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The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008)
A pleasant spider-surprise!
At first glance this show may appear to be an animated adaptation of the kiddie-friendly 'Marvel Adventures' Spider-Man comic book and that might put a few people off. However, if you can see past the stylised somewhat anime-influenced character design and persevere then you're in for a treat. Viewers don't need to be dedicated web-heads or even comic-book fans in particular as this show is essentially a reboot of Spidey's early years. Having said that, fans will get a kick out of the show too as all the main players are present and correct. The villains specifically are given new 'plausible' twists on their origins that mange to be inventive without offending the fan faithful. Characterisation is spot-on, Peter is idealistic and a little naive but still manages to deliver the trademark quips when in costume, MJ is supportive and strong, Flash is a jerk, Jonah a blow-hard, Harry is a bit of a dweeb with a sliver of darkness no doubt inherited from his manipulative and ruthless father, Norman Osbourne. In a slight retcon Eddie Brock is now portrayed as Peter's childhood friend who lost his parents in the same plane crash that killed the Parkers, but that's just a set-up for the affair with the black alien goo. We're also treated to a bit of romantic tension, will Peter opt for MJ, cheerleader Liz Allen, the slinky charms of Black Cat or the sweet natured Gwen Stacy (there's no way that could end badly, right?)? With superbly animated action sequences featuring some, heck I'll say it, spectacular fight choreography and imaginative use of webbing that almost shames the movies this is a show that manages to be both fun and dramatic in just the right blend. There's a certain joyous, youthful spirit to SS-M that's easy to buy into because, let's face it, Peter started off as Spidey when he was in high school and this show stays faithful to that (unlike the crow-barring of Tony Stark back into his school days in the cell-shaded nightmare that is 'Iron Man: Armoured Adventures'). Probably the most enjoyable comic-book adaptation since Justice League Unlimited, at least as good as Batman: Brave & The Bold IMHO.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2008)
Not half bad, but not half good either.
As a borderline schizoid and fan of the original short story I'm always up for perusing any new J&H material. After catching this curio on Sky I felt compelled to comment. The usual themes of duality and the nature of guilt and morality are all present and correct. As is usual in most screen re-imaginings of Stephenson's tale an obligatory love-interest is tacked on in the form of a pretty female lawyer with whom Hyde confides. There's no real gratuitous violence or gore here, the horror seems to be attempting to stem from the psychological, unfortunately this never really gels together. As such, we're left with a fairly entertaining if unnecessary and understated (there's no real physical changes apparent between Henry & Edward) version of the familiar story. There's a fairly feeble 'twist' ending that anyone not recovering from recent cranial surgery should see coming at least a couple of furlongs off.
5/10. P.S: For a vastly superior contemporary take on the tale viewers could do much worse than check out the recent BBC mini series 'Jekyll' starring James Nesbitt. It's available on DVD and well worth a watch.
Like Sanchez, only different.
World Famous For Dicking Around appears on the surface to be just another of those 'gross-out' daredevil shows, but there's a difference. The boys' reckless and stupid behaviour isn't necessarily motivated by a desire to appear brave and achieve fame, it seems more likely that the goal of their antics is the alleviation of boredom. As the voice-over provided by Ben Miller points out, the lads live in Cairneyhill, a tiny Scottish village where "Every day it's the same old $hit". One gets the impression that the inclusion of a camera crew is almost incidental, that they'd be up to similar antics regardless given the dismal, less-than-stimulating nature of their surroundings. Another twist in the show comes in the form of show-business professionals (agents, performers, stunt experts) who the boys invite to witness their stunts and give their opinions. There's a rich comedy vein to be mined here in that most of the experts are either unimpressed, baffled or outright disapproving of 'Team Squirrel's oft-inebriated exploits. Comparisons to other similar shows like Jackass and Dirty Sanchez are inevitable, WFFDA looks like it has been made on a budget of about £5.37 and as such lacks the "No way dude! Awesome!" factor of its stateside cousin, what it does have is an element of the Celtic/domestic charm of Sanchez. However, whilst DS is fixated with gag-inducing gross stuff and impaling/injuring the boys, WFFDA uses fire, brawling and jumping off steep hills. In short, whilst actually featuring more dangerous stunts than Dirty Sanchez, WFFDA suffers because the members of Team Squirrel lack the character of the Sanchez boys. Not great, but perfect post-pub lads entertainment.