TV on DVD Review: Clash of the Gods: The Complete Season One

Hey all…

Lately there seems to be a resurgence of myths in media… Movies such as Percy Jackson & The OlympiansThe Lightning Thief and the remake of Clash of the Titans (and the rumored sequels to both) made a combined $230+ million at the box office – so obviously there’s a market there. For me it’s been far too long since we saw myths on the big screen, so hopefully this won’t be the end of classic myths and monsters find their way back into popular culture. Big screen or small, it’s great to see them back and bigger than ever.

That said, the History Channel has once again presented an impressive series about Greek and Norse gods and heroes as well as the heroic journey of a certain group of Hobbits. Clash of the Gods: The Complete Season One has been split into 10 episodes with great content and solid production value. Using the myths and stories as a starting point, the series explores them through a combination of history, traditional storytelling, CGI, make-up, costumes, and sets. It’s a far cry from the filmstrips and dry texts I remember from my school days.

Starting with the father figure of Greek myth, the first episode centers on Zeus and how he fought his father, the Titan Cronos, to free his brothers and sisters trapped within the tyrant’s belly. You see, Cronos feared that one of his children would rise up and overthrow him. So as his wife Rhea gave birth to a child, Cronos would snatch it and swallow it whole. When Zeus was about to be born, Rhea decided his fate would be different. When Cronos came to swallow Zeus, Rhea gave him a rock to swallow instead and he never knew the difference. Zeus was then raised in secret and hatched his plan to free his siblings and take his rightful place as a god. And that was just the beginning of Zeus’ rise to power.

Once Zeus and his siblings were in power, the series could explore other aspects of Greek mythology and other stories. Later episodes dealt with Hercules and his many labors and hardships, the god and realm of Hades and his shared time with his consort Persephone, the tale of the Minotaur of Crete and the Labyrinth built by Daedalus and his son Icarus, and so on. The first seven episodes deal exclusively with Greek gods, demigods, heroes, and monsters.

In the last three episodes, we are entertained by tales beyond the Aegean Sea. We learn of Beowulf, the great Scandanavian hero who defeated Grendel in the classic poem. We discover the Christian, German, and Scandanavian roots of the world of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. And finally we explore the different realms of Yggdrasil, the World Tree – Asgard, home to the gods; Midgard, world of humankind; and Hel, the netherworld. Thor, the warrior of Norse myth, is locked in a battle to the end of days – Ragnarok – with Nidhogg, a serpent big enough to wrap all the way around the World Tree.

Beyond simply walking us through these various tales, we learn of the archaeological evidence found to support them. For example, we see some of the caves that the Greeks thought were entrances to Hades, Greek realm of the dead. And we see the walls of what may have been the legendary city of Troy from Homer’s stories of the Trojan War and the aftermath. It was amazing to consider that these myths were most likely based on real world places, people, and events.

The colored contact-lenses used by the human actors throughout the series got a bit old after a while, I have to say that they did present an easy way to know which characters were gods or demigods and which were merely human. For example, characters such as Zeus and Poseidon wore bright blue- or white-colored contacts as full gods and characters such as Hercules and Perseus, both demigods with a god as a father, had slightly less brightly-colored contacts. Even Thor had red contacts in one of the final episodes. But characters such as Odysseus, who were completely human, wore no contacts that we could see.

If you’re looking for a way to learn more about Greek mythology or merely want to see a well-written and produced series about heroes and gods, Clash of the Gods: The Complete Season One is a fun way to reconnect with classic myths and legends. I hope to see Clash of the Gods continue with tales from other areas of the world such as Egypt, India, or perhaps ancient Babylon. There are many more gods, goddesses, and heroes to explore!

–Fitz

p.s. Check out this series on DVD from Barnes & Noble below!

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DVD Review: Care Bears: Helping Hearts

Hi there!

About six months ago, I reviewed Care Bears: Tell-Tale Tummies with my two daughters. The DVD featured a collection of eight episodes from the animated series that aired in 2007. We’ve really enjoyed these cute, cuddly characters telling stories aimed at kids in preschool and early elementary. Each episode focuses on a valuable lesson in a very kid-friendly and accessible manner.

If you’re not familiar with the Care Bears, they started as an idea for a line of greeting cards at American Greetings in 1981. Each bear has a unique “belly badge” denoting their magical abilities. For example, Funshine Bear has a sun on his belly and is all about helping his friends have fun. And Cheer Bear has a rainbow on her belly and tries to keep everyone upbeat and cheerful. In 1983, the bears became a very popular series of stuffed animals and the phenomenon began to spread…

By the mid 1980s, the Care Bears had three feature films and their own television show. And it was all rebooted for a new generation in the early 2000s, just in time for all the parents who grew up in the 80s to pass the craving for cute bears down to their own kids. I wasn’t a huge Care Bears fan growing up (though my sister, 5 years my junior, definitely was). But now as a parent, I have to admit that the cartoons provide solid role models and lessons that my daughters can relate to.

Now Lionsgate has released eight never-before seen episodes from the same series and these Care Bears episodes all focus on themes of friendship, responsbility, asking for help, and more — all good lessons for boys and girls growing up and getting ready for preschool or kindergarten. It’s amazing that these bears have not only survived but thrived when so many other cartoons from the 1980s have faded from that same era. I just think it proves that good television for kids can be entertaining and educational if done right.

Included among the eight episodes are:

  • “Ice Creamed,” which teaches that too much of a good thing is still too much.
  • “A Little Help” shows that nobody should be afraid to ask for help.
  • “Rudemate” proves that everyone should strive to be a respectful guest and respect your own things and those of others…”

As you can see, these are simple messages that come through loud and clear as the bears work through problems together. We can all use little reminders like that now and again.

In addition to the episodes, the DVD features “Direct Play,” which allows kids to simply play the DVD without additional assistance from a parent. I know that my youngest daughter, almost 5, definitely benefits from this simpler approach to playing a DVD rather than having to navigate a DVD menu.

If you’re a parent searching for entertaining stories and good lessons for kids, Care Bears: Helping Hearts provides eight great reasons to check it out!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this Care Bears DVD and others from Amazon!

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Book Review: Fairy Hunters, Ink. by Sheila A. Dane

Hi all!

Do you believe in fairies? Sheila A. Dane does, and in Fairy Hunters, Ink. you meet Ashley, Big Rabbit, Turtle, and all of the different fairies they find during their many expeditions. Though the book is subtitled “A Book of Fairies for Children and (Not So) Grown Ups”, I think Dane did a magnificent job of writing this to capture a sense of childlike wonder throughout the text.

From the very beginning, the reader follows along as this small group of Fairy Hunters explores the area around the narrator’s (a young girl) house. They find many different faeries, from the Button Fairies having parties in the narrator’s closet at the beginning of the book to the Picnic Fairies and the Gremlin of Unfinished Business at the end.

Also included are illustrations by Rose Csorba, who did a beautiful job of capturing the little absurdities of each of the fairies encountered. She also did a beautiful job on the cover, which is also included as an interior illustration.

I read through the book with my two young daughters and really enjoyed it. It’s hard to explain though – the writing is interesting at times, with little asides and odd capitalizations, made-up words and so on. But I think this lends to the charm of the book, making the reader feel as though they’re reading something written by a child.

Among our favorite fairy stories were:

  • Pocket Fairies… “All Pockets have Fairies, at least until the Pocket gets a hole and your Fairy falls out…” They tend to be frazzled looking, though they aren’t generally frazzled – they just look that way because they live in your pocket.
  • Sock Fairies… “It’s favorite form of Mischief seems to be going in the laundry and stealing Socks.” We have a big problem with Sock Fairies at my house.
  • Button Fairies… “I either have a lot of mice [in my closet] or all my buttons fell off at once and are having parties in my closet at night. And they haven’t invited me, which I think is quite Rude.” We have a big problem with Button Fairies at our house as well – like all kids, I think they’re allergic to tidy closets or have a lot of Button Fairies causing issues when they sleep!

There seems to have been renewed interest in fairies in children’s books of late. We really enjoyed the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, but those have a slightly darker tone than Fairy Hunters, Ink.. It’s nice to be able to share lighter fare with children to explain some of life’s little “mysteries.”

Dane has a website FairyHunters.net, where she is writing regular blog articles that will eventually become the sequel. I know we look forward to the sequel and will share it with other kids and parents as the opportunity arises. Be sure to look for Fairy Hunters, Ink by Sheila A. Dane at your local library or favorite bookstore!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other books below!

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