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TV on DVD: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 3: Fire

avatar_book_3Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 3: Fire

Nickelodeon Animation Studios, 2008. DVD/Netflix

Synopsis: Having mastered Earthbending and survived the battle with Azula, Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph must now enter the Fire Nation so that Aang can master the final element. Once in the Fire Nation, they learn about the plans Firelord Ozai has to use Sozin’s Comet to spread the war’s destruction and his authority over the four nations. With lots to learn and very little time to do it, the group will have to rely on unexpected alliances if they are to help Aang realize his destiny.

Our heroes have had it surprisingly easy so far, compared to the challenge they face entering the Fire Nation and defeating Firelord Ozai. The story and the world continue to build on itself as we are introduced more fully to the people of the Fire Nation and Aang begins to embrace the idea of himself as the Avatar, though he still has some reservations about what this role means for him. Katara and Sokka have grown up significantly since the beginning of the series, and have developed into warriors in their own way as they help Aang master the elements. And even though Toph has only been with the group since the previous season, she is becoming more of a team player and a more compassionate person. Zuko has changed noticeably as well, but has he changed for the better or will he fall back into old habits? The art in the series is continually solid and lovingly animated to send our heroes out with a bang as we work toward the four-part finale that brings the series to a close. It’s sad, sweet, funny, and everything we love about the series, but it is still hard to say goodbye to these characters that we have been cheering for. But we can always go back to the beginning and start the series over…or The Legend of Korra….

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TV on DVD: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 2: Earth

avatar_book_2Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2: Earth

Nickelodeon Animation Studios, 2007. DVD/Netflix

Synopsis: After mastering Waterbending, Aang, Katara, and Sokka journey into the Earth Kingdom to continue Aang’s quest to master the four elements. As Aang continues to train, the group seeks to stay one step ahead of Fire Lord Zuko and his sister Princess Azula, who are hot on their train. Along the way, they will encounter old friends and new who will aid them in bringing an end to the war and restoring peace to the world.

This series has the unique ability to keep building on itself and that is what this second season does: adds more and more dimensions to the world and the characters. We see much more of Zuko’s backstory and begin to understand the harshness and the anger behind his actions goes far beyond what we first believe. We also meet Toph, a blind Earthbender who reluctantly joins the team to help Aang master the element of earth. I think she’s actually one of my favorite characters, and not just because she can be overly sarcastic; she sees the world in a very different way because she is blind and she has a different take on what it means for Aang to become the Avatar. Sokka continues to provide a majority of the comic relief, but his awkwardness is slowly being outgrown as the series goes on. There’s also much more romance in the air in this season, partially because the characters are growing up a little more. The art that swept us away to a snow-covered North in the previous season now takes us to the orange and browns of the deserts that make up the Earth Kingdom, almost in tandem with the sense of urgency that our characters feel as they find themselves growing more and more anxious about what their futures will bring. The story is well-written, the scripts well-executed by the actors, and it has a rare depth to it that goes beyond the notion that cartoons are just for kids. It is a show that is enjoyed on multiple levels by all ages.

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TV on DVD: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 1: Water

avatar_book_1Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1: Water

Nickelodeon Animation Studios, 2005. DVD/Netfix

Synopsis: For a hundred years, the Fire Nation has threatened the freedom of the Water, Earth, and Air nations in a war that will likely destroy life as the people know it. So when Katara and her brother Sokka find Aang, a young boy chosen to become the master of the four elements known as the Avatar, frozen in a giant iceberg near their home, they have hope that perhaps the war will soon be over. The three friends set off on a journey to help Aang master the art of water-bending on his way to becoming the man that will help restore the world order.

I don’t remember what possessed me to watch this series initially, but once I got started on it, I couldn’t stop. The story, the world, and the characters are exceptionally crafted and it has a certain all ages appeal that makes it something really special – at least for me. The world of Avatar is one that is both ancient and futuristic, but for me falls more into a fantasy genre more than anything. The peoples of the Air, Water, Earth, and Fire nations each have their own distinctive traditions, ways of life, and unique elemental manipulation skills called bending not unlike the cultures of the modern world and do bear certain resemblances to our modern peoples. The characters are three-dimensional right from the first episode: Katara is a young girl that cares very much for her family and wants to be able to find out what happened to her lost mother; Sokka is a little girl-crazy, but he is loyal and fights to take care of his sister and his family; Aang is young and irresponsible and struggling with having the shoulder the responsibility of being the Avatar, but with Katara and Sokka’s help he’ll become the savior that the world needs. Funny, mysterious, and visually moving, Avatar: The Last Airbender is a fun and engaging series that explores the notions of children in war and the larger destiny that we have waiting for us.

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Filed under Media: Television, reviews

What’s On: House of Anubis

House of Anubis starring Alex Sawyer, Jade Ramsey, Nathalia Ramos, Tasie Dhanraj, Brad Kavanaugh, Bobby Lockwood, Ana Mulvoy-Ten, Francis Magee, and Eugene Simon.

Nickelodeon, Fridays at 7/6c

Synopsis: Anubis House is the home of nine students attending a British boarding school. When one of the students mysteriously disappears the same day an American girl named Nina moves into the house, the students begin to suspect foul play. A woman who lived in the house long ago tells Nina that the house has a strange past linked to Egyptian mythology and Nina decides to enlist the help of her fellow housemates in solving the mystery. The students form a group called “Sinuba” dedicated to solving the mystery of the house.

I have to admit, I came in at the end of this series, and was completely confused. But after watching the end of the second season, I went back and caught up, and now I am completely hooked! The show is a cross somewhere between a teen soap opera and a mystery, which by itself isn’t enough to keep me watching, but the characters have great charisma and the writing is smart. There is always going to be another facet of the mystery house and something else for Sinuba to uncover, I just have to hope that the mysteries and the clues do not start down the path toward ridiculousness combined with the numerous off-and-on relationships between the characters. House of Anubis also originated inBritain, and I’m a sucker for British TV shows. The show recently wrapped up its second season and the studio has announced a third season is in the works.

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Filed under Media: Television

What’s On: Victorious

Victorious starring Victoria Justice, Elizabeth Gillies, Ariana Grande, Avan Jogia, Daniella Monet, Leon Thomas III, Matt Bennett, Michael Eric Reed, Jake Farrow, and Eric Lange

Nickelodeon, Fridays at 7:30/6:30c

Synopsis: Tori Vega is hoping to start over fresh at a new school:HollywoodArtsHigh School, where everyone is learning how to polish their acting, singing, painting, and performing skills in order to become stars! Tori hopes things will be easy, but high school is never easy, and she is going to need the help of new friends to help her become the star she is on the inside shine on the outside.

Victoria Justice is a talented singer and actress, but that isn’t what makes the show. True, the show is centered around her escapades as a high school student looking to become a star and move out of the shadow of her older sister, but it seems like there should be more to it than that. The characters are all likable and have their own quirks that help Tori work her way through the high school maze, but I think what I like most about the show is its almost complete lack of realism. I can’t see parents letting their children make random trips across the country, down toSan Diego, or some of the other shenanigans these kids get away with, but I can appreciate the role of the few adult figures that do make an appearance on the show to help guide the students. The humor is a little off the wall and the musical numbers and sometimes out of place, but that is just part of the charm of the show – escapism at its finest.

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Filed under Media: Television

What’s On: Big Time Rush

Big Time Rush Starring Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Carlos Pena, Logan Henderson, Ciara Bravo, Stephen Kramer Gilckman, and Tanya Chisholm

Nickelodeon, Fridays at 8:30/7:30c

Synopsis: Four best friends from Minnesota suddenly find themselves transported to LA to become the next big pop group, but fame is definitely not what it seems. Kendall, James, Carlos, and Logan have definitely traded up from math tests and hockey, but hair and makeup coupled with an eccentric producer makes life much crazier. The boys struggle with their efforts to balance show biz with real life, but is it too much or really a dream come true?

I’ll be honest: I don’t know what about this show appeals to me – the boys, the humor, or the story – but I can’t seem to stop watching. Maybe it reminds me of the boy bands I grew up with – N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys (wow, I’m totally dating myself) – or maybe it reminds me of that desire we all have to be famous. Either way, I like it. Granted, not everyone likes it, nor do they particularly care for the band, but Big Time Rush has managed to make its mark in the music world and in television. Each boy has their own personality and sense of humor, but what I like the most is the way they play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The four boys are also quick to support each other and stand up for each other no matter what crazy schemes they seem to get themselves into. Fame may not be everything, but the friendship of Kendall, James, Carlos, and Logan is something definitely worth watching.

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Filed under Media: Music, Media: Television

What’s On: iCarly

iCarly Starring Miranda Cosgrove, Jeannete McCurdy, Nathan Kress, Noah, Munck, and Jerry Trainor

Nickelodeon, Fridays 8/7c

Synopsis: Carly Shay is a normal teenager living with her older brother (who is an artist) in a posh Seattle loft and loves hanging out with her friends Sam and Freddie. Carly, Sam, and Freddie have a weekly web show, iCarly, that has become a huge success. Now, the three must balance their school work and their relationships with the web show on top of trying to come up with new material every week. Since her parents are overseas, she relies on the help of her friends and her brother Spencer to help her out and keep everything as normal as possible.

The show is funny and heartfelt in its portrayal of young teens trying to balance fame on top of trying to live a normal life that sometimes feels anything but normal. Carly, Sam, and Freddie seem to find themselves in the oddest of situations, but this humor is part of what makes the show so enjoyable. We turn it on every week to see Sam and Freddie bicker, Spencer try to sell some of his strange artwork, and Carly find a way to hold everything together and sometimes keep her friends from seriously hurting each other. I find it somewhat illogical that Carly and Spencer could live in the apartment they do with Spencer’s sporadic monetary intake and their parents virtually non-existent, but since television shows exist to make us all disillusioned about the real world, I will let it slide. Most recently, the cast of the show Victorious made an appearance in a crossover episode with iCarly that was so totally fun, it makes it hard to wait for new episodes! You can also watch videos, play games, take polls, and more at http://www.icarly.com/.

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Filed under Media: Television