Top Five Contemporary Cartoons

Rather than having a grand sweeping list of the best cartoons, which would be an incredibly difficult endeavour, the cartoons in this list are representative of what I consider the best of the new and current cartoons available on television at the moment.

Admittedly the shows included on this list are not only contemporary but they’re arguably adult in nature. While certainly some are aimed at children or younger audiences, the content and sub-textual value that can be taken away from adult viewers provide the shows with a refreshing depth that places them so high on this list.

gumball

This Cartoon Network produced, British-American show is not only visually stunning but it is genuinely funny. Following the antics of Gumball (a cat) and Darwin (an evolved pet goldfish who was welcomed into the family) the show is one that explores the pairs school and home life. While Gumball may be the name sake of the show, his family, school friends and teachers nevertheless play important parts in the narrative.

What makes The Amazing World of Gumball stand out from other contemporary cartoons is the visual style of the show. Gumball and his family are animated in a 2D style, while other members of the community are created using special stylised 3D, realistic 3D and even stop motion techniques. This diversity of animation styles coupled with the photo realistic backgrounds make this show such an incredible visual pleasure.

Similar to shows such as Malcolm in the Middle and The Middle, The Amazing World of Gumball is one that paints a more realistic, yet hopeful picture of the lower income family. One issue that has proven to be an annoyance is the amount of material that has been censored for Australian audiences. While no drastic changes have taken place, moments such a same-sex chaste kiss and small violent incidents have been cut from the show; the necessity of such changes is, I feel, questionable. However, relatable yet still incredibly imaginative story lines mixed with genuine belly laughs are what make this cartoon stand out from the crowd.

archer-post1Putting Archer in fourth place does in no way do the show justice. The show, that focuses on the exploits of ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service), is not only action packed and story driven but it is down right, hilarious.

Protagonist and name sake of the show, Sterling Malory Archer, is a secret agent whose blasé proficiency and hilariously deep-seeded mother issues drive the whole show. This show cannot be discussed without mentioning the cohesion and hilarity that the rest of the cast provide. From a bitter and alcoholic mother Malory, a rich yet insane Cheryl, to a even more insane mad-scientist Krieger and (a particular favourite) human resource manager and all around arse-kicker Pam, this ensemble of characters is one that continues to grow, evolve and keep audiences watching.

Coupled with this amazing cast of characters, blockbuster story-lines and (as is the production companies want) numerous narrative turns, Archer is a show that cannot be slowed down. Entering into its fifth season Archer is one that only grows and develops as it continues. Although, while the show can by no means be said to be ‘maturing,’ it nevertheless keeps producing top notch entertainment.

regular-show-8

Contrary to what the title suggests, this show is anything but regular. Set in a town park, Mordecai (a Bluejay) and Rigby (a Racoon) are groundskeepers who spend most of their time slacking off . The format of the show is similar to that seen on Cartoon Network, with the episodes being broken down into two eleven minutes slots, however the show follows an almost set formula. That is, while the show may start off in ‘normal’ terrain it slowly sinks into deeper and more outrageous ground before somehow righting itself and the ‘regular’ park.

Regular Show has many more adult jokes that are either blatantly obvious to older audiences or buried in sub-text, than any other Cartoon Network show. Even without these sly little nods to the adult viewers, Regular Show is one that still manages to entertain. Similar to The Amazing World of Gumball, there are moments that have been cut out of episodes screened in Australia. However this does not effect the impact of the show, rather it merely cuts out some of the more adult or violent moments.

The sheer quotability of the show will have moments re-playing in your head and the elongated ‘Ohh’ will no doubt be included in many a vocabulary. The sheer diversity of the narratives coupled with the engaging side characters are what makes Regular Show so great.

ventureThis show stands out above the rest with the sheer wit and amazingly complex storylines at work across all four (soon to be five) seasons. Following Doctor ‘Rusty’ Venture, his two sons Hank and Dean, and bodyguard Brock, The Venture Brothers tells of the second generation and almost repercussions of living in the shadow of a Johnny Quest father figure. Once a young adventurer now ‘Rusty’ Venture is a middle aged, two-bit super-scientist who lives off the remains of his fathers work, all the while going on numerous ‘adventures.’ His two sons, Hank and Dean, who are reminiscent of the Hardy Boys, coupled with their shared relationship with the ultra-violent Brock make this show both engaging and warm.

One of the numerous side characters who over the series have played more of a part, is the Monarch. This evil super-villain who has a monarch butterfly theme, his wife (Dr. Mrs. The Monarch) and his band of loyal Henchmen are the self-proclaimed arch-nemesis of the Ventures. Numerous storyline revolve around this ‘henching’ with the involvements and back stories of the characters becoming increasingly intermingled. The brilliant way in which the story has progressed and evolved is almost like watching a fossil being uncovered. All the hints are there, numerous moments of foreshadowing are present throughout the series and yet they still remain a mind blowing surprise when they happen. Creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick demonstrate episode after episode, pop culture reference after reference, their collective genius.

Despite the complexity of the storyline, The Venture Brothers in a surprisingly easy show to watch. The back story and connected relationships, while present remain in the background with hints and off hand comments only connecting them. This is not a show that you have to watch religiously from the beginning as any episode is one that can be watched out of context and still enjoyed. Although for people who want to get right into the new fifth season here is an 8 minute run-down of the four previous seasons. The hilarity and multitude of hidden references of The Venture Brothers are ones that will have you returning over and over again to the show.

bobs-burgers-17What separates Bob’s Burgers from the others in this list is not the humour or the characters but the sheer re-watchability. The premise of Bob’s Burgers is one that follows Bob Belcher and his family as they struggle to run a burger restaurant. This underrated show is one that consistently deliverers great laughs as well as narratives. The Belcher children are an almost endless source of humour with their personalities and relationships with each other providing numerous moments of hilarity.

Despite having seen each episode numerous times, I still find myself laughing, smiling and enjoying the show. It is this freshness that keeps me coming back for more and what makes Bob’s Burgers number one.

To anyone out there who thinks Cartoons aren’t a legitimate or good source of entertainment, I submit to you this list.The shows featured on here and in the honourable mentions are ones that call out to the child in us all, while some speak more to the adult than others, the enjoyment that the animation genre provides should not be devalued, rather, it should be celebrated.

Honourable mentions: Adventure Time, Daria, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Frisky Dingo, Gravity Falls and Robot Chicken.

David Bowie’s The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

Saskia De Brauw, Tilda Swinton, David Bowie, Andrej PejicThe second single from David Bowie’s upcoming album, ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)‘ is once again an audio and visual delight. The accompanying film clip is one that features Tilda Swinton and models Saskia De Brauw and Andrej Pejic. The androgynous nature of all three, indeed four actors, is played upon and is deeply reminiscent of Bowie’s earlier work.

A comment on the media obsession with ‘celebrity,’ the clip is one that sees the reversal of roles between ‘normal’ couple Bowie and Swinton and newly arrived celebrity couple De Brauw and Pejic. Roles begin to be flipped as the celebrities start to intrude upon the couple, interrupting and disturbing their privacy. This obvious take on the intrusive nature of the paparazzi and often times ridiculous attention given to the private lives of celebrities is at the heart of this clip and song.

Away from the visual and gender-bending brilliance of the clip, the song is one that only heightens my excitement for the album. ‘The Stars’ is more reminiscent of previous album Reality but also hints at Bowie’s rocking back catalogue. Where, ‘Where are We Now,’ was a tender and heartfelt song, ‘The Stars’ is faster, upbeat and a magnificent return to form. The catchy hook of the chorus draws you in while the excellent guitar work is woven beautifully throughout the song.

While previously moved to a release date of the 15th of March for Australian audiences, The Next Day, has once again returned to an 8th of March release. With an online pre-order the 8th could not come quickly enough!

Top Five Romantic Suspense films

Romantic suspense as a genre is a difficult one to define. The main differences between romantic suspense and more normalised romance movies can be seen the in the setting and events of the films. Often with a romantic suspense film, the romance between a couple is ‘suspended’ due to more pressing issues relating to the situation of the film, these being of a more action, adventure or crime slant. Notable examples of this genre are Body Heat (1981), Bird on a Wire (1990), Knight and Day (2010) and many more.

The action genre is a one that branches over into many other, often times surprising genres. After a year and a half spent researching the action genre for my abandoned PH.D, the genre and all its off shoots is one that I still manage to find interesting and entertaining. The romantic suspense genre, while not being widely acknowledged nor defined, is one that nevertheless remains a staple of the film industry.

So armed with this knowledge and my romantically inclined nature, I would like to share my top five romantic suspense films.

  • In fifth place is the 2010 release, Red.

ImageTag line: Looking for a little action.

Featuring an all-star cast, this film is one that I initially underestimated. Being somewhat familiar with Warren Ellis whose graphic novel the film is very loosely based on, I was not expecting the sweet yet action packed story that Red delivers.

Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, a lonely and listless man whose only happiness comes from calling his pension case worker, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker from Weeds fame). Sarah, equally bored, lonely and an avid trashy romance reader, also counts Franks calls as the only interesting things in her life. It is once the movie moves past the first act that the action begins to kick in as Franks deals with an assassination attempt and the ensuing dangers.

Without giving away too much of the plot, Franks rescues Sarah from a similar fate and meets up with a few of his old working buddies. The following film is sweet, action packed and features a take-charge, gun-toting, Oscar-winning Helen Mirren.

Image

The plot follows that of a bored married couple, Jane (Angelina Jolie) and John (Brad Pitt) Smith, who eventually come to realise that they are competing assassins. After the pair discover this fact, the race is on as they both try to kill, then save each other; all the while working on their marital problems.

With all the controversy surrounding this film I was prepared to be disappointed, however, I could not have been more wrong. Mr & Mrs. Smith proves to be not only entertaining but filled emotions as well as flying bullets. The home wrecking chemistry between Pitt and Jolie coupled with the superbly crafted writing is what makes this film.

If you haven’t seen it yet, or if you’re not too much of a fan of romance or action films, go out and see this film as there is more than enough to satisfy the biggest fan of both.

  • Taking out third place is The Mummy (1999).

ImageTagline: The sands will rise. The heavens will part. The power will be unleashed.

The tongue-in-cheek humour and cheesiness of this film has got to be the biggest draw card. The meek and bookish Evelyn ‘Evy’ Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) enlists the help of ex-solider/prisoner Rick O’Connell (Brendan Frasier) to find the fabled Egyptian city of Hamunaptra. The city is one shrouded in mystery and is, unbeknownst to most, the ancient resting place of a cursed mummy.

This is a film that can watched over and over again without loosing its charm. The sheer awkward and appealing nature of the characters as they fall in love is one that is particularly enjoyable. As far as I am concerned the story flows terrifically with the romance feeling natural and the action being fast paced, featuring just enough scarab beetles and mummy induced mayhem.

Despite it’s less than satisfactory sequels, The Mummy is simply a good time, one could even say ‘a very good time.’

ImageTag line:She’s a girl from the big city. He’s a reckless soldier of fortune. For a fabulous treasure, they share an adventure no one could imagine… or survive.

Romance writer Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) travels out of her comfort zone to visit Columbia in order to rescue her ransomed sister, and in amongst the chaos meets would-be treasure hunter Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). Hijinks ensue as Joan becomes lost and Jack helps her find her way back to civilisation as well as trying to get his hands on her treasure map.

Romancing the Stone, is not only a romantically charged adventure film but it is also a funny, and well humoured one. Moments from the film, such as the famous landslide scene and the inclusion of Joan Wilder fans, are ones that really flesh out and make this film great. Michael Douglas, who also appears in one of my favourite films Wonder Boys (2000), delivers a wonderful performance as the flippant Jack Colton. Danny DeVito also has a stand out role as the ill treated bad guy, the chemistry and familiar way that Douglas and DeVito interact is one that really ties the film together. The storyline and romance between Joan and Jack is one that I feel encapsulates the romantic suspense film. Not only is there action, but the comparative differences between the romance in Joan’s novels to that of the ‘reality’ of the film is one that make this film a pleasure to watch.

If you haven’t seen this movie you are really missing out on an old-school gem.

The knowledge of how bad this genre can be is one that keeps me coming back for more. The sheer amount of cringe worthy moments, often inspired by the dialogue and actions between the romantic pairs, is what makes this genre so good and such a guilty pleasure. What more is a romantic suspense film meant to do but provide a fantastical and surreal arena for a couple to fall in love, one that audiences at home can revel in?

So far in this post, films have seen the wrath of a mummy, a treasure hunt in Columbia and not one but two blood filled shoot em’ ups. The romantic suspense genre is one that shouldn’t be taken too seriously as it often the sheer visual and intrinsic pleasure of the realistically outrageous that make these films so good.

  • Having said that, my number one pick for best romantic suspense film is The Saint (1997).

ImageTagline. Never reveal your name. Never turn your back. Never surrender your heart.

Simon Templar (Val Kilmer), a world renown thief who uses the names of Catholic Saints to create false identities, is hired by the Russian Mafia to steal the formula of cold fusion from brilliant scientist Emma Russell (Elizabeth Shue). After loving and leaving her, Simon returns to Russia to hand over the formula only to find that Emma has followed him. The rest of the film is an action packed race through Moscow to try and recover the formula and bring down the head Mafia boss Ivan Tretiak (Rade Serbedzija).

Kilmer’s shifting character, terrible Australian accent and coldly charismatic Simon keeps you hooked as you watch this ever transitioning character slowly come to appreciate, respect, then love Emma. The strength that the ‘weak’ scientist Emma shows after such stressful moments is great, and the almost out-smarting of Simon is one that kept me smiling throughout, albeit it with a shake of the head.

The music, the beautiful city of Moscow, and all the cringe worthy but still heart warming moments are what make this film. If you haven’t seen this movie, I could not recommend a more action packed, wistful smile inducing film.

Other Notable Mentions: The Fifth Element (1997), Killers (2010), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), This Means War (2012), and To Catch a Thief (1955).