Posts Tagged ‘miniseries’

That’s right, you. You’re the one who’s still obsessed with the greatest musical that ever musicaled. Not me. You. You’re the one who goes to bed singing “The Schuyler Sisters”. You’re the one who wakes up with Washington’s rap from “Right Hand Man” bouncing around your skull. You’re the one who uses the Aaron Burr, Sir rhyming scheme nonstop. You’re the one who referenced another Hamilton song within a sentence about your obsessive need to incorporate the previous song into your daily life.AR-AK469_Theate_P_20150806131612

Okay, that escalated quickly.

But fear not, readers, for I have come here to curate a sampling of Founding Fathers/American Revolution themed media that’s sure to continue enabling my obsession. I mean your obsession.

#Ham4Ham

Let’s start with an easy one. Perhaps this obsession has also become entwined with your love of Broadway and musicals in general. Well, never fear, you can fall down the rabbit hole of Ham4Ham videos on YouTube where the cast and crew, under the direction of Lin-Manuel Miranda, perform for an audience of hundreds participating in a lottery for tickets to the show. A mere ten dollars gets you a five minute performance from the stars of Hamilton or from some of the many familiar faces from Broadway’s past and present.

Drunk History

The one that started it all. Need I say more?

Histeria

As I mentioned in the latest podcast, Histeria was a show created by the same teams responsible for Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. It was a show designed to – get this – make history entertaining for kids and pre-teens. Weird, right? It only aired for two years and it has yet to be released on DVD, but you can watch the episodes on YouTube for free! Best of all, they have several episodes devoted to the American Revolution featuring a very Bob Hope-esque George Washington.

Schoolhouse Rock!

It was a simpler time…

Founding Fathers Rapping

Need more Revolution Era rap? Looks like JibJab might have beat Lin-Manuel Miranda by a few years…

1776

In need of more Founding Fathers singing that isn’t rap? Okay, I guess that’s cool. Well look no further than 1776, a musical about the creation, ratification, and signing of the Declaration of Independence. You won’t find any signs of Hamilton here, but John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin sure now how to…sing about eggs.

HBO’s John Adams Mini-Series

Wondering why Alexander Hamilton had such a problem with John Adams? Well maybe watching a bunch of clips from the miniseries will make clear what’s only glossed over in the musical. Adapted from David McCullough’s biography of John Adams, we see the Revolution and the Early Republic through the eyes of one of the less popular presidents. Paul Giamatti carries the miniseries deftly upon his shoulders, but he’s also surrounded by an impressive cast of amazing actors, including Rufu Sewell as Hamilton.

 

That Time George Washington Totally Fought Robin, the Boy Wonder

You heard me.

Well, hopefully that keeps me you satisfied for the time being. Lord knows it’s hard to say no to this craving for more Hamilton oriented media, but I’ll you’ll just have to hunker down and wait for it to calm down. Then, maybe, we can get some work done around here, people!

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

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The path of a fairy tale, like those of myths and legends, rarely runs smooth. Though a happy ending is the goal, it’s only achieved by braving the challenges that lay ahead and finding your way through the darkness. In the end, something has changed and you’re never the same. Depending on the fairy tale, this is either good or…bittersweet. Fairy tales in the times of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen were morality tales, teaching tools mostly designed to scare the ever-loving bejeezus out of children and ensure obedience. They weren’t without their moments of whimsy, though, spinning stories of far away lands, princes and princesses, and mysterious creatures in need of slaying. Or, should a more realistic setting be required, adventure could be found (and lessons be taught) by simply journeying outside the safety and security of home. Over the Garden Wall, the first mini-series produced by Cartoon Network, is the modern kin to the fairy tales we grew up with as children. Channeled through the medium of animation, Over the Garden Wall throws us into a world of imaginative whimsy but isn’t afraid to tackle the darker aspects of venturing into the unknown.

Airing two chapters over five consecutive days, Over the Garden Wall, adapted from creator/writer Patrick McHale’s short, Tome of the Unknown, follows brothers Wirt (Elijah Wood) and Gregory (Collin Dean), with the aid of a cursed bluebird named Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey), as they try to find their way home. Heeding the words of an old Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd), the boys try their best to avoid the Beast (Samuel Ramey) that stalks the forest, though his influence is never far from them as they meet all manner of folk along the way. It’s only in facing the darkness do Wirt and Gregory discover how far they’re willing to go for each other before they can return to the world they know.

Wirt and GregLike the fairy tales and folklore from which it draws inspiration, Over the Garden Wall is more about the journey than it is the destination. Wirt and Gregory are as different as two brothers can be: Wirt is a fretful, bumbling teenager unsure of himself in almost every way while Greg is an unabashedly gleeful child who questions very little about the absurdity surrounding them. The strength of their bond as brothers, however, is where the heart of the mini-series lies. Wirt assumes the more traditional hero’s journey – the denizens of a tavern go so far as to label him a Pilgrim. Along the way, as he tries to get himself and Greg home, he gains the confidence needed to match his cleverness, becomes slightly more assertive, but ultimately accepts his role as an older brother with all the maturity and responsibility that goes with it; laying aside blame, resentment, and embarrassment in order to protect Greg – unless it’s comedically suitable for him to runaway in fear, abandoning his brother to a feral dog. Greg doesn’t necessarily go through the same journey as his brother, but his time in the woods still imparts a measure of maturity into a carefree child who would follow the wind if he thought it would lead him to something fun.

Described as a “comedy-fantasy”, Over the Garden Wall maintains a level of absurdity and the fantastical reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Animals act like humans, attending school or riding a riverboat like the well-to-do, and humans sing ridiculously long songs about lost loves to teach the alphabet or build enormous mansions that end up running into each other. There’s also a darker underlying tone to the mini-series that invokes classic Americana and folk tales. Skeletons dressing up in pumpkins, the woodsman grinding trees for oil to keep his frogslantern lit and his daughter’s soul alive, and an old woman in possession of a pair of scissors capable of turning birds into humans by cutting off their wings are unsettling and frightening images. Which is kind of the point. Neither comedy nor fantasy implies everything will be sunshine and rainbows. There’s plenty of humor to be had, a lot actually, but it’s needed to balance out the darker moments of the story. Over the Garden Wall doesn’t go so far as to have limbs cut off or use gore to frighten the audience, but the imagery of the Beast with his antlers and glowing eyes in the darkness is what sticks with you long after the credits roll. And once you find out which garden wall the title is talking about…well, some things are better left unsaid.

rsz_the_beast_-_2_4613The humor of the mini-series is multi-layered, containing slapstick, quick asides, and straight up nonsense. Beatrice and Wirt exchange quick-witted barbs while Greg goes about his business renaming his pet frog, throwing out candy from his pants, and trumpeting his presence as he marches through the woods with a teapot on his head. My favorite bit, though, belongs to Fred the Horse (voiced by Fred Stoller). In need of money to take the ferry to Adelaide, the Good Woman of the Woods’ house, Beatrice and Fred insist that stealing money from the possibly mad, but very wealthy Quincy Endicott (voiced by John Cleese) is the only option available. When Wirt believes Fred should do as he pleases, he’s free to do as he wants, Fred reiterates this fact. He is free. Free to steal.

Tying everything together is the animation and the music. Based on the designs of Mikkel Sommer, the characters all dress in a manner that has an Old World feel ranging from 19th century European to early 20th century American styles. Until we jump back to see how Wirt and Gregory actually got lost in the first place, any indication that they come from the modern world is moderately doled out over the course of the series. For all intents and purposes, Wirt’s young David the Gnome outfit and Greg’s “elephant” costume fit right in. The art direction from Nick Cross and the animation borrow from multiple styles as well. Though the initial inspiration was Gustave Doré and the “Alice Comedies”, there are deliberate allusions to Hayao Miyazaki in the form of Auntie Whispers (voiced by Tim Curry) and an entire dream sequence in the style of Golden Age cartoons like Merrie Melodies and Silly Symphonies. Like the animation, the music jumps around from the operatic singing of Samuel Ramey to ragtime and folk music with the occasional earworm jingle like “Potatoes and Molasses” and “To Adelaide”.

For their first foray into animated miniseries, Cartoon Network picked a good one to start with. Over the Garden Wall is well paced, funny, and contains a world full of likable and fearsome characters that should delight children of all ages. The show doesn’t talk down to its audience, trusting young ones and adults alike to see the nuances or just enjoy themselves. It’s definitely a fairy tale worth watching over and over again.

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This was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on November 6th.

When Dynamite Entertainment announced at Emerald City Comicon that Gail Simone would pen the new Red Sonja book back in March, the company and Simone drummed up excitement for the book, and one of pulp comic’s great heroines, through the release of multiple variant covers for the first issue, each drawn by a female artist. Not only did the variant covers garner more attention for the book, they also highlighted the plethora of talent amongst female artists in the comic book industry, allowing women like Fiona Staples, Nicola Scott, Amanda Conner, Colleen Doran, Stephanie Buscema, and Jenny Frison to put their own spin on the legendary warrior.

Inspired by the outpouring of support and demand for female talent in the industry, Simone and Dynamite embarked on a “bold new experiment in graphic storytelling” by bringing together some of the best female writers, in comics and traditional prose, to pen their own tales of the “She-Devil With a Sword”. The result is Legends of Red Sonja, a five-part anthology written by Nancy Collins, Devin Grayson, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie M. Liu, Mercedes Lackey, Rhianna Pratchett, Leah Moore, Blair Butler, Tamora Pierce, Nicola Scott, and Meljean Brook working within the narrative frame set by Gail Simone.

In the first installment, Simone quickly lays down the foundation of the anthology: A group of 12 mercenaries known as the Grey Riders are hunting Red Sonja. They all have their own reasons for wanting her dead, but along the way they learn of her various adventures through the stories of others in their travels. The two stories featured in this issue are Nancy A. Collins’ “Eyes of the Howling God” with art by Noah Solanga, and Devin Grayson’s “La Sonja Rossa” with art by Carla Speed McNeil.

Collins’ “Eyes of the Howling God” is told from the perspective of Eles, the learned assassin amongst the Grey Riders. A monk once in service of The Howling God, he was witness to the murderous and thieving Red Sonja who violently slew the human embodiment of The Howling God before robbing the temple statue of its ruby eyes. When Eles tried to stop her, she marked him for life, slicing her sword across his eye and setting him down the path of revenge. Solanga depicts Sonja as an ancient Laura Croft giving her a chain mail shirt and short shorts. It’s a little off-putting considering the setting, and the fact that she’s essentially fighting a werewolf, but I’m pretty sure Laura Croft found herself in some supernatural situations, so who am I to judge? Next up in Gayson’s “La Sonja Rossa” in which a sea captain tells the Grey Riders of how his La Sonja Rossabeloved ship, Lacrime Di Gioia, was brought down by a young beauty with revenge in her eyes, but Red Sonja valiantly fought to save the crew and those on board from certain death, supposedly going down with the ship though the Grey Riders aren’t buying the tale. McNeil’s art is a little harder to pin down. At times it’s a bit cartoonish, but about midway through the story that cartoonish aspects work in the art’s favor, giving Sonja’s fight with a giant squid an epic scope.

What I definitely admire about the book are the different stories within this first installment. In Simone’s main book, Sonja is a fairly balanced figure – an opportunist possessed of a strong sense of loyalty prepared to mete out justice at her own discretion. The anthology, though not connected to the main continuity, continues Sonja’s characterization by giving the reader two diametrically opposed versions of the warrior. Eles, someone from within the Grey Riders, sees her as a thief and murderer having witnessed her actions personally. His view of her is ultimately biased, but no more so than the captain of the former Lacrime Di Gioia. He, too, was witness to the impressive feats of Red Sonja, though his is a tale of bravery in the face of death. Neither has more merit than the other. If anything, their stories emphasize the fact that Sonja is neither one or the other. A warrior the likes of Sonja is capable of actions both virtuous and immoral. It’s what makes her human and legendary.

Final Thoughts: We’re off to a good start. Next up are Meljean Brook and Tamora Pierce.