A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 117 – Office Space

Office Space – June 25th, 2010

So, we were saving this one a little, and then when we could have watched it we were doing Futurama, but now we’re done with Futurama movies and Andy’s got a new job and what better way to celebrate a new job than a movie about a guy who hates his job? And have I mentioned Andy’s got a new job? We’re very excited. Also? Coincidentally, Dave Herman, who plays poor Michael Bolton in this? Is a voice actor for Futurama. He plays Scruffy. The janitor. This was unintentional, but also hilarious.

Anyhow, Peter Gibbons hates his job. It’s easy to see why. It’s a soulless and mindless job. He gets a chance to describe his day to two consultants the company, Initech, brings in to help downsize. He explains to them that he spends at least two hours a day zoned out while making it look like he’s working. He’s got eight bosses and his only motivation is to keep them from hassling him. “It’s not that I’m lazy,” he tells them. “It’s that I just don’t care.” And then there are the TPS reports. But we find all this out after Peter’s girlfriend makes him go to a hypnotherapist to help him with his job loathing. The hypnotherapist dies before he can snap Peter out of his trance and Peter ends up in a blissful state where he simply ceases to care about the consequences of his actions. Hence the total and complete frank honesty with the consultants and a truly beautiful sequence of scenes of him showing up at work in flip flops, tipping over a wall of his cubicle to give himself a window, and gutting a fish at his desk.

To be quite honest, there are two things I could watch in this movie over and over again. Peter’s whole uber-calm work rebellion that ends up somehow earning him a promotion, and the scene where he and two of his coworkers brutally destroy a printer/FAX that never once works right in the entire movie. Everyone’s experienced a piece of equipment like this. Essential to some duty but buggy as shit on a hot day and too expensive to replace. Peter and his friends, Samir and Michael (Bolton – no relation to the pop singer, thanks) go at it with a baseball bat and their feet after Samir and Michael are laid off. It’s a gloriously satisfying scene, done in slow motion so you can really relish the destruction.

Anyhow, after Samir and Michael find out they’re getting laid off, but before their last day, Peter remembers something Michael said about being able to program a virus that would gut the company like the fish Peter had on his desk. He talks them into putting it into action before they go and they set up a program that they describe by referencing Superman 3, but I always think of as the Hackers virus. It skims off fractions of cents and deposits the money into an account they’ve set up. And it’s all done in the name of getting a dig in against Initech and their hateful boss, Bill Lumbergh. Meanwhile Peter’s having a grand time, doing nothing and getting paid for it, just like he always wanted, and dating Joanna, a waitress from a nearby restaurant who he’s had a crush on for ages.

Of course it all eventually falls apart. Peter finds out Joanna’s slept with Lumbergh, she gets pissed off when he gets upset. Peter finds out the virus stole a lot more than they intended it to, thanks to a misplaced decimal in Michael’s code. Everyone freaks out for a while. Until the building burns down thanks to one of the great comedic devices in this movie, a character named Milton who’s obsessed with his red Swinline stapler and who provides a running mumbled monologue peppered with vague threats.

It’s a movie about how much work sucks, but how you just can’t avoid it. Sure, you could snap and commit arson, but really, that’s no way to give your notice. Unless you’re Milton. Everything in it is parody bordering on reality. I’ve managed to avoid cubicle jobs myself, but I witnessed some impressive Lumberghian behavior in college (thankfully not directed at me – student workers weren’t important enough to get treated like crap) and heard plenty from friends and family. Two in particular have jobs that are nowhere near a company like Initech and still, I see some painfully close comparisons. It’s sort of like This is Spinal Tap in that regard I think. But in the end everyone’s still got to work (well, all the main characters) and Peter, Samir and Michael never reap the benefits of their scheme. The thing is, they seem happier having escaped without any trouble, remaining free to get new jobs and go on with their lives. The movie isn’t a heist flick. It’s a comedy about regular people staying regular people. And a love story about a man and his stapler.

June 25, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Office Space

June 25, 2010

Office Space

I’m starting a new job soon. I went into town today to fill out my I-9 and such. To celebrate my newly employed status we’re watching today the quintessential movie about hating your rotten job. I’m not sure that really makes sense, but there you go. It’s nice to have an excuse to watch this movie again.

Ron Livington is instantly likable as Peter Gibbons, a guy trapped in a menial cubical job. He has eight overlapping bosses. When he forgets to put the cover sheet on his TPS report he hears about it from boss after boss after boss. His awful immediate boss Bill makes him work weekends. His friends Samir and Michael buckle under, deal with the daily grind, deal with the copy machine that never works, deal with the people who ridicule their names. Peter can’t cope with it any more though. He’s going to snap.

And snap he does. In the most glorious and wonderful way. When his demanding girlfriend takes him to a occupational hypnotherapist, and his hypnotist dies during the therapy Peter is suddenly able to let go of all the stress from his job and start doing what he’s always wanted to do with his life: nothing. “I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be.” He hangs up on his bitch of a girlfriend, who promptly breaks up with him (she was cheating on him anyhow.) He doesn’t come in on the weekend. When he has to interview with some consultants that his company has hired to downsize he unabashedly tells them everything that is wrong with his job.

It’s a glorious piece of satirical whimsy that portrays just exactly what could happen if somebody gave in and gave up on that horrible job that has been slowly killing them. There’s a reason that movies like this and comic strips like Dilbert have enjoyed such success. Everybody hates their job sometimes, and everybody wants to tell their boss what they really think. This kind of wish fulfillment fantasy plays a vital role, allowing the desk jockeys of the world to let off some steam, lest they become like Milton, the mumbling twitchy fellow in the movie who is entirely incapable of communicating with anybody.

And, really, this movie is astonishingly well made as well. It’s brilliantly well written by Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill. It’s filled with memorable quotable moments and characters. I don’t believe there’s a person who has ever watched this movie who subsequently didn’t find themselves muttering at times like Milton “Okay. I’m going to set the building on fire.” Like Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss the awkward “Yeah, hi” of Peter’s boss Bill has become a cultural touchstone for everything that can be wrong with middle management. Heck, this movie is even famous for creating and bringing to ubiquitous popularity the once fictional red Swingline stapler.

Every character in the movie is iconic, to such a degree that Ron Livingston will probably never be, in my mind, anything except the affable Peter. And the girl who plays his new girlfriend in the movie, Jennifer Aniston (who I understand has done some other stuff as well, although I don’t own anything else she’s been in I don’t think) will always be the Kung Fu loving and basically kind-hearted waitress that Peter is head over heels in love with. I can’t imagine that Stephen Root will ever escape the role of Milton either. (I’m sure people are always asking him to do that mumbling stream of consciousness drone of his.)

I’m happy to say that although I’ve often hated my job I’ve never really snapped like this. Partially thanks to Mike Judge and the existence of this wonderful movie. I’m really looking forward to hating my all-new job soon as well. Wish me luck!

June 25, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments

Movie 116 – Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder – June 24th, 2010

I think maybe the Futurama movies are sort of like the Star Trek movies. Every other one is good. Not that this one is bad, but it doesn’t do it for me quite as well as the first and third did. Sure, it’s got fun jokes and it’s a hell of a lot less ooky than the second, but it falls flat in a few places and I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s the whole environmentalism message that seems to fluctuate between serious and silly, like the writers knew they didn’t want to make it into a complete joke but still wanted to play it for laughs. Same for the feminism part of the plot. But I’ll get to the feminism plot and why it’s not as ooky as the Yivo thing.

Unlike the previous movies, this one doesn’t feel choppy really. Sure, it’s got defined parts to it, but the transitions feel smooth. It plays out nicely as a whole, I’ll give it that. We start out with a montage of Mars Vegas before it’s blown up by the Wongs to make room for a bigger and better casino city on Mars. During construction Leela saves a nasty little muck leech from being paved over and we meet the Eco-Feministas, a group of pink tie-dye wearing women who shout hackneyed slogans and wave signs in protest of Leo Wong’s destruction of the environment. And his gender. When Wong blasts them Fry ends up with a piece from their leader’s necklace embedded in his head and becomes able to read thoughts. Which is where the other half of the plot shows up.

A group of folks in tin foil hats inducts Fry into the Legion of Madfellows, all of whom can also read minds. But hearkening back to earlier episodes, Fry’s brain is shown to be unreadable, which makes him the perfect agent against the Dark Ones; a mysterious race who can read minds and want to destroy all life. The Madfellows and the Eco-Feministas have a shared goal: Stop Leo Wong from destroying a violet dwarf star and a burgeoning life-filled planetoid near it. Fry goes to work as a double agent, infiltrating the Wongs from within the company and Leela joins the Feministas, transforming them from a laughable group of ineffective slogan shouters to the eco-scourge of Leo Wong. They also kill headless Agnew. By accident. Oops.

Anyhow, Fry’s working in secret to keep the Dark Ones from finding out the Madfellows’ plans and can’t tell Leela he’s really on her side. Leela convinces pretty much every female on the show except Mom and Mrs. Wong to join her and so the plot is set with the two groups fighting the Wongs and the Wongs and Nixon working on blowing up that violet dwarf star to make way for a gigantic miniature golf course. And also because the Dark Ones are telling Leo Wong what to do. It all ends with a big confrontation and a giant space manta thing and a lecture about respecting life and the implication that humans are endangered.

But you see what I mean about the plot all being one thing? Sure it starts in Mars Vegas and then after a while we leave it and all, but it’s all part of the same whole. The Wongs and the Feministas stay as two of the main focal points for the entire plot. We don’t stay in Mars Vegas, but the giant mini golf course is part of it. Fry’s telepathy comes from an encounter with the Feministas and in the end the Feministas and the Madfellows are linked anyhow. Even the muck leech Leela saved is part of the main plot. There’s a hell of a lot going on around it all to make it a full length movie, but despite that it plays as a single whole.

So it’s really a shame that it falls flat for me. I don’t want it to. The Feministas thing could have pissed me off royally, except that when Leela shows up she actually makes them effective and strong. They rally behind her and she gets LaBarbara and Amy to join in. Linda, one of the two news anchors, puts a stiletto heel in Morbo’s head and leaves the news desk to join too (leading to some good bits with her introducing the action she’s part of as if it’s news). Yes, it’s definitely played for laughs. Frida, the original leader, is a complete stereotype of an angry-but-foolish Woman With A Cause. I know the type they’re spoofing on and it makes me shake my head. But what saves this from my wrath is that Frida is only one part of the group. Sure, the movement has people who are better at coming up with things to say than things to do, but it’s also got people who are better at doing than saying. So unlike the second movie, this one doesn’t leave me feeling slightly slimy for enjoying it.

The trouble is that like the environmentalism message, the writers took something serious and played it for laughs but also made it serious at the same time and maybe one plot like that could have worked. Pick one, the feminist stuff or the environmentalist stuff. But two is too many. There’s too much serious and too much awareness that there are Messages. The laughs are good, but they don’t happen nearly enough. Sure, I’m smiling by the ending (which reminds me a lot of the end of MST3K season 7 – we’ll see if they use that tonight), but I wish I was smiling wider.

June 24, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

June 24, 2010

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

This movie, more than the other three Futurama movies, has the strong feel of an extra long episode. No time travel or D&D here – just a strange series of events that happen to the Planet Express crew. It’s got a fairly epic feel, with a clash of ancient races as old as the universe itself and Fry being the only hope of the universe, but we’ve seen that on the show too, twice! So it doesn’t really do anything new, but what it does do is done well, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as Bender’s Game and Bender’s Big Score I did enjoy it.

The story goes thusly: in the year 3008 Leo Wong (Amy’s multi-gazillionaire father and owner of most of Mars) destroys Mars Vegas to erect an even more glitzy and ostentatious New Mars Vegas. In the process he eradicates all but one of the endangered martian muck leeches, arousing the ire of Leela and of a group of Feminista environmentalists. When the necklace of one of the feministas (Frida Waterfall – part of a running gag from the series with a vast Waterfall family all played by Phil Hendrie) gets lodged in Fry’s head he gains the power to read thoughts. He almost goes insane from the pressure of all the unprotected thoughts around him, but is rescued by a homeless man named Hutch who provides him with a tinfoil hat and eventually introduces him to the Legion of Madfellows – a secret society of people who can read thoughts and wear tinfoil hats.

The Madfellows spout a whole lot of plot exposition at Fry. It seems that there is an ancient and never-ending cosmic battle between two forces known as the Dark Ones and the Encyclopods. The Dark Ones are the ultimate evolutionary achievement and desire to destroy all other life in the universe, and the Encyclopods have incorporated into their very being the DNA of every extinct species. Fry must find a way to stop Leo Wong from destroying the egg of the last Encyclopod – which is actually a violet dwarf star. Only Fry can stop the Dark Ones because only his defective brain cannot be read (as established when he twice defeated the invading brain aliens in the show.)

That’s the basic plot right there. There’s a whole lot of padding, of course, because that’s not nearly enough to fill a movie. There’s a lengthy bit in New Mars Vegas where Fry and Bender enter a poker tournament. Bender has a fling with the Robot Don’s moll. Leela and Amy (and eventually just about every female character from the show) join with the feministas to attempt to stop Wong and protect the environment. A lot of stuff happens like chases through space and giant miniature golf. The headless corpse of Spiro Agnew gets needlessly and brutally killed.

And since this was the last movie planned for release, and since it wasn’t known if there would ever be any more Futurama after this, the writers also shoehorned in a plot that tries to bring Fry and Leela together at the end. Which doesn’t work nearly as well as the touching end to the original series in The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings. Indeed, that’s the problem this movie has almost throughout. It does some things that are clever, like finally giving some lines to the number 9 man who was seen in background crowds throughout the series and bringing back the recurring Waterfall characters, but most of the best bits of the movie were done better in the series. Fry and Leela’s reconciliation was better in the show and in the first movie. Fry’s “special brain” was best used in The Why of Fry. The Wong family was more fun to watch in Where the Buggalow Roam. In many ways this movie is less a graceful swan song than a warmed over rehash of best bits from the show.

Furthermore the environmentalist and science nerd in me takes exception to the depiction of rabid environmentalists in this movie. And, really, if you think about it the notion of preserving the DNA of every extinct species ever is an odd device. Maybe it’s pedantic of me, but my brain immediately wonders if the Encyclopods preserve every evolutionary dead end as well. Evolution, as I understand it, involves the constant introduction of new ways to build life. Most of these new things don’t fill a need for whatever species or provide an environmental advantage and so they don’t result in new species – but they can sometimes be carried on for generations before they fade from existence. Do these abnormalities get preserved? What about freakish mutations that don’t even result in viable mating stock or die before maturing? Do they deserve preservation? I guess its an idea that gets me thinking, and I like those, but ultimately it doesn’t work for me.

Still – I will never say no to new Futurama. I’m really hoping that the new series, which premiers in about half an hour from when I’m writing this review, will offer David X Cohen and all his nerdy buddies a chance to add new life to the franchise. Hopefully there are new epic reveals to be had and new strangeness and wonder ahead. I just think that in general Futurama lends itself more to the shorter half-hour format. Time will tell if I am right.

June 24, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 115 – Futurama: Bender’s Game

Futurama: Bender’s Game – June 23rd, 2010

Thank goodness we’re back to a good Futurama movie tonight. This one doesn’t work quite as well as the first one did, but it’s still a lot of fun and the plotlines fit together pretty well, even if the fantasy quest section does make it do the episodic thing. But I forgive it that, because the plots really are well integrated and it has one of our favorite lines, from Igner: “We’re oooooowwwl exterminators!” Yeah, why do we love that so much? It’s all about delivery.

But the plots! I really hate to call them A and B or whatever, since they don’t stay separate. First there’s the introduction of rising fuel costs and Leela banging up the ship because she lets her temper get away from her. Then Bender comes across the kids playing Dungeons & Dragons and decides he wants to play too, but alas! He has no imagination! So he puts his mind to it and, of course, goes overboard and declares himself Sir Titanius Englesmith, Fancy Man of Cornwood and starts running around attacking imaginary dragons and belching out fireballs. And then back to the fuel plot: We find out that the fuel costs are going up because of a dark matter shortage that Mom (of Mom’s Friendly Robots) has manufactured in order to make more money. But dark matter wasn’t always valuable! It was the Professer who, in his youth, accidentally transformed all dark matter into a fuel source. But he also made a crystal that would reverse the process, making dark matter worthless.

Thus the two plotlines combine when we discover that the crystal they need to turn dark matter worthless is being used as a d12 by the D&D players and end up sucked into a fantasy world of Bender’s making, transformed into fantasy creatures and characters and going on a quest to find it and defeat Mom.

The humor in this is probably even funnier to people who were really into D&D, but even my limited experience in addition to the fact that D&D and high fantasy novels share a goodly amount of tropes and references means that the humor isn’t hard to get. I mean, sure, the d12 is a D&D thing, and they make reference to Gary Gygax and there’s plenty of D&D to go around. But there’s also a line about a hobo and a rabbit making a hobbit, and there’s an Ent, and the d12 becomes the one die and brings along a whole pile of One Ring references. Really, if you’ve read, seen or heard of Lord of the Rings, you’re good to go. It’s almost enough to make me say we should do the LotR trilogy this weekend, but they’re three hours a piece and we’re kind of saving them.

Anyhow, it’s got plenty of fun stuff even if you’re not super into D&D or Lord of the Rings. Hell, it’s even got a Star Wars reference (an extended reference, really). And then there’s the title, which is a reference both to the D&D game and to the book Ender’s Game, which does have a weird little fantasy game as a plot point but is really science fiction. It’s all great stuff for them to use for loving parody, and it is loving. It’s clear that they’re riffing on these well-used fantasy themes the same way they do math jokes: With the true fondness of geeks who’ve spent years knowing the ins and outs of what they’re joking about. Listening to the commentary just confirms it more. A word about the commentaries for Futurama, both the show and the movies: Watch them. It’s well worth it not just for explanations of some of the more obscure jokes and math and jokes about math, but also to hear the voice actors goofing off. But even without the commentary, it’s a truly funny geekfest.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Futurama: Bender’s Game

June 23, 2010

Futurama: Bender’s Game

Okay! We’re back on track today with another great Futurama movie. Indeed as I watch this one for the fourth or fifth time it’s quite hard to say if I actually prefer this movie or the first one. Both have innumerable references to the old show, but whereas Bender’s Big Score deals primarily with time travel Bender’s Game deals with Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings.

Right from the very beginning with this movie you can tell that you’re in for a treat. The Futurama opening credits end with a fantastic Yellow Submarine tribute that sets the slightly fantastical mood for the movie to come. After that the movie starts out fairly tangentially, re-introducing dark matter (the rocket fuel used in the Futurama universe) and stressing how rare and expensive it is when the professor is more upset that the crew has used half a ball of dark matter than that they destroyed the Planet Express ship in a demolition derby. It’s pretty cool how they work a lot of the plot exposition so that it fits with established show history. They reprise Nibler’s origin from way back in season one as they explain how Mom (of Mom’s friendly robot factory) attained a monopoly on dark matter. And they go back to explore more about the torrid on-again and off-again romance between Mom and the professor, which has been the source of much amusement in the show. And there’s a dark and terrible secret revealed in this movie which, in retrospect, Matt and David must have planned years in advance.

But it isn’t until about halfway through the movie that things truly get strange. Through an unlikely series of events involving Bender going insane playing D&D and a quantum distortion from some dark matter he has hidden in his chest cavity the entire cast gets warped into a Lord of the Rings inspired alternate universe. Fry becomes Frydo, Leela becomes the centaur Leegola, Bender is Titanius Englebert (Fancy Man of Cornwood) and so on. And everybody is now suddenly on a quest to destroy the ultimate twelve sided die.

It’s fertile ground to be mined by the writers of Futurama, which has always been a show steeped in nerd lore. Perhaps it is a little strange that a show traditionally rooted in science fiction should take such a fantastical detour, but really it works perfectly with the whole Futurama sensibility and humor. It’s pretty clear that the writers had a fantastic time with things like Wipe Castle and Gynacaladrial. There’s epic battles with orks, Morks, and yes there are even Dungeons and Dragons.

This whole movie is a nerdgasm. Sort of like the fantastic Star Trek episode of Futurama this movie brings so much fun stuff to the table. If there’s one thing that Futurama does well it’s pandering to their nerdish fan base, and as part of that nerdish base I’d like to thank them for it.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 114 – Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs

Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs – June 22nd, 2010

When we begin the second Futurama movie the rip in space is still there, being terrifying but not really doing anything. Life’s going on as normal, aside from people wondering just what the rip will do. Fry’s got a new girlfriend, Colleen, but it turns out she has four other boyfriends. Unable to handle a quintuplesome, he breaks up with her and goes on a mission to explore the space rip. And up until about there, I’m pretty on board with the movie. I’m even cool through the B plot with Bender joining the secret League of Robots and the minor plot point of Kif getting killed in an attempt to destroy whatever’s on the other side of the rip (he comes back). It’s when Fry comes back that the movie kind of loses me.

See, I don’t hate this movie, but bits of it squick me and even though it’s far more linear in nature than the first one it feels a lot more disjointed to me. I’m not sure what it is in particular that makes me feel like it’s broken up into more bits than last night’s. Maybe it’s that the plot is so linear but doesn’t flow smoothly. The transitions from bit to bit feel very defined. Maybe it makes it easier to break this one up into episodes, but that leads to it feeling odd as a movie. And then there’s the whole tentacle thing.

It’s like someone in the writing room said “Hey, you know how tentacle porn is an internet joke? Let’s totally make a parody of tentacle porn!” and then it wasn’t nearly as funny as it was meant to be. It’s kind of ooky, really. When Fry comes back from beyond the rip, he’s attached to a giant tentacle monster than wants to stick a tentacle in the necks of everyone in our universe. Or whatever neck equivalent is available. People with tentacles sound like a brainwashed cult, preaching love of the tentacle and trying to stick tentacles onto other people whether they want it or not. Leela resists enough to check out the tentacles and figures out that they’re actually “genticles” and are doing exactly what you’d expect. Um. Ew. Like I said. Ooky. Thankfully, the rest of the universe agrees and pulls the tentacles out. But then ooky again! Everyone goes on a mass date with the tentacles (which belong to a creature named Yivo who is the sole being in it’s universe). Eventually everyone decides to move to the other side of the rip and live on Yivo’s surface in perfect harmony, forever and ever. Until Bender ruins it all.

Now, part of my meh reaction to this one is the whole tentacle thing, I admit. It bothers me not because of the free love/polyamory theme, but because of the uninvited intimate alien contact theme. Sure, it’s done cartoonishly and it’s obviously disapproved of once it’s discovered what’s going on, but my gut cringes at it. And it’s a shame, because there are a lot of truly funny moments and lines in this one. Morbo’s got some good bits, and the whole thing with Bender and the League of Robots is great. Once everyone gets to Yivo’s surface and is all happy it’s got less ooky and more funny. But add the previous ooky to the choppy pacing and the convenient introduction of Colleen as the movie’s equivalent of Chekhov’s Gun, and it’s just not funny enough to make it worth putting in all that often. I was struck tonight by how annoyed I am that all of that makes me unlikely to watch this much, because it means I miss the funny stuff. Maybe I should just treat it like a series of episodes and only watch the ones that don’t bug me.

June 22, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs

June 22, 2010

Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs

This is my least favorite of the Futurama movies. As such this is only the second time I’m watching the movie. Or maybe the third (since I think I must have watched it with commentary.) It’s not that the movie doesn’t have a lot of good laughs to it. There are jokes aplenty, and references to the old show, but it doesn’t really fit together as well as yesterday’s movie. There are three simultaneous and slightly interdependent plots, but I didn’t really enjoy any of them.

Plot A links us directly to yesterday’s movie. It involves the rend in the universe that resulted from over use of the universal machine time code. It turns out that tear leads to another universe which has only a single occupant, the colossal betentacled beast known as Yivo. And a large part of this movie has to do with Yivo’s invasion of our own universe, and various complications that result from it.

Plot 2 has to do with a random love interest for Fry in the form of the polyamorous police chief Colleen. (Brittany Murphy, which means that we’ve now watched both the movies we own that feature her.) It feels very thrown together and spur of the moment, especially coming right after the previous movie where Fry learned so much about his love for Leela.

And Plot Mongoose has to do with Bender joining the League of Robots, a sort of gentleman’s club for effete robot snobs.

A whole bunch of stuff happens. Amy marries Kif. Kif is unceremoniously killed off. (I felt deep shame at laughing at jokes having to do with his death – Kif has always been one of my favorite characters from the show.) Yivo enslaves the entire population of our universe. Bender finally decides to kill all humans. There are scenes with characters from the series who didn’t make it into the first movie, such as Professor Wernstrom and the Robot Devil. And, yes, there are a lot of good jokes that made me laugh. (Amongst my favorites are the names of all the video games in an arcade that Fry visits to console himself when he is feeling lonely. I want to play Normal Combat and Miss Marple Madness.) But as a whole the movie just made me feel uneasy.

Maybe it’s that the whole thing ends on such a down note, with pretty much all the core characters fighting with each other. Maybe it’s that while Bender’s Big Score had at its core the timeless romance between Fry and Leela this movie feels more like a one-off episode. Crazy things happen to the Planet Express crew, but in the end things return mostly to normal. Maybe it’s the fact that the movie tries so hard to defy expectations with the invading tentacle monster Yivo. At first shklee’s depicted as a monster, which leads to some fun scares and a lot of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers sort of tension, but then Yivo becomes more of a clingy significant other type character, and the movie tries hard to go the “the only real monsters were us” sort of route. After having all this tension and suspense in the middle part of the movie it winds up being unsettling and kind of hard to watch.

In the end I come away with the sense that pretty much every one of the core cast members has been kind of a jerk to pretty much every other one, and to Yivo as well. It makes me feel kind of slimy, and I just don’t enjoy it much.

June 22, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 113 – Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score – June 21st, 2010

Good news, everyone! Did you know they’re making new Futurama episodes? They are! And they’re going to start airing on Thursday! So starting tonight we’ll be watching the four Futurama movies. Tonight’s the first and (in my opinion) best of the four. It’s got a sort of complicated time travel plot, makes piles of references to the show in fun ways, has a snappy tune I’ll be humming for days and gets in a couple of digs at Fox for canceling them in the first place. Good times.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Futurama, why? Never mind. If you are, I forgive you. It’s about a guy named Philip J. Fry who gets accidentally frozen for a thousand years, waking up in the year 3000 and having to adjust to life in the future. And the amusing bit is that he doesn’t really have much trouble with that. Every so often he has some culture shock, or is super excited about things the rest of the cast sees as normal (like going to the moon) but most of the time he just hangs out with his best friend, a robot named Bender, eats Bachelor Chow, tries to flirt with his coworker Leela, and does his job. Which is as a delivery boy for the Planet Express shipping company, run by a distant nephew of Fry’s, Professor Farnsworth. The show ranges in topic from Leela’s search for her family (she’s only got one eye and believes she’s an alien at the start of the show) to the crew’s numerous run-ins with the pompous captain Zap Branigan to fighting off the evil Robot Santa. It’s full of geeky references and jokes and incredibly clever writing as well as some genuinely touching moments. By the end of the fourth season they were really doing some fun stuff with the characters and the plot.

And then it got canceled. I admit, I didn’t watch it originally. It started while I was in college and my television watching was patchy and limited. I got into it when it was being rerun ad nauseum on Comedy Central. We both got into it. So we were both pretty excited when these movies were announced as a sort of bizarre fifth season. We weren’t sure what to expect from an hour and a half long movie and what we got in the first one was fantastic and also complicated and somewhat mobius-like, but it would be giving away a lot to explain how.

In the interest of trying to explain not the plot but just how much is crammed into that hour and a half, here’s a basic rundown of the story: By giving away their email addresses to three obnoxious scammer aliens, the Planet Express crew find themselves working for them, eventually giving up the universal machine time code (tattooed on Fry’s ass for some reason) and then being kicked off Earth after the aliens use the time code to send Bender back in time to steal Earth’s treasures. To escape the aliens, Fry sends himself back in time to when he originally came from. There’s a lot of back and forth time travel involved and duplicate Frys and duplicate Benders and their accountant, Hermes, gets a replacement body for one that was destroyed early on and everyone ends up on Neptune, enlisting the help of Robot Santa, Kwanzaa Bot and the Hannukah Zombie to launch an assault on the scammers. Oh, and there’s a romance subplot between Leela and a new character, Lars. Unfortunately, time-travel related duplicates are doomed in order to fix the timeline and use of the code will eventually rip a hole in the fabric of causality. And eventually Leela’s pet, Nibbler, announces that everyone has to get out of the universe. Oh no!

In the fashion of the best Simpsons episodes, it starts in one place, bounces to another, then another, then another, gathering plot as it goes. And it’s got things mixed together so everything’s interdependent. In some ways it doesn’t feel like it’s a full length movie, it feels like an episode. In other ways it feels like it’s definitely taking advantage of its additional length. It takes the time for not one but two songs. There’s a space battle and a wedding and all the flashing back and forth between the past and the future. If this had been the only movie they made, I’d have been totally satisfied. It explains things like the aliens destroying New York while Fry’s frozen. It addresses the saddest episode of the show (Jurassic Bark). It’s got cameos from some of our favorite characters and the writing is top notch in my opinion. It’s even got at least one (maybe two) MST3K references, and that always makes me happy. It feels a little like they were trying to get as much as possible into this one in case the others fell through, but while that could come across as bloated and unnecessary, to me it’s just right.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

June 21, 2010

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

I have something I must confess. I never watched Futurama during its original run on Fox. I didn’t start watching every episode until it was being re-broadcast on Cartoon Network. So in part I was one of those people who was responsible for the show being cancelled. Which is an awful thing to think, because we quickly became enormous fans of the show once we started watching it. But then again, the fact that I did watch every episode on Cartoon Network over and over (well except for Jurassic Bark – I can only ever watch that episode once in a lifetime) and bought all four seasons on DVD means that in some small part I was responsible for the show’s miraculous resuscitation.

This movie represents what was, sort of, the start of season five of Futurama. Indeed after the four direct to video movies were released they were sliced up into sixteen episodes of the show and broadcast on Comedy Central. As such it was highly anticipated in our household. Two years after the show was cancelled it finally returned, and you can tell, watching this movie, that they put a lot of effort into making the big return a memorable event.

From the very beginning this movie is a love note to the fans of Futurama. It’s an hour and forty minutes of pure fan service. There are references to just about every great episode from the old series from The Why of Fry, Luck of the Fryish, and yes, even, Jurassic Bark with all their info about Fry’s life in the past to A Head in the Poles and the two X-Mas episodes. Virtually every character from the series has a cameo of some kind (and those that do not appear are featured in the other three movies.) And the movie has a great sense of humor about itself. Take, for example, the opening scene, where the movie goes all meta as Dr. Farnsworth explains that everybody is fired because two years ago Planet Express was cancelled by the Box Network. Then they get renewed and Leela asks “What does this mean for us and our many fans?” (She’s standing in front of a wall of electric fans as she asks this.)

The plot involves the entire population of Earth being scammed out of every penny and eventually out of the planet itself by a trio of nudist aliens. (Yeah, more fan service. There’s a scene on the nude beach planet where the whole cast gets naked.) The primary tool the scammers use is the “universal time code” which they discover is tattooed on Fry’s ass. By repeatedly sending Bender into the past they steal every valuable piece of art ever created on Earth. Then things get confusing. They decide to eradicate Fry to destroy the time code and he flees into the past, followed by Bender, whom they have control over because he downloaded an obedience virus while trying to download porn.

There’s lot of confusing talk of time paradoxes and time travel, and one major central paradox involving Fry’s trip into the past. My one gripe with the movie is that the rampant time travel doesn’t quite work as well as it has on the show in the past. Everything appears to be wrapped up at the end of the movie, but it’s not as neat as Roswell that Ends Well. Indeed the central plot point of the film, involving Fry duplicating himself in the past via the time code, has never sat well with me. If you follow the looping time paths it just doesn’t make sense.

But I’ll forgive it that, because if you just let go and enjoy the movie for the fun thing that it is and don’t try to understand the time-line it’s a really great time. There’s so much to love about this movie. Like Mark Hamill as the Hanukkah Zombie. Like the whole sub-plot with Fry having to come to terms with Leela’s romance with new character Lars. Like the fantastic cameo by Al Gore as himself. (His third appearance on Futurama.) It’s just great joke after great joke, and all these familiar faces showing up and taking part in the action. It’s as though they distilled all the best things out of four seasons of the show into a single movie.

For the most part it works, and I enjoyed it enormously. I can’t wait to see what they do with the show’s sixth season on Thursday!

June 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment