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Futurama Lives Again in Podcast Form!

November 13th, 2017
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Good news, everyone!  Futurama, the unkillable show, has returned from the dead yet again, this time in podcast form!  I just listened to the 40-minute Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow Presents Radiorama, available on nerdist.com, and it was amazing, exactly like an audio-play version of a classic Futurama episode.  It was glorious.

Futurama is the often-ignored stepchild of Matt Groening’s The Simpsons.  While I am an ENORMOUS Simpsons fan, and that show is clearly the greater television achievement, I love Futurama so deeply. That show always spoke directly to everything I loved (particularly sci-fi and animation) and found funny.  I also grew to love its sprawling cast of characters so much, to an even greater degree than my love for the inhabitants of Springfield.

Time and again, Futurama has seemed to be dead and gone.  The series premiered on Fox in 1999 and was cancelled in 2003.  I was heartbroken.  Back in 2003, when a show was cancelled, that was pretty much it.  But after the reruns on Comedy Central proved unexpectedly popular, the series was miraculously brought back to life in the form of four feature-length direct-to-DVD films that were released between 2007-2009.  I was over the moon, even more so when that too proved not to be the end, when Comedy Central picked up the show, leading to the production of four additional seasons which aired from 2010-2013. That for sure seemed like the end of the road, but the series has now returned in the form of a mobile game called Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow.  I am not a gamer, so of even more excitement to me was the announcement that, to promote the game, they would release Radiorama on the Nerdist Podcast.

I love Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Podcast!  It’s a series of wonderful in-depth interviews with a variety of fascinating and funny people from across the film, TV, and comedy world.  But I wasn’t sure what a podcast version of Futurama would look like.

To my delight, it’s a perfect recreation of the show, just in audio-only form!  The podcast was written by Futurama co-creator and show-runner David X. Cohen along with Futurama writers Ken Keeler and Patric Verrone.  It stars the entire regular Futurama cast, including Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal, Phil LaMarr, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, and David Herman.

In this double-length episode, the Planet Express crew unwittingly release Klaxxon, a monster comprised of millions of unlistened-to podcasts that have achieved sentience. Meanwhile, Fry and Leela hit a rough patch, while Bender seeks to reconcile with his mother–who is just a robotic arm — while being given the opportunity to once again costar with the robotic thespian Calculon on the … [continued]

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I hope you’ve all been enjoying my journey back through the great TV of 2014!  Click here for part one of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part two of my list, numbers ten through six.

And now, the conclusion.  Here are my five favorite episodes of TV of 2014:

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5. Sherlock: “The Sign of Three” (season 3, episode 2, aired on 1/5/14) — Each hour-and-a-half-long installment of the BBC’s brilliant Sherlock series is an event in and of itself, as each episode is really it’s own movie.  All three episodes of the show’s third season (or series, as those in the U.K. prefer) were strong, but it was the middle one, “The Sign of Three,” with which I was particularly taken.  The set-up is pure gold: it’s John (Martin Freeman) and Mary’s wedding, and Sherlock Holmes is the best man.  Combine Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch)’s usual discomfort in normal polite society with a mystery regarding an attempted murder and you have a classic episode.  I love the structure of the episode.  Almost the entire run-time is structured around Sherlock’s bizarre, weird, funny, awkward, rambling Best Man toast to Watson.  In addition to the main mystery, we get tantalizing glimpses into a number of Sherlock & Watson’s other cases; we get an oh-so-brief return of the wonderful Irene Adler; we get suspense and comedy (I adore the flashback reveal of Sherlock’s intimidation of Mary’s friends and family) and so much more.  I was pleased by the balance between mystery/suspense and the show’s joy in exploring its characters and watching them play.  This episode leans more strongly towards the latter, and it works because of how sharply written the show is, and the incredible talent of all the performers, most particularly, of course, the incredibly talented duo of Mr. Freeman & Mr. Cumberbatch.  Gold.  (Click here for my review of Sherlock series three.)

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4. Game of Thrones: “The Lion and the Rose” (season 4, episode 2, aired on 4/13/14) — Game of Thrones episodes usually jump all over the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, usually only spending a few minutes at a time in one location, and with a certain set of characters, before leaping elsewhere.  As the show has gone on and its cast of characters has grown ever more sprawling, this narrative structure has begun to chafe with some fans.  I’m not one of them, but I do nevertheless cherish the show’s habit of using the penultimate episode of the season to tell an important story in just a single location.  (This was most notably done in season two’s “Blackwater,” though this season’s “The Watchers on the Wall” was also … [continued]

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First up, a big thank-you to everyone who has backed the kickstarter for the Jewish Comix Anthology!  This 250-page hardcover will feature the work of 47 Jewish artists, including Art Spiegelman, Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Joe Kubert… and me!  There’s only a week left to back the project, so please click here to get in on this!  There are some great backer rewards, including a just-added opportunity to own some original Motion Pictures cartoons by yours truly!  That’s right!  Would you like to own the original version of one of these three cartoons…?

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Click here to view the kickstarter and purchase those cartoons!  Thanks everyone!

OK, moving on… I have watched this trailer a LOT.  I have an excited feeling that this movie is going to take the world by storm.  (I hope so!!)

Oh man I can’t wait for this:

And this!  (It’s always apey-est just before the dawn…)

As if that Guardians of the Galaxy trailer I posted above wasn’t cool enough, they’ve also just released a new poster with a phenomenal tag-line.

Speaking of super-hero film news, Fox made some headlines recently with the announcement of the cast of their new Fantastic Four film.  I for one am crossing my fingers.  I have always loved the FF and nothing would make me happier than an amazing Fantastic Four movie.  But the casting seems to be rather off the mark.  I don’t mind Johnny Storm being black.  Michael B. Jordan is an awesome actor, I am happy he is in the movie.  And he seems like the only one of these four actors who feels like the right “fit” for his character — in this case the young, brash, fun-loving Johnny.  I am more worked up by skinny Jamie Bell being cast as Ben Grimm!!  And I like Miles Teller, he was phenomenal in The Spectacular Now (click here for my review), but he is WAY too young for Reed Richards.  In fact, ALL of these actors are too young, the FF should all be 30-somethings not 20-somethings.  I hope they have something good up their sleeves, but this casting doesn’t seem to indicate they plan on being too faithful to the comic book characters.  (At least, not the original FF.  Marvel comics’ “Ultimate” universe, created a decade-or-so ago, featured a teenaged FF.  But while there have been some great Ultimate universe stories, I was never that taken by that interpretation of the FF.)  And in a world where Marvel Studios exists, where they have been making amazing Marvel movies that are VERY faithful to the comics, I have little patience for another bad Fox-made FF movie.  Well, hope … [continued]

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And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2013 list!  I hope you all enjoyed the rest of my lists.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Movies of 2013, and here for part two and here for part three.  Click here for part one of The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013, and here for part two.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013, and here for part two.

And now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of the Top Ten DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2013:

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower Had I seen this film in 2012 when it was released, it surely would have made it onto my Best Movies of 2012 list.  Since I missed including this touching, heartbreaking film on that list last year, I sort of had to find a way to cheat and include it on one of my Best of 2013 lists!  This film has stuck with me deeply since I saw it.  It’s surely one of the greatest coming-of-age stories I have ever seen, masterfully adapted for the screen by Steven Chbosky, based on his own novel of the same name (which I now desperately need to read).  Each one of the kids in the film is portrayed by a phenomenal actor/actress: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman, and a score of others, not to mention some great adults in supporting roles such as Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh.  No child should have to go through what Charlie has to go through in this story, but should god forbid that happen, I hope he/she is blessed with friends as wonderful as Sam, Patrick, and their gang.  And while I referred to “cheating” a moment ago by including this film on this DVD list, the blu-ray is in fact phenomenal, with some great behind-the-scenes stuff and two magnificent commentaries, one by Mr. Chbosky alone and one by Chbosky and all the kids.  (Click here for my original review.)

9. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 & The Flashpoint Paradox These two direct-to-DVD animated DCU projects were both very strong.  At the start of the year we got the second half of the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns.  Published in 1986, this dark, psychological tale is the seminal “Last Batman Story,” in which an aged Bruce Wayne once again dons the cape and cowl in an attempt to reclaim a Gotham City without hope.  Mr. Miller’s work has been heavily mined for inspiration by … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 — Part One!

I hope everyone enjoyed my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013!  Click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.

And now, on to my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013!

As always, a caveat that, while I watched a decent amount of TV in 2013, there are a few shows that I am either way behind on or haven’t gotten to see any of yet.  I’m only in season 2 of Breaking Bad and season 1 of Boardwalk Empire, and while I hope to dive into them soon, so far I haven’t seen a single episode of either Community or Justified or House of Cards.  So if you’re wondering why those shows are not represented on this list, well, now you know!  OK, here we go:

Honorable Mention: Louis C.K. “Oh My God” — The great Louis C.K.’s hour-long HBO special was, as expected, a hilarious, genius-level comedy performance.  For the last few years, C.K. has been in an amazing groove, and I think he is the most consistently funny — and clever — comedian working today.  This special had several stand-out moments, most particularly the outrageous, good-taste-testing “oh course… but maybe” routine at the very end.  If you haven’t seen this, go visit Louis C.K.’s web-site and, for five measly dollars, download the extended version of the special.  You can thank me later.

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10. The Office: “Finale” Pt. 1 & 2 (season 9, episodes 24 & 25, aired on 5/16/13) — In its last few seasons, The Office had become a sad, unfunny shadow of its former self.  (I think seasons 2-4 of the American version of The Office rank among the best seasons of a comedic TV show ever.)  But I was lured back for the final season, and I quite enjoyed the sweet series finale, which provided a very satisfying wrap-up for all of these characters I had come to love over the almost-decade the show had been on the air.  (Even Mose made an appearance!!)  I was delighted (and very pleasantly surprised!) by the return of Steve Carell, and his final “that’s what she said” moment was absolute perfection.  (Click here for my original review of the series finale of The Office.)

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9.  30 Rock: “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch” (season 7, episodes 12 & 13, aired on 1/31/13) — The Office wasn’t the only long-running NBC comedy to take it’s final bow in 2013, and this hour-long finale to 30 Rock was also a strong ending to a great series.  We got some great call-backs to earlier episodes (“The Rural Juror,” the strip club Liz and Tracy visited in … [continued]

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This is an old clip (it’s from 2012), but I just saw it for the first time and loved it: a revival of “Who’s on First” with Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, and Jerry Seinfeld!

This made me laugh a LOT.  Ladies and gentlemen:  Good Will Batman.

This is an interesting article on the production of season two of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, a show I find enjoyable though frustrating.  (I was fascinated to learn the reason that season two only ran nine episodes, rather than ten.)

Bill Hunt runs one of my very favorite web-sites out there, The Digital Bits.  He recently wrote a phenomenal editorial calling Paramount to task for their terrible treatment of the Star Trek films on DVD/blu-ray, specifically the disappointing blu-ray release of Into Darkness (in which Paramount created all sorts of special features for the movie but, instead of putting them all on the blu-ray, released individual featurettes to different vendors to be exclusive material just for them… making it impossible for Trek fans to get all of this material unless they wanted to go out and buy eight different copies of the blu-ray, each from a different vendor).  I agree 100% with everything Mr. Hunt wrote.  Well done.

Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness, Devin Faraci at Badassdigest has written a brilliant evisceration of the film and a disturbing analysis of how co-screenwriter Bob Orci’s conspiracy “Truther” theories about 9/11 made it into the film’s story-line.  The idea that those sorts of nonsensical ideas about 9/11 made it into any big-budget blockbuster would be concerning, and the thought that these notions are a part of a Star Trek film — a series justly known for its progressive, liberal tackling of modern-day issues — is hugely upsetting to me.

This is a terrific interview with the show-runners of the new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.  This husband and wife pairing can be overshadowed by Jed’s more-famous brother Joss (who is executive-producing the show), but I have loved their work on Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Maurissa KILLS on the musical commentary track!), and even some terrific Terminator comic books they wrote for Dark Horse comics a year or two ago.  I have a lot of faith in their talents.  I hope all the ingredients come together for this to be a great TV show.

Can this be true?  The blu-ray release of Paul Feig’s The Heat (click here for my review) features a commentary track by the original MST3K guys??  Well, I am definitely buying that blu-ray now!!

So… the new Robocop is a Cylon??

So…R.I.P. Futurama… again.  In honor of the show’s recent cancellation … [continued]

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Holy cow, this sneak peek (first shown at Wondercon) of Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim is spectacular:

AAAARGH — Futurama has been cancelled AGAIN??  Sad news.  I definitely consider myself blessed that Matt Groening’s show has risen from cancellation not once but twice already, but that’s not stopping me from hoping that the still-fantastic sci-fi comedy will somehow resurrect itself yet again.

I was also bummed by the news that Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been cancelled.  Not a shocker that the show was a casualty of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, but still a disappointment.  I haven’t been a die-hard fan of the show, but I have watched quite a few episodes, particularly of the later seasons.  The show came a LONG way from the embarrassingly terrible animated film released a few years back.  The animation has become quite spectacular — the action scenes are out of this world amazing, and even the character animation has become really quite good.  I have enjoyed the show’s explorations of the sci-fi universe, and it’s been a pretty adult, action-packed show.  Not GREAT Star Wars, but very very good Star Wars.  I can understand Disney’s wanting to start fresh, but it seems like a huge wasted opportunity to not allow the show to finish its run and wrap up its stories.  After five seasons, it really felt to me that The Clone Wars was building to something — and that the series was cut off mid-stream, with story-lines and character arcs unresolved, means that the show won’t have much of a future life.  Who’d want to start watching the show’s hundred-some odd episodes, now, knowing that the show ends unfinished?  It seems crazy to me that Disney didn’t allow the show to have at least one more season to complete its story.  It’s a shame and a waste, both creatively (because the story is left incomplete) and financially (because wouldn’t Disney be able to make a lot more money off of the show in future years, through syndication, DVD/blu-ray sales, etc., if it had been completed??).

This is a fantastic, well-reasoned article comparing Marvel’s currently-running big crossover series, Age of Ultron, very favorably with what is happening these days with DC’s “New 52.”  I agree wholeheartedly.

I also agree wholeheartedly with this piece by Devin Faraci, arguing how wrong-headed the depiction of James T. Kirk’s taking of the Kobayashi Maru test was in 2009’s Star Trek.  That film showed Kirk brazenly cheating on the test, which Devin argues is a complete misunderstanding of what was suggested in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I think Devin is 100% correct, and that Kobayashi Maru scene is one of … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2012 — Part One!

I hope you’ve been enjoying my Best-of-2012 lists so far!  Follow these links to read my Top 15 Movies of 2012: part one, part two, and part three, and my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012: part one and part two.

When writing my Top 10 Episodes of TV list last year, I wrote that I’d considered not doing a best-of-TV list anymore, and the same thought crossed my mind this year.  My life has gotten so busy these past few years, and as a result I watch far, far less TV than I used to.  I manage to do a pretty good job of still seeing lots of movies, but I am much more of a niche TV viewer these days.  There are not that many new shows that I watch, and much of the TV that I see is actually old stuff in the form of DVD season sets.  But I do still love me some great TV, and so here is my list of the most wonderful television I watched this year.  One last caveat before I begin: know that I have not seen seasons 2 or 3 of Louie or seasons 2 or 3 of Boardwalk Empire, or any episode of Breaking Bad and Community. All of those are shows that I would love to catch up on, and I actually have DVDs of all of those shows sitting on my to-watch shelf.  Someday!  OK, enough delay, here’s my list:

10. Mad Men: “The Phantom” (season 5, episode 13, aired on 6/10/12) — This was a spectacular season of Mad Men, possibly my very favorite season.  The year was stuffed with memorable moments and fantastic episodes.  I thought about including on this list the season 5 premiere, “A Little Kiss,” for the Zou Bissou Bissou scene; or “Tea Leaves” for the fantastic comedy of Harry and Don Draper back-stage at a Rolling Stones concert; or “Signal 30” for the hysterical and awkward dinner party in which Pete and Trudy host Ken and his wife and, of course, the fantastic moment in which Lane punches Pete.  But, instead, I opted for “The Phantom,” the fifth season finale.  There’s a lot of greatness in this episode, moments both comedic and very sad, including the connections between Lane’s suicide and that of Don’s brother , Adam (from season one); Peggy and Don at the movies; and Roger on acid again.  But what earned this episode a spot on my list is its closing shot, that iconic image of Don Draper, in all his James Bond badass glory, walking away from his wife on a brightly-lit soundstage and into the darkness of … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV in 2011 — Part One!

Well, we’ve finally arrived at my last Top 10 list for 2011.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the previous lists!  (Follow these links to check out my Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, part three, my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one, and part two, and my Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011.)

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to put together a Top 10 Episodes of TV list this year.  For a whole host of reasons, I don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to.  I’m super-busy, and there just aren’t that many shows that interest me enough to want to watch religiously these days.  And a whole heck of a lot of the TV I watched this past year was OLDER TV — in the form of DVD box-sets (of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Party Down, etc.).  There’s a lot of current TV that interests me that I just haven’t had time to watch: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Community, Homeland, Louie (season 2 — I have watched season 1 on DVD and LOVED it — I’ll be posting a review soon), Bored to Death (I also just finished season 1 on DVD and loved it — I’ll be posting a review of this soon, as well, and I’m hoping to get to seasons 2 and 3 soon).  All of those shows look interesting and I do hope to eventually sink my teeth in them all via the magic of DVD.

So I felt weird putting together a list, seeing that there’s so much probably-great TV out there that I haven’t seen.  But when I sat down to start to compile the list, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily the top ten choices manifested themselves.  I guess I DID watch some great TV this year!  But keep the above list of TV-I-haven’t-yet-seen in mind when perusing my choices.  OK, enough intro, let’s dive in:

10. Game of Thrones: “You Win or You Die” (season 1, episode 7, aired on 5/29/11) — I’ve never read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin, and I wasn’t immediately taken by the first few hours of the HBO adaptation.  But after a few episodes, the complex fantasy story started to get its hooks in me, and by the time I arrived at this stand-out episode I was loving this show like few other things on TV.  Pretty much all of the show’s continuing story-lines jumped to the next level in this installment, which left me absolutely desperate for the next episode … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010 — Part One!

All right!  So here we are at last at my final 2010 Top 10 list — my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2010!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed my previous lists: The Top 10 Movies of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two), and the Top 15 Comic Books of 2010 (click here for part one, and here for part two).

Before we begin, I should note that there are a few 2010 TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to see any of (though I hope to remedy this soon, through the magic of DVD.  Just need to find the time!!)  These include: Louie, Eastbound and Down, Bored to Death, and Boardwalk Empire. So, if you’re wondering why no episodes from those (apparently great) shows made the list, now you know!

OK, here we go:

10. Mad Men: “The Beautiful Girls” (Season 4, episode, 9, aired on 9/19/10) — This was an interesting episode of Mad Men that spotlighted many of the women in the ensemble.  Sally, miserable living with her mother, runs away to find Don at his office, and begs him to let her live with him.  Faye is put in the uncomfortable position of having to comfort this distraught child.  Peggy has a rough series of interactions with the young fella who Joyce set her up with, who doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what sort of woman Peggy is and how to connect with her.  Joan, lonely after the departure of her husband Greg for Vietnam, finally accepts Roger Stirling’s offer of dinner — which proves momentous because of what goes down after the two of them are mugged.  And then, of course, there is poor Mrs. Blankenship, whose untimely demise leads to a laugh-out-loud sequence in which the folks at Stirling, Cooper, Draper, Price try to prevent the presence of a dead body from interrupting their regular business.  It’s my favorite moment of the entire season of Mad Men.

9. Parks and Recreation: “Woman of the Year” (Season 2, episode 17, aired 3/4/2010) — Leslie Knope expects to be chosen as the Woman of the Year by the Indiana Organization of Women, but she’s horrified to learn that their choice is actually her mustachioed boss, Ron Swanson.  There’s a lot of comic fun to be had from Ron’s gleeful torturing of Leslie (“Which of these objects most represents women, for this portrait?”), but what I love about this episode is the surprising amount of sweetness that … [continued]

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Good News Everybody! Futurama Lives!

July 20th, 2010

Sometimes things really do work out all right in the end, after all!  After being dumped by Fox back in 2004, Futurama has returned to life — first as a series of four direct-to-DVD movies (click here for my review of the final DVD, “Into the Wild Blue Yonder”) and now — huzzah! — as a regular series on Comedy Central.

I don’t get to watch too much TV while working at camp each summer, but last week on my day off I was able to enjoy the first two new episodes.

The new premiere, “Rebirth” begins with the apparent deaths of the Futurama gang (nice little unsubtle reference to their cancellation).  Luckily, Professor Farnsworth is able to restore everyone to life by bathing their skeletons in a vat of stem cells.  Well, everyone except Leela.  For some reason the Professor’s miracle stem cell bath doesn’t return her to life, so instead he downloads her memories and personality into a new robot body.  This proves somewhat awkward for Fry and Leela’s burgeoning romance!

“Rebirth” is far from the funniest Futurama episode ever, but it’s such a delight to see the characters back on TV that I hardly noticed.  There are a lot of great gags and all sorts of references to sci-fi TV shows and movies.  There’s a subplot with Bender (now powered by one of the Professor’s doomsday machines that will blow him to kingdom come if he ever stops partying) that got tiresome pretty fast, but the episode makes up for that with a third-act twist that I thought was really clever and surprising.

Things got even better with the second new episode, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela,” in which Leela finds herself marooned with Zapp Branigan.  With no hope of rescue (and under the impression that the Earth has been destroyed), will she contemplate repopulating the Human species with Zapp?  Brannigan is a terrific Futurama character, and it’s great to see him get so much screen time in this episode.  I particularly enjoyed the glimpse we got into his dreams (presented in the style of 1950’s black-and-white serials).

I’ve heard that the production budget of the series was cut in order to get picked up by Comedy Central.  Luckily, the show still looks great.  There were a few moments of slightly wonky animation (the attack by the Cyclophage in “Rebirth” looked particularly flat, and there were some moments between Zapp and Leela in “In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela” where both characters looked a bit off-model), but nothing too troubling.

Most of all, it’s just a great thrill to have the series back, and I hope they’re able to build some momentum as the season continues.… [continued]

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Let the Best of 2009 lists continue!  I hope you all enjoyed my list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2009.

Now let’s dive into my list of the Top 10 DVDs (or Blu-Rays) released in 2009!

First, I’d like to give Honorable Mentions to the complete series sets of three amazing TV shows that I had just about given up all hope of ever seeing on DVD: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. So why aren’t these shows on my list?  Because I can’t put anything on this list that I haven’t actually watched, and I’ve been way, way too busy to get through any of these sets.  Of the three, the only one I own is Andy Richter Controls the Universe.  (That one came out first, and I’m not going to purchase the other two sets until I actually have time to watch them.)  But I take great delight in knowing that these three DVD sets exist here on planet Earth, and I know that I’ll get to them all in good time.

10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) — I’ve seen Watchmen quite a few times since it was released early in 2009, and while the film certainly has some weaknesses, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of its successes.  It’s hard to believe that Zach Snyder brought this seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, which long had been considered unadaptable, to life.  It thrills me to see such a faithful take on the material and that the filmmakers had the confidence to craft a super-hero film that was aimed squarely at adults.  The Ultimate Cut of the film is Zach Snyder’s longest version, stitching together his Director’s Cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter sequences.  It’s pretty astounding.  This Blu-Ray set would be much higher on this list were it not for the paltry special features.  Not only are the special features lame (this is a movie that cries out for a full-fledged making-of documentary), but this set just reproduces the special features that were already released on the Director’s Cut set.  (I guess I’ve been spoiled by the amazing extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, which came not just with phenomenal extended versions of the films but with extraordinarily elaborate making-of documentaries that didn’t duplicate the special features on the theatrical version DVDs.)  (Read my review of the theatrical version of Watchmen here, and of the Director’s Cut here.)

9. Contact (Blu-Ray) — A beautiful film that manages to combine a serious, cerebral sci-fi tale with an effecting story of the personal journey … [continued]

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News Around the Net (Comic-Con Edition!)

So, wow!  After the recent Comic-Con the web has been flooded with all sorts of teases about upcoming movies, TV shows, and other geeky goodness.  Here’s some of the best stuff that I’ve found:

After so many years of speculation and false starts, the sequel to Tron is finally, actually happening!!  Check out the STUNNING trailer here.  It’s going to be in IMAX 3-D??  I’m THERE.

I cannot believe they’re actually making a Jonah Hex movie.  (And with Josh Brolin, no less!)  Check out the poster.

The ending of Lost revealed?  Um, not quite.  Check out this video from the Lost panel!  Quite a lot of additional footage from that panel can be found here.  For some reason, Michael Emmerson’s fake audition for the role of Hurley isn’t included, but you can find that here.  Funny stuff.

Here’s a pretty bad-ass trailer for Season 2 of The Clone Wars.  I actually found the first season to be fairly watchable, and this glimpse at the next season looks pretty promising.

You know what it takes to sell real estate?  The same thing it takes to re-make one of the most brilliant TV shows of all time.  Well, AMC’s version of The Prisoner, starring Ian McKellan and Jim Caviezel, is nearly upon us.  Check out this lengthy trailer.  I must say, that looks pretty damn intriguing!

Amongst all of this glorious fun is the extraordinarily troubling continuing story about the newly-resurrected Futurama‘s uncertain future.  This report from the Futurama panel at the con is grim indeed.  Can’t everybody just make nice already?!!

That’s all for now — have a great weekend everybody!!… [continued]

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News Around the Net

Good news, everybody!  Futurama lives!!

So Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) is joining the cast of 24 next season?  Time for the Battlestar Galactica actors to learn what the members of the ensemble from The Wire have discovered: they’ll never again be in a TV show as good.

Did you see The Daily Show’s John Hodgman’s uproariously funny speech at the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents’ Dinner?  Not to be missed.

A nice farewell to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles can be found on Composer Bear McCreary’s excellent blog, as he lists his 15 favorite moments from the show.  (They are all excellent choices.)  This show had its flaws, to be sure, but I am really disappointed that we won’t be getting a third season.  (By the way, Bear was also the composer for the reinvented Battlestar Galactica throughout its run.)

Speaking of The Terminator, the fine folks over at filmschoolrejects.com have posted an interesting list of 20 Things We Didn’t Like and 10 Things We Did about Terminator: Salvation.

I don’t play videogames, but I must admit that this trailer for Lucasarts’ new Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer is ridiculously cool.  I wish we’d seen half that much bad-assery in the prequels…

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has made his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien!  Watch him make fun of some hippies here.

Have a great weekend, everybody!  See you back here on Monday!… [continued]

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Animation Update! Josh reviews the final Futurama adventure and DC’s new Wonder Woman film!

Two rather high-profile new direct-to-DVD animation projects have been released recently — but are they worth your time and hard-earned dollars?  Well read on, true believers!

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder — And so, once again, we bid farewell to Futurama.  Matt Groening’s lunatic sci-fi series was brutally cancelled by Fox back in 2003 after only four seasons.  Luckily, after several long years of waiting, the series was resurrected for a series of four direct-to-DVD feature-length animated films, of which this is the last.  While these new movies haven’t quite reached the high-points of the series’ best episodes (I’m thinking about episodes such as The Farnsworth Parabox, Roswell That Ends Well, Love and Rocket, War is the H-Word, Amazon Women in the Mood, The Bird-bot of Ice-Catraz, The Problem with Popplers, or The Day the Earth Stood Stupid), they have been very, very good.  The strongest, in my opinion, was The Beast with a  Billion Backs, in which David Cross (Arrested Development, Mr. Show) plays the alien Yivo who attempts to mate with every creature in the universe, while the weakest was Bender’s Game (as I found the extended fantasy sequence in the middle of the film to be a bit dull).

Into the Wild Green Yonder contains all the crazy zaniness, wild side-stories, and obscure sci-fi references that I have come to expect from the series.  The plot is almost beside the point, but I will attempt a summation.  The story begins on Mars, where the construction of a new Mars Vegas is disrupted by a band of eco-feminists.  Pretty soon Fry has been declared the savior of the universe by a bunch of telepaths wearing aluminum foil hats, Bender arouses the wrath of the mobster Don-Bot for making out with his wife, Leela goes under-cover with the feminists, and it all builds to a massive space-ship battle in the middle of an intergalactic mini-golf course.

The DVD is very solid — the animation is GORGEOUS, as always.  The story, despite some digressions, works well as a movie.  There are very few lulls between big laughs.  As for the ending — well, the original Futurama series was cancelled without any time to produce a final episode, so with this being the final DVD (for now, at least — hope always springs eternal that these will have proven profitable enough for more to be on the way!), fans wondered if we’d get some sort of “finale” to the over-all story.  Well, I think they got things just right.  The last scene is just terrific, with some nice closure that doesn’t close the door on further adventures.  And the very last shot?  Perfection.

If this is … [continued]

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DVD Shelf!

It’s been a busy month here, but that hasn’t stopped me from checking out a bunch of DVDs recently, new and old:

The Conversation — Released in 1974, this masterpiece was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.  Gene Hackman stars as twitchy, secretive surveillance specialist Harry Caul, whose life is up-ended by a seemingly-innocuous conversation that he is hired to record.  Confidently directed by Coppola at the height of his abilities, the film is a perfect study of a slow burn as we watch Hackman’s character gradually fall to pieces.  This is Hackman’s film, without question, but it’s also fun to see the great John Cazale (Fredo in The Godfather) and an incredibly young Harrison Ford in supporting roles.  The film is also notable for the contributions of master editor Walter Murch (American Graffiti, Apocalypse Now) who created an incredible sound-scape that plays with sound and dialogue in some incredibly inventive ways.  The bravura opening sequence, in which Caul and his team records the titular conversation, is staggering — like Caul, we attempt to follow the couple and their conversation, but keep getting distracted by people talking, music playing, and a myriad of other background noises, with the conversation itself flittering in and out of our perception.  It’s really quite astonishing.  Everybody loves The Godfather these days, but I feel that The Conversation is a film that has fallen out of the popular consciousness.  Do yourself a favor and help remedy that by checking out this brilliant film!

Band of Brothers — Speaking of masterpieces, there is this 2001 HBO miniseries executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.  Adapted from the book by Stephen Ambrose, the series follows the men of Easy Company (of the US Army 101st Airborne Division) from their training in 1942 through to the end of the second world war.  I have watched this series through four times now since it was released, and each time I watch it I am just as over-come by the power of the story of these extraordinary heroes.  The production quality of this mini-series is unbelievable — each episode is really its own mini-movie.  The vistas are stunningly beautiful, and the action is gut-wrenchingly intense.  There are few movies. let alone TV shows, that are able to stage combat sequences with as much ferocity.  Over the ten episodes we follow and grow to love an enormous ensemble of characters: Damian Lewis as Richard Winters, Ron Livingston as Lewis Nixon, Donnie Wahlberg as Carwood Lipton, Scott Grimes as Donald Malarkey, Michael Cudlitz as “Bull” Randleman, James Madio as Frank Perconte, Neal McDonough as “Buck” Compton, Frank John … [continued]

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OK, here we are with my final “Best-of” list, the Top 10 DVDs of 2008!  To be included on this list, the DVD in question had to contain a high-quality TV show, movie, or special and also a great presentation on DVD, with lots of cool special features.  Behold my list:

10.  Mystery Science Theatre 3000:  20th Anniversary Edition — I adore this show, and this 20th anniversary celebration of its existence just rocked.  On this set, the gang haves fun with four great/terrible films: First Spaceship on Venus (1960), Laserblast (1978), Werewolf (1996) and Future War (1997).  Even better is the inclusion of an in-depth 3-part documentary on the making of the show, from its creation through to its end.  The icing on the cake was the neat tin case that included fun stuff like a little model of Crowe T. Robot, which now sits proudly on my desk.

9.  John, Paul, Tom & Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder — This DVD contains three lengthy, rare interviews that Tom Synder conducted with Paul McCartney (in 1979), Ringo Starr (in 1981), and John Lennon (in 1975).  The Lennon interview is the last televised interview that John gave before his death.  Snyder is an engaging interviewer, and these lengthy conversations with 3 of the 4 Beatles are a real find.

8.  The Office: The Complete Fourth Season and 30 Rock: The Complete Second Season — Complete season sets of these two NBC shows at the top of their game were released in ’08, I can’t tell you how many hours of enjoyment I got out of these DVDs.  In the fourth season of The Office, Ryan the temp is promoted, moves to New York City, and falls to pieces; Andy begins dating Angela; Stanley finally loses it with Michael (“did I stutter?”), Michael is deposed in Jan’s case against Dunder Mifflin; the gang creates an ad to run on local television and participates in Michael’s “fun run” towards a cure for rabies; Toby finally leaves for Costa Rica; and of course Michael and Jan invite Jim and Pam over for a dinner party.  Over on 30 Rock, Jack launches a new reality series called  MILF Island; Tracy and Jenna feud over Liz’s attentions; Liz adopts a hippie writer (played by Carrie Fisher) as her mentor; Devon Banks (Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett) feuds with Jack over the top spot at GE; Jerry Seinfeld discovers Jack’s plan to digitally insert him into all of NBC’s new fall shows; Jack falls in love with a Democratic Congresswoman from Vermont (Edie Falco); and while Liz Lemon faces a pregnancy scare, Jack takes a job working in the Bush Administration along … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Every now and then a great, cancelled-before-its-time TV show earns a magical second chance. My favorite recent example of this is the staggeringly underrated Futurama. This wonderfully bizarre and hysterical show, created by Matt Groening, was cancelled back in 2005, but it was revived last year for four direct-to-DVD movies. The first, Bender’s Big Score, came out this past November. The second, The Beast With a Billion Backs, is nearly upon us. Check out the trailer:

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/36905

If you don’t know what the twist of the story is going to be from the DVD’s title, the last line of the trailer spells things out pretty clearly.

In other news, the creator of the Pringles can died last month, and was buried in…oh yes, a Pringles can. Could I make that up?

http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/983051,pring060208.article

Finally, in sad news, Alexander Courage died last week. He was a tremendously talented film composer and arranger…but his most famous work was probably writing the theme to the original Star Trek series. There aren’t too many pieces of music more iconic. What a giant. More information on his life and work can be found here:

http://trekmovie.com/2008/05/28/star-trek-composer-alexander-courage-dead-at-88/#more-2013

That’s all for me for today!… [continued]

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How I survived the TV strike

I’m a bit of a TV nut.  So, like so many of you, I had to go through a bit of an adjustment this winter without any new installments of Lost, The Office, and all my other TV pals.

How did I survive?  DVDs, my friends.  God bless ‘em.

Here’s just a sampling of the Digital Video Devicey goodness that I enjoyed over the past few months:

I.  Futurama: Bender’s Big Score – There aren’t a lot of shows (only Firefly and Arrested Development come to mind) whose cancellation burned me more than that of Futurama.  My goodness I loved this show. I still remember the moment when I first understood that this Matt Groening creation was a thing of awesome beauty and genius.  It was season two’s episode “I Second That Emotion,” (that’s the one where the Professor installs an empathy chip in Bender), in which it was revealed that the colony of underground mutants (long story) worshipped an unexploded nuclear bomb but, as one of the mutants commented, “its really just a Christmas and Easter” thing.  Any show that makes Beneath the Planet of the Apes jokes (that’s where the whole mutants-worshipping-an-unexploded-nuclear-bomb thing comes from) without care as to the tiny amount of viewers who would actually get that joke is a show that guaranteed itself my viewership until the end of time.  Anyways, this DVD movie was the 1st of 4 DVDs rescuing the show from oblivion.  It’s the bees’ knees, baby.

II.  Battlestar Galactica: Razor – Another direct-to-DVD continuation of a brilliant TV show.  If you’re not watching Sci-Fi’s stunningly amazing reinvention of BSG, then I have only pity in my heart for you.  This installment was, no surprise, gripping and surprising…in particular, the multi-layered structure of flashbacks-within-flashbacks was super-cool.  And we got to see a young William “Husker” Adama battling “toasters” in the First Cylon War!

III.  Zodiac – I totally missed this David Fincher film, about the real-life Zodiac murders of the 60’s & 70’s, when it was in theatres…and I don’t know quite what prompted me to pick it up on DVD.  But I found this film to be completely gripping.  A terrific cast,  including Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Junior, and many many other familiar faces really kept things moving.  And the beautiful set design & costuming combined with some really beautiful but extraordinarily subtle visual effects work brought San Francisco through the years to gorgeous visual life.

IV.  Igby Goes Down – Check out this cast:  Kieran Culkin, Clare Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Amanda Peet, Ryan Phillipe, Bill Pullman, and Susan Sarandon.  Find it.  Watch it.  You won’t regret it.

More DVDS I watched and loved this winter coming tomorrow!… [continued]