Tag Archives: Irish

Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja (2012-2015 Cartoon)

Titmouse, Inc. & Boulder Media Limited with Disney XD

Status: Complete (50 episodes)

My rating: 4 of 5

For 800 years, an evil sorcerer has been imprisoned beneath the town of Norrisville, prevented from escaping and destroying the world by the equally ancient ninja . . . or so the town’s citizens believe. In actuality, a new ninja is chosen every four years from among the students attending the high school that is now built over the site of the sorcerer’s imprisonment. Randy Cunningham–high-school freshman and ultimate Ninja fanboy–finds this out to his surprise when he is chosen to become the new ninja. Now, with the help (okay, mostly sarcasm from the sidelines) of his best friend Howard Weinerman, Randy must protect his school and town from not only evil monsters created by the sorcerer (because, really, that would be too easy), but also from rampaging robots created by his new archnemesis Hannibal McFist (or, well, his assistant Viceroy) who has allied himself with the sorcerer because he was promised–wait for it–a superpower of his own if they win. So yeah, Randy’s got his hands a bit full, but he’s determined to make the most of his high-school days regardless . . . even if it means maybe misusing his ninja powers just a bit.

Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja is one of those shows that I’ve seen recommended for people who like shows like Danny Phantom, Miraculous Ladybug, and American Dragon: Jake Long–you know, teen superheroes, secret identities, that sort of thing. I put off even trying it for a good while. I mean, you can tell just from the episode titles that it’s more of a shounen story on the grosser side of things–bad puns, fart jokes, and general derpiness seem to be the norm. And I’m not going to like, that’s totally a major part of this cartoon, but in spite of that I’m so glad I actually gave it a try. It took me a few episodes to get into it, but this series definitely grew on me. Mostly, I love it for the great characters. Randy and Howard have a ton of personality (even if it’s a nerdy, derpy personality), and they tend to defy expectations, which is fun to watch. Howard honestly kind of annoys me, and a lot of times I feel like he’s not a good friend for Randy. But then, he goes and proves just how wrong I am. Like, these two have some serious bromance going on. And Randy starts off seeming like just some nerdy goofball who’s barely going to wing it through to graduation, much less actually be a hero. Actually, he stays that way a lot of times, misusing his powers and influence or completely misreading the (admittedly cryptic) advice of the “Ninjanomicon,” a book of ancient ninja wisdom passed down with the ninja abilities. But then, Randy will figure out that he’s made a mistake and will be surprisingly intense about making things right. My point is, these two are actually interesting characters that really make the series so much more fun than it seems like it would be at first glance. Also, tying into the good characters, the voice acting for this series is phenomenal–so much better than I’m used to seeing with a lot of cartoons. Ben Schwartz’s work with Randy’s voice in particular is quite subtle, but in general, all the voice acting is well done. The art style is kind of weirdly angular and stylized, but it suits. Likewise, the episodes generally fall into a pattern of monster/robot/other problem showing up, Ninjanomicon giving cryptic advise, Randy ignoring said advice, big epic fight, things going generally to pieces, Randy finally figuring out advice and taking it, dorky ending; it’s weird but it suits the series and is surprisingly enjoyable, and there’s enough variety within the predictable pattern that it doesn’t get boring. Also, the series doesn’t drag on forever and lose interest, which was smart I think. Overall, although it doesn’t seem at the surface like a series I would particularly like,  I found Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja to be a lot of fun, and I would recommend it.

Created by Jed Elinoff & Scott Thomas/Directed by Mike Milo, Shaun Cashman, Joshua Taback, & Chuckles Austen/Starring Ben Schwartz, Andrew Caldwell, Tim Curry, Ben Cross, John DiMaggio, & Kevin Michael Richardson

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Shh! We Have a Plan

Author: Chris Haughtonshh-we-have-a-plan

My rating: 5 of 5

Four friends wander through the forest until they spot a brightly colored bird. One of them tries to make friends with the bird, but the others shush him. They have a plan. They’re going to catch this bird by force. Well . . . let’s just say that not all plans are created equal. But then, some people never learn. So, on to the next plan it is. Shh!

Shh! We Have a Plan is a fantastic little picture book by the creator of the beloved Little Owl Lost. The art features Haughton’s unique, bold, chunky style, utilizing a combination of monochromatic blues against some truly brilliant colors for the birds to draw the reader’s attention quite effectively. The tone that’s created is quite striking. Moreover, the messages of the story are valuable–such as the worth of offering true friendship and looking to the needs and desires of others instead of trying to force your own desires on them. The writing is maybe just a bit older in intended audience than Little Owl Lost; my niece appreciated Little Owl from about 1 year on, but didn’t really get into Shh! We Have a Plan until she was closer to 2 years old. At that point, however, she totally loved the repetitive but changing cycles of bird-catching . . . or not catching, rather . . . and joins in on every “Shh!” and “Go!” in the story. So I would say that for ages 2 and up, this is a highly recommended picture book.

 

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Little Owl Lost

little owl lostAuthor/Illustrator: Chris Haughton

My rating: 4 of 5

Poor Little Owl! He’s fallen out of his nest, and now he can’t find his Mommy anywhere. Fortunately, Squirrel’s around to help him look. But every time Little Owl describes his Mommy to Squirrel, Squirrel leads him to a different animal . . . that isn’t his Mommy. How sad! Finally, they meet Frog who knows just where Little Owl’s Mommy is, and the two are soon happily reunited.

Little Owl Lost is an adorable picture book for a younger preschool audience. It has that great blend of repetition and variety that seems to work so well with that age group. Plus it introduces a number of forest animals. And of course, there’s the great reassurance that when you’re lost your mother is looking just as hard for you as you are for her, cemented by the satisfying reunion in this story. I love the way this particular story loops back around at the end to Little Owl falling asleep and tipping, about to fall out of the nest again. As well as being a really cute story, Little Owl Lost has some very interesting art. The style is quite unique, but it works well and is fun to see. Likewise, the super-unusual color scheme is rather jolting at first, but it works. This is definitely a recommended read for younger children–a great read-aloud story.

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Artemis Fowl

Author: Eoin Colfer

What happens when you put wealth, power, genius, and evil intent in the person of someone who’s still a child? You end up with a criminal mastermind with the flexibility of mind to take his crime to realms unimagined by adults–and the innocence of appearance to get away with it. And not one to let opportunities for criminal gain go by, Artemis Fowl is prepared to use his power and intelligence to do something adults couldn’t dream of doing: hoodwink the fairy-folk out of their gold. Of course, even an evil genius couldn’t have foreseen some of the tricks the fairies would use to fight back.

Artemis Fowl is a book I have mixed feelings about. It’s excellently written–engaging, surprising, and fun. The plot really catches you up in itself such that it’s hard to put the book down. And the characters are quite well written; I just don’t particularly like any of them. So reading this story is sort of like watching a free-for-all where people you don’t like are going at each other–which can be quite amusing, I must admit (I’m somewhat reminded of Black Butler in that regard). The whole concept of fairy society that Colfer has developed is fascinating–a modern and technically savvy evolution of your traditional fairy-tale elves and sprites that is armed and scary. The sarcasm that pervades the story is amusing, but I really don’t appreciate the occasional crudeness. Ugh. Still, overall Artemis Fowl is an interesting, fast-paced fantasy thriller–ideally written for an upper middle-school audience, but appropriate for late elementary on up.

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The Secret of Kells

Les Armateurs, Vivi Film, Cartoon Saloon, & France 2 Cinéma

Written & Directed by Tomm Moore/Co-directed by Nora Twomey, Script by Fabrice Ziolkowski/Art Directed by Ross Stewart/Music by Bruno Coulais

For his whole life, Brendan has been hidden away in his uncle’s walled abbey, forbidden to venture into the dangerous world outside. His uncle and only living relative, Abbot Cellach, has told him horror stories of Northmen invaders and wild animals that lurk outside the walls–which are essentially true. However, when a master illuminator, Brother Aidan, comes to the abbey for refuge from the Viking invaders, Brendan’s world begins to open. He sneaks into the forest outside the walls to get ink-making supplies and meets an incredible fey girl, Aisling, who becomes his friend and changes his world even more. As time goes by, Brendan must choose: exist in fear and supposed safety like his uncle . . . or let go and truly live, chase his dreams, and become a part of something greater than himself.

The Secret of Kells is one of the most ground-shaking movies I’ve seen in my life. It’s an incredible story of imagination, creativity, and wonder. The characters are great–I particularly love Aisling, whose fey non-humanness is so strong it’s nearly tangible. The music is also wonderful, carrying an old Celtic sort of feel. The voice-acting is well done also; I love the accents! However, the most obviously outstanding feature of this story is the animation. It’s made to somewhat mimic the old-style illumination such as was used in the original Book of Kells; a very apropos choice, since this is the story of that book’s creation. The style is unsettlingly different, using weird angles and perspectives, but it works. I found that it had truly grown on my by the end of the movie. The Secret of Kells is a movie that everyone needs to see at least once, although I personally intend to watch it again. Probably several times.

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Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare

cirque du freak a living nightmareAuthor: Darren Shan

Cirque du Freak, vol. 1

My rating: 3 of 5

When Darren and his wild best friend Steve get the chance to attend a super-secret and almost-definitely-illegal freak show, well, how could they resist? After the eerie show’s conclusion, Darren overhears Steve’s conversation with one of the show members . . . and hears more than he ever wanted to. As the foolish choices pile ever higher, Darren (a spider fanatic since he was small) decides to steal the show’s extremely-poisonous, trick-performing spider, a decision that could cost him his life. Or worse.

I have really mixed feelings about Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare. On the one hand, I enjoyed the classic horror inspiration–more eeriness and tension than blood splatter. The fact that Shan demonstrated negative choices leading to (shocker, this) negative results was also refreshing. The tension developed regarding a friend’s responsibilities (even when your friend might be considered evil by some) was also intriguing. My one real complaint is that it wasn’t really that scary. I’m probably just jaded (too much Ray Bradbury), and if I’d read this as a younger teen (which is the primary intended audience), I probably would have been freaked out. Still. . . . Overall, a good horror story, just a bit . . . not exactly tame but something along those lines.

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