m disappointed to see that Disney has decided to split the extras between the Blu-ray and their Disney Movies Anywhere site. If I buy the Blu-ray, I expect it to be complete. Both sources will include these extras:

  • Theatrical short “Feast”
  • “The Origin Story of Big Hero 6: Hiro’s Journey” (hosted by Jamie Chung, voice of Go Go Tomago) — Join the team behind the team that brought Big Hero 6 to the big screen as they travel on research trips to Tokyo and San Francisco and go behind the scenes of this epic film. Explore everything comic-book about Big Hero 6, from director Don Hall’s passion for comics to the story’s roots in a lesser-known Marvel property. We’ll talk to Marvel’s Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb, who were consultants on the film, to learn what makes a good comic-book story, and how these devices were used to help create Disney’s Big Hero 6.
  • “Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters” — Join the six lead animators of Big Hero 6 as they talk about each of the characters and how they came to be the heroes they are now.
  • Deleted Scenes (intro by Directors Don Hall & Chris Williams) — Includes two alternate openings and more.

Only on the Blu-ray will be “Big Hero Secrets (Easter Egg) — The movie is filled with Easter Eggs, and this Buzzfeed-type list piece will give you a sampling of some of the hidden treasures in the film. See if you can find this Easter Egg about Easter Eggs!” Here’s a sample clip:

Only on Disney Movies Anywhere will be these two pieces:

“Gag Animations (intro by Directors Don Hall & Chris Williams) — For fun, animators made alternate versions of scenes they were working on and threw them into the mix at review sessions. The directors will present some of these gags for the first time to the public in this piece.”

“Beatmax — Check out some of Baymax’s greatest lines auto-tuned like you’ve never heard before.”

The DVD will only have “Feast”, “Big Animator 6″, and the Big Hero 6 theatrical teaser.

Batman: The Second Season Part 1 Out on DVD Next Month
January 18, 2015

I’ve already talked about how much fun Batman: The Complete TV Series was, but if you don’t want to invest in all 120 episodes at once — it can be quite overwhelming — Warner Bros. is now breaking out the seasons into more reasonably sized sets.

Batman: The Second Season Part 1 will be available on February 10 as a four-disc DVD set with 30 remastered episodes list-priced at $39.98. Foes for Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) include the Joker (Cesar Romero), Catwoman (Julie Newmar), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Egghead (Vincent Price), Chandell (Liberace), and King Tut (Victor Buono). There appear to be no special features. Here’s the episode listing:

  1. Shoot a Crooked Arrow
  2. Walk the Straight and Narrow
  3. Hot Off the Griddle
  4. The Cat and the Fiddle
  5. The Minstrel’s Shakedown
  6. Barbecued Batman?
  7. The Spell of Tut
  8. Tut’s Case Is Shut
  9. The Greatest Mother of Them All
  10. Ma Parker
  11. The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes
  12. The Clock King Gets Crowned
  13. An Egg Grows in Gotham
  14. The Yegg Foes in Gotham
  15. The Devil’s Fingers
  16. The Dead Ringers
  17. Hizzonner the Penguin
  18. Dizzonner the Penguin
  19. Green Ice
  20. Deep Freeze
  21. The Impractical Joker
  22. The Joker’s Provokers
  23. Marsha, Queen of Diamonds
  24. Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds
  25. Come Back, Shame
  26. It’s How You Play the Game
  27. The Penguin’s Nest
  28. The Bird’s Last Jest
  29. The Cat’s Meow
  30. The Bat’s Kow Tow
Kingsman: The Secret Service
January 15, 2015

I just got back from a free preview of the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service, due out February 13. I had fun, since there were twists I wasn’t expecting (although I didn’t like some of them). Then again, I didn’t remember much about the comic it was based on.

Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service

It’s an action-adventure spy film, emphasis on the action. The plot threads are familiar: young aimless dude Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is taken under the wing of accomplished, well-dressed older man (Colin Firth, codenamed Galahad, which is so silly I kept forgetting it). Although Eggsy doesn’t follow the rules of the spy organization, he wins through in the end, demonstrating the value of spirit and initiative over propriety.

Kingsman: The Secret Service movie poster

The two men of Kingsman: The Secret Service

I found the spy setup amusing, with the use of classic British symbols. The Kingsman organization sets up in a tailor shop, and the operatives are beautifully dressed, with brollies and glasses. Their spy gadgets are gold lighters and signet rings and such, and they’re always gentlemen, in addition to being perfectly trained. The people in the organization we see most are the leader (Michael Caine, of course) and the tech genius/trainer (Mark Strong, in a nice change for him). I wish Jack Davenport (another Kingsman) had been in the film more, since I’ve liked him since Coupling.

Kingsman: The Secret Service agents

The pacing is similarly British, slower than other movies in its genre, and several of the scenes go on too long. Typical of Mark Millar’s work, there’s a certain amount of self-referential foregrounding of cliches to say “see, I know the cliches, and I’m smarter, so I’m pointing them out and doing something else” — yet there are still an awful lot of cliches that the film relies upon.

There are a number of major female roles, but none of them interact with each other. We’re told the female Kingsman recruit, Roxy (Sophie Cookson), is incredibly talented, but we only see her do things after Eggsy holds her hand or encourages her to overcome her fears. Super-rich bad guy Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a lisp and a series of baseball caps) has a female second-in-command, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who uses the blades inside her prosthetic foot-hooks (think running blades, but really sharp) to kill people.

The bad guys in Kingsman: The Secret Service

It’s with Valentine that the movie’s costs becomes most apparent, because for a billionaire tech genius, there are rarely any people around him, just Gazelle. I think they spent all the money on the extensive fight scenes, which go into great detail, in slow motion, with different creative ways to violently kill people. It’s so lovingly filmed and so cartoony, though, that it didn’t bother me. It is very violent, though, so take note. (Update: I have since realized that this film is not yet rated, so some of the most violent scenes may be trimmed or edited.)

Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) co-wrote and directed the film. There’s a training section, as Eggsy competes against other, higher-class possibilities for the organization opening. There’s a “show how tough he is” fight scene for Firth (as shown in the second trailer) that belies his proper appearance. There’s an abusive stepfather for Eggsy to rescue his mother from. There’s some pasted-in class debate to provide the superficial appearance of depth beyond the fight scenes, as well as a cartoonishly bigoted Southern church to attack. There’s the “saving the world” final third act, where lots of anonymous henchmen get mowed down. There’s even a cute dog.

For an alternative perspective, the friend I went with said it was “bad. Gloriously bad. They’re clearly working very hard at making something this bad.” It’s true. There’s a lot of effort on the screen. Whether you enjoy it or not may depend on your expectations. Mine were extraordinarily low — I was happy just seeing Colin Firth in some nice suits. Oh, and Mark Hamill plays a supporting role, which may please fans of the comic.

Kingsman: The Secret Service and the gear

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