Fox cancelled Futurama, Simpsons creator Matt Groening's sci-fi animated comedy, a couple of years ago. Then, after seeing how well the series did on DVD, the company decided to resurrect the franchise for some straight-to-DVD movies.
This first of four films is a fun time-travel adventure involving Bender the robot (voice of John Di Maggio), a race of "scamming" aliens and a love triangle involving Fry (Billy West) and one-eyed Leela (Katey Sagal). All series regulars return, including my personal favorite, grouchy Professor Farnsworth (voice of the amazing Billy West again--the man is a vocal miracle).
The plot involves a Bender tattoo found on Fry's ass that contains a special code allowing for time travel when read aloud. Because Bender is a robot, he's able to travel back thousands of years, wait out the centuries and survive to Futurama time, with stolen goods intact. When the scamming aliens infect his computer with a virus, Bender is under alien control and given Terminator-like tasks in the past.
Most of the jokes hit their marks, and it's good to see the characters back in business again. The film's beginning takes a great poke at the Fox network for canceling the series in the first place; the writers have lost none of their edge during their time away. I liked the film enough to go out and pick up a couple of seasons of the TV series, which I never really watched when it aired. I'm thinking I fell into some studio honcho's trap with that move.
Special Features: Groening, with members of the crew and cast (including West), offers a commentary and a very candid recollection of how Futurama got a new lease on life. There's a very strange math-lesson feature, where a mathematician discusses the real theories used in the show. (Man, these guys are geeks.) Buy your disc at Best Buy, and you get a bonus disc featuring a sketchy, yet hilarious preview of the next film.
Over the years, I've heard references to Charlton Heston in Omega Man. (I remember Rick Moranis saying something about it in Strange Brew. ) I always sort of liked Heston (especially in Planet of the Apes when I was a kid), but I never managed to see this film. I bought the disc the other day, and I'm sorry I did.
In a world ravaged by a plague that has turned everybody into hippie albinos, Heston plays a plague survivor with an intense personality. He rides around in convertibles all day, and makes sure to go inside when the sun goes down. That's when the albino monster dudes come out and throw shit at his apartment. Heston managed to inject himself with a serum that made him immune to the plague, and after meeting a band of survivors, he becomes their protector. It all comes to a silly conclusion that has Charlton bleeding from the chest, much like he did in the Apes sequel in which he blew up the planet.
This is one of those '70s films with a trashy, jazzy soundtrack that just damages every frame of the film it accompanies. It's based on the novel I Am Legend, which has been filmed again as a vehicle for Will Smith (coming to a theater near you on Dec. 14). Let's hope the update surpasses this piece of dreck.
Special Features: An old documentary on the making of the film is good for a few laughs.
I had never seen O Lucky Man! before it made its recent DVD debut. Directed by Lindsay Anderson, it was part of a trilogy with Malcolm McDowell, If ... and Britannia Hospital being the other films. This is one of the best movies to ever come out of Great Britain, an epic comedy that eviscerates early '70s societal greed. Music by Alan Price, great actors like McDowell and Sir Ralph Richardson in multiple roles and a tremendous satirical wit make this an obscure gem.
McDowell plays a coffee salesman who is given an important territory to sell his wares. He has a bunch of adventures, a sort of Pilgrim's Progress. It was made in the '70s, but the film is still relevant today. When Price and his band drop in with musical interludes, they are physically seen in a studio playing their tracks, a novel approach to the movie soundtrack.
This film saw McDowell at the height of his career, after A Clockwork Orange and before the travesty that was Caligula. The actor shines in the role, and it reminds of what his career could have been had he never met Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione.
Special Features: McDowell provides a colorful commentary for the three-hour movie. There's also a decent documentary on his career.