REVIEW: FUTURAMA – VOLUME 8 (SEASON 6 – PART 2)

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)

Futurama (1999)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
David Herman (Angel)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
Robert Wagner (Austin Powers0
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Burt Ward (Batman 60s)
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)
Sarah Silverman (School of Rock)
Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)

Futurama (1999)It wasn’t the first network or cable series to be canceled too early (and it certainly won’t be the last), but the multiple demises of Matt Groening’s Futurama proved to be slow and steady. Not in quality, at first: this tale of a man frozen for a millennium only got funnier as the series progressed during its initial run, though network support dwindled during its initial four-year lifespan. As the Simpsons machine rolled on, Futurama’s timeslot was shuffled around; for a time, the series directly followed Groening’s most famous creation, but the pairing didn’t last long. Futurama was eventually cancelled for the first time in August of 2003, though subsequent DVD releases (broken into four “volumes”, due to its erratic broadcast schedule) only strengthened the show’s rabid following. New fans flocked in, albeit late to the party. Even so, Futurama was on life support and the idea of new episodes seemed more unlikely with each passing year.Futurama (1999)Eventually, strong home video sales led to a series of four direct-to-DVD movies during 2007-09 (Bender’s Big Score, The Beast With A Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder), which were subsequently broken into episode-sized chunks that aired during 2008-09 as Futurama’s de facto fifth season. Though undoubtedly of lesser overall quality than the earlier 30-minute episodes, most fans were simply tickled to have the series back in any format. Futurama lurched forward on Comedy Central from 2010-2013 with two full seasons’ worth of episodes…though, like the movies, most fans couldn’t help but notice a modest dip in quality. Nevertheless, Futurama remained popular on home video as Volumes 5-7 saw the light of day; unfortunately, this eighth volume of episodes (essentially, the second half of Season 7) will be the  last, as Comedy Central cancelled the show.Futurama (1999)So is late-period Futurama any good? Well, usually. Though I’ve no doubt that most fans have stuck with the series through thick and thin, I’ve only caught passing glimpses of Futurama during the “Comedy Central Era”. This was essentially my first run-through of a partial season since 2010’s Volume 5, which incidentally kicked off the series’ second chance at life. It’s a solid run overall: while there are several clunkers on this 13-episode collection, a number of bright spots made me remember why I fell for Futurama in the first place. The characters are lots of fun and the series has plenty of heart when it needs to, even if the sentiment or romance often feels more convenient than earned.Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and Billy West in Futurama (1999)These 13 episodes aren’t consistently awesome but plenty of standouts are on board. “T: The Terrestrial” sees Fry stranded on Omicron Perseii 8 after the Planet Express crew leaves with their cargo, where he’s taken in by a boy but longs to return home. “Calculon 2.0” stars everyone’s favorite soap acting robot as he reluctantly begins life in a new body. “Assie Come Home”  finds Bender on an epic quest to locate his shiny metal posterior. “Game of Tones” follows the Planet Express crew back to 1999 in a musically-charged adventure. “Stench and Stenchibility”  is a nice little diversion starring Zoidberg as he falls in love with an anosmic flower vendor. Finally, the kinda-sorta-maybe series finale “Meanwhile” shows us the ups and downs of ten-second time travel…and Fry and Leela’s wedding, too.Futurama (1999)Volume 8 manages to build a little bit of momentum during the final few episodes, but there are a few nagging roadblocks along the way. “2-D Blacktop” is a nice little wink at Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop but doesn’t spark much interest beyond its offbeat premise. “Saturday Morning Fun Pit”, an “Anthology of Interest”-style outing that parodies a few toons from the last several decades, suffers the same fate: it feels late to the party and never quite hits the mark (and if your target audience doesn’t enjoy it, who else will?). Other episodes are decidedly hit-or-miss, but the bulk of this baker’s dozen remains watchable and, in most cases, pretty damn entertaining. All told, Volume 8 isn’t a bad send-off for the little show that could…and, depending who you ask, actually did on several occasions.Futurama (1999)Is Futurama finally gone for good? Probably not…but just the same, the majority of these “final” episodes ensure that the series’ second (or is it third?) life doesn’t end on a low note. A handful of these even manage to approach the heights of Futurama’s early years, especially gems like “The Inhuman Torch”, “Calculon 2.0”, “Game of Tones” and “Meanwhile”. Fox’s two-disc package basically maintains the high level of quality set by earlier volumes, pairing an excellent A/V presentation with a nice little collection of entertaining bonus features. Whether you’ve drifted from Futurama in recent years or stuck with it every step of the way, Volume 8 is worth a look. Firmly Recommended.

REVIEW: FUTURAMA – VOLUME 7 (SEASON 6 – PART 1)

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)

Futurama (1999)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
David Herman (Angel)
Wanda Sykes (Clerks II)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob)
Jill Talley (Sky High)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Estelle Harris (Seinfeld)
Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: Picard)
Frank Welker (Transformers)

Futurama (1999)After premature cancellation, fan campaigns, comic books, DTV movies, and will-they-or-won’t-they-return tension, it feels safe to say that “Futurama” is really and truly back, locked in for one more and likely for at least a couple additional seasons on the show’s new home, Comedy Central. With the show’s on-again, off-again nature taken into account and a whole season of potential “settling” over, it’s natural to wonder how this seventh volume of Matt Groening’s little-star-cruiser-that-could stacks up in terms of freshness. The answer: pretty well.Futurama (1999)The Blu-Ray release and actual season orders of “Futurama” have never aligned, but this one kicks off with a strong episode, “The Bots and the Bees,” in which Bender (John DiMaggio) accidentally fathers a child with the new Planet Express soda machine (guest star Wanda Sykes). The best episodes in the set, including this one, do a good job of juggling the show’s growing cast of characters and their personality quirks, from main characters Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Professor Farnsworth (also West), down to minor characters like Scruffy the Janitor (Dave Herman) and the recurring human / robot cop partners (West and DiMaggio). The jokes are consistently sharp, the animation keeps pace, and the episode even tugs at the heartstrings a little at the end.Futurama (1999)On the other hand, any great “Futurama” episode has to incorporate some sort of clever science fiction idea, and this is perhaps the area where these episodes fall a little short. “Decision 3012,” for instance, has a great science-fiction idea in it, but it isn’t introduced until the episode is almost over, making it feel like an afterthought rather than a driving force. Same for “The Thief of Baghead,” which offers up an interesting alien character and very few options for the characters to deal with it, only to chicken out a little with an overly jokey ending. It’s not that these episodes are bad — they’re definitely on the better end of the spectrum — but they get close enough to really special that it’s a little sad that they fall short. The best “science” episode is probably “The Six Million Dollar Mon,” in which Hermes (Phil LaMarr) decides robotic upgrades are the key to self-improvement.Futurama (1999)Most of the episodes in the set earn a solid “B.” Two episodes make good use of Amy Wong (Lauren Tom): “The Butterjunk Effect,” about Leela and Amy joining the violent Butterfly Derby, and “Viva Mars Vegas,” in which mafia robots take over the Wong Family’s Martian casino. Most “Futurama” episodes tend to have a slightly more “serious” A-plot and a goofy B-plot, but both of these episodes are fun because the A-plots are the goofy ones (addiction to Nectar and butterfly pheromones, and an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist where Zoidberg’s stomach is the key). “Zapp Dingbat” is also a strong episode, which finds Leela’s parents file for divorce, and the egotastic pilot Zapp Brannigan falls for her, which gives Sagal an opportunity to carry an episode.Futurama (1999)The flipside of “good goofy” is “too goofy,” and there are some episodes later in the set that end up more the latter than the former. “31st Century Fox” goes really broad with a story in which Bender becomes a dignified game hunter, which has some very funny one-liners and non-sequiturs, but meanders for awhile getting there. “Fun on a Bun” is also half unsuccessful, where Fry is believed to have been ground into Bender’s Oktoberfest sausage, but he’s really fallen into a crevasse and discovered a society of Neanderthals. The Eternal Sunshine riff in the Leela half of the episode is surprisingly moving at times, but Fry’s story flops. The set also saves the weirdest for last: “Naturama” is one of the series’ most bizarre episodes, a nature documentary anthology in which the characters are reimagined as fish, turtles, and seals, complete with Morgan Freeman-like narration. It’s admirably and satisfyingly unique, although as the last episode, it makes for a very strange sign-off, to say the least.Futurama (1999)This is a perfectly solid collection of “Futurama” episodes that I imagine fans will be happy to own. On the part of the show, a strong lineup of shows, and on the part of the Blu-Ray, great A/V presentation and great commentaries, plus some other odds and ends for added value.

REVIEW: FUTURAMA – VOLUME 6 (SEASON 5 – PART 2)

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)

Futurama (1999)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
David Herman (Angel)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Dan Castellaneta (The SImpsons)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob)
Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Stephen Hawking (The Big Bang Theory)

Futurama (1999)It never fails – You give a television network pure gold, and they’ll beat it and roll it around in the mud before you ever had a chance to realize what was happening to it. Instead of looking at the quality of any given program, network executives would rather comb feverishly through their charts, graphs and reams of statistical data, and in pondering how much blood they might be able to draw from stone, will begin an all too familiar slippery slope- Time slots are shuffled, episodes are carelessly aired out of order or not at all, time slots are shuffled again and, well, then the inevitable happens: The show gets canceled.

Futurama (1999)I’d like to think that in 2003, Fox executives were scratching their heads, wondering how they facilitated a brilliant show like Futurama to slip in the ratings, but it’s more likely that they sparked up cigars while congratulating each other on what was sure to be their next surefire (and cheap to produce) hit – Paradise Hotel. Now, I apologize if my outlook on the inner-workings of Fox comes off as a little sour, but is this really so far from the truth? Haven’t we all been burned by this sort of thing before? How many times have we yelled from our couch, “(Insert recently canned show here) got canceled but they decided to keep this?!?!?!” Fortunately though, many shows have found life after cancelation thanks to impressive home video sales, and as most of you already know, Futurama is one of those success stories.Futurama (1999)Comedy Central ordered a new season after four direct-to-video ‘movies’ were released and met with generally favorable reviews, but Fox, being the financial backer for production, blew a lot of smoke in the middle of an intense salary dispute and threatened to move forward with an entirely different voice cast, even going as far as posting an open casting call. Fortunately the dispute was resolved and the show was allowed to go on without any major changes. Although many jumped at the chance to pal around with the Planet Express crew again, I remained skeptical.Futurama (1999)I expressed some minor concerns in my Volume 5 Blu-ray review, most notable of all being my fear that the show would have resurfaced feeling like a brand new entity, a Futurama 2. If you will. For example, I’m sure many of you would agree that there was something different about Family Guy when it returned to television. When the first two episodes of Futurama’s sixth season aired back-to-back on Comedy Central however, that fear had been alleviated. Matt Groening has always insisted on having complete creative control over Futurama, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the show didn’t miss a beat and felt like it had never been canceled at all. Despite the show’s faithful return however, there were still a couple of concerns rattling some chains at the skeptical epicenter of my brain.

For one, I knew that Comedy Central’s tendency to only air half a season at a time was going to bite us in the ass bigtime. Don’t get me wrong – Airing thirteen episodes over the course of just as many weeks is far more preferable than Fox’s model of making us wait weeks on end just to get three or four new episodes. Futurama (1999)Silence of the Clamps, is surprisingly made up of ‘been there, done that’ material, a real surprise considering how Futuramatypically pulls strength from its unpredictability. Bender yet again finds himself in cahoots with someone the Don Bot is extremely fond (and protective) of, and spends another 22 minutes or so running from the robot mafia. In The Tip of the Zoidberg,Professor Farnsworth reveals why he keeps the medically incompetent crab employed at Planet Express, and although this would have been a great opportunity to add a dimension to Zoidberg we’ve never seen before, the episode ultimately fails at being able to do so. Instead, we’re given some hokum about the Professor carrying a disease that can strike at any moment, which (of course) only Zoidberg knows how to cure. Another episode that rolled listlessly into dullsville was Fry Am the Egg Man, which tackles the ‘controversial too many years ago to count’ issue of fast food. But, perhaps the most frustrating thing of all now that the sixth season in its entirety has wrapped, is the fact that very little time has been spent developing the relationship between Fry and Leela.Futurama (1999)This set contains some of the best episodes I’ve seen in a while. The highlights for me begin with Mobius Dick, which follows Leela on an obsessive quest to avenge a long lost Planet Express crew by destroying a fourth dimensional white whale in space. Although the story is intriguing enough in and of itself, there are plenty of pop culture references sprinkled throughout that we really have to look for, which has always been a core aspect of the show. There was something about seeing the Event Horizon floating in a spaceship graveyard that put big smile on my face.Next, Law and Oracle proves to be a showcase for the writers. Fry joins the police force and gets a promotion that lands him in a Minority Report inspired future crimes unit gig. It was an unpredictable venture from beginning to end and stands as a beacon of light in this ‘hit or miss’ batch of episodes, as it shows us that the creative team hasn’t lost their touch, but again, were probably just getting burned out near the end of the season. My two favorites overall have to be the episodes that close out the season though – Overclockwise features a Bender that’s been overclocked by Cubert, which causes a peculiar side effect that eventually allows Bender to transform into an omnipotent being. Last but not least, there’s Reanimation. This episode breaks out of the typical Futurama mold and tells three short stories, each in a different style of animation – Old time black and white, a low-resolution video game complete with crappy Super Nintendo-esque music and sound effects, and (but of course) anime. Each of these stories are very clever in their own way as they utilize the animation style as part of the joke. I won’t spoil the surprise as to how though, I’ll leave that for you to discover.Futurama (1999)So really, for all the reasons the writers have given us in the second half of season 5 to wonder if the show was finally losing its edge, they’ve also provided just as many reasons tolet us know that they still possess the intellect and charm to keep Futurama going strong.

 

REVIEW: FUTURAMA – VOLUME 5 (SEASON 5 – PART 1)

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)

Billy West in Futurama (1999)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Frank Welker (Transformers)
Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
Chris Elliott (How I Met Your Mother)
David Herman (Angel)
Craig Ferguson (Web Therapy)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Al Gore (30 Rock)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
Coolio (Daredevil)

Futurama (1999)It wasn’t the first Fox series to be canceled too early (and it certainly won’t be the last), but the initial demise of Matt Groening’s Futurama proved to be slow and steady. Not in quality, of course: this tale of a man frozen for a millennium only got funnier as the series progressed, though network support dwindled during its first four-year lifespan. As the Simpsons machine rolled on, Futurama’s timeslot was shuffled around; for a time, the series directly followed Groening’s most famous creation, but the pairing didn’t last long. Futurama was eventually cancelled for the first time in August of 2003, though subsequent DVD releases (broken into four “volumes”, due to its erratic broadcast schedule) reinforced the show’s rabid fanbase.Futurama (1999)As creations like Fox’s own Family Guy would prove, strong DVD sales make executives take notice. Groening approached the studio in 2006 with a proposal to create a new direct-to-DVD Futurama adventure, paving the way for rumors about a proper weekly revival for the series. Negotiations led to the announcement of four direct-to-DVD movies, which would eventually be divided into sixteen episodes airing on the Comedy Central network. These resulting movies (Bender’s Big Score, The Beast With A Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder), unfortunately, weren’t all well-received by fans and new viewers, leading some to believe that Futurama had lost its rhythm. In many ways, it had: 90-minute movies were simply too big of a canvas for Futurama’s typical 24-minute template, and the results were often a little bloated and inconsistent.Futurama (1999)Luckily, Into the Wild Green Yonder wasn’t Futurama’s last hurrah. Since its release on DVD, 26 brand new episodes were ordered by Comedy Central…and that’s where Futurama: Volume Five comes in. Included with this package are 13 of these “third chance” episodes, with the remaining 13 on Volume 6..From top to bottom, this is a solid collection of episodes…especially considering that Futurama was still getting its 30-minute groove back. This series has always managed to pack tons of plot into each episode…and, for the most part, these smaller adventures seem to be the perfect length. There’s probably no better example of this than episode #7, “The Late Philip J. Fry”: this instant classic weaves a multi-billion year love story with ease, and it’s among the finest Futurama adventures ever told.

Futurama (1999)Other easy highlights include “Rebirth” (the much-anticipated return episode, filled with plenty of meta-jokes and shocking twists), “Lethal Inspection” (featuring the unlikely yet somehow perfect combination of Hermes and Bender, who faces his own mortality), “The Prisoner of Benda” (the entire crew swaps minds with one another, more or less) and “Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences” (a tale of mid-life despondence, starring everyone’s favorite first couple from Omicron Persei 8), just to name a few.Futurama (1999)what is here is top-notch entertainment that any fan of Futurama should enjoy thoroughly…and anyone that says it’s lost a step is kidding themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: FUTURAMA: BENDER’S GAME

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
David Herman (Angel)
Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
Frank Welker (transformers)
George Takei (Star Trek)

 

Futurama: Bender's Game (2008)Ignoring Professor Farnsworth’s orders to conserve fuel due to a rise in dark matter prices, Leela borrows the Planet Express Ship to enter a demolition derby after being insulted by rednecks. They win it, however the ship is wrecked, but due to botched laser eye surgery, the Professor only notices that the fuel has been used. As punishment, Leela is fitted with a shock collar to teach her anger management. Meanwhile, Bender finds Cubert and Dwight playing Dungeons & Dragons with their friends, but he cannot join in since, as a robot, he has no imagination.Futurama: Bender's Game (2008)After several tries at imagining things, Bender manages to imagine himself as a medieval knight named “Titanius Anglesmith, fancy man of Cornwood” and enters the game. Unfortunately, he soon gets lost in his fantasy and goes on a rampage, resulting in his commitment to the Hal Institute for Criminally Insane Robots.The crew learns that Mom, who controls the world’s only Dark Matter mine, is restricting the supply in order to drive up profits. The Professor reveals to the crew that while working for her many years ago, he stumbled on a way to turn dark matter from a useless curiosity into starship fuel.Futurama: Bender's Game (2008)The process created two energy crystals, with Mom keeping one for herself and Farnsworth hiding the other, “anti-backwards” crystal. If the two crystals are brought together, they will render all dark matter useless. Farnsworth has forgotten where he hid his crystal, but it is being used as a 12-sided die in the kids’ D&D game. Mom determines its location and sends her sons Walt, Larry and Igner to retrieve it, by saying that they are owl exterminators, but Farnsworth foils their attempt by sending an angry owl at them, messing up their plan since they do not know how to exterminate owls. Farnsworth, Fry, and Leela fly to Mom’s mine with the crystal in order to neutralize the dark matter.Reaching Mom’s mine, the trio discovers the heart of the operation: thousands of captive Nibblonians, including Nibbler, being force fed chickens in order to collect their excreted dark matter.Igner spots them, having earlier overheard Mom telling his brothers a secret about him, and helps them reach Mom’s office. Farnsworth tries to bring his and Mom’s crystals together, but swallows his in order to keep it out of Mom’s hands. In the robot asylum, Bender is diagnosed with insanity and is due for a “Robotomy” in order to remove his imagination processor. The closeness of the two dark matter crystals triggers a resonance in all dark matter—including a stockpile Bender has stored within his body—and catapults all the characters into Cornwood, the realm Bender imagines himself to be from. The other members of the Planet Express crew (Hermes, Zoidberg, and Amy) are transported as well.“Frydo” (Fry) and “Leegola” (Leela, now a centaur) emerge first and encounter Titanius (Bender); no one in Cornwood has any memory of their real-world lives, except for Fry and Leela.2608191260_03c85fbcc7The three are attacked by “Waltazar” (Walt), “Larius” (Larry) and “Ignus” (Igner), who are trying to recover the anti-backwards crystal. While fighting them off, Frydo drops the crystal, which rolls like a die and magically banishes the sons from the area to the Swamp Hag’s swamp. Frydo and company meet the wizard “Greyfarn” (Farnsworth), who explains that in this world, the anti-backwards crystal is known as the Die of Power. The evil snake-haired sorceress “Momon” (Mom) molded a set of powerful dice, but lost this one and has been trying to locate it so she can tap its immense potential. The only way to stop Momon is to enter her lair at the Geysers of Gygax and throw the Die into the lake of molten plastic from which it was formed, destroying it.2608186956_0d99d40244As the group sets out, the intersex, pacifist centaur “Hermaphrodite” (Hermes) bars their passage, since the centaurs are opposed to the violence that Frydo and company intend to do. However, (s)he is easily pushed aside by Leela, who leads everyone to the Cave of Hopelessness. As they approach, “Gynecaladriel” (Amy): Queen of the Water Nymphos joins their quest and seduces the guard, enabling them to enter the Cave. Inside the Cave, a horde of “Morcs” (orcs) attacks followed by a gigantic lobster creature (Zoidberg) which Leegola brutally cuts to pieces in a rage, and the wormlike Tunneling Horror which Frydo defeats using the Die. As Frydo becomes obsessed with the Die, Leegola renounces violence after realizing Zoidberg was not the tunnelling horror, and flees to take refuge among the centaurs. That night, Frydo makes a botched attempt to murder the other members of the party; when foiled, he flees with the die.futurama-benders-game-castThe remaining travelers journey to Wipe Castle to raise an army against Momon, only to find that Roberto, its insane king, has already sent his men on a pointless suicide mission. The heroes defend the kingdom alone as Waltazar and Larius lay siege to it, until Leegola regains her violent nature and rallies the centaurs to help her friends. Frydo makes his way into Momon’s lair, aided by Zoidberg’s still-living head; Frydo cannot bring himself to destroy the Die, so Zoidberg bites him to force him to drop it. Momon becomes a dragon and goes after the Die, but when it stops rolling, it turns Frydo into a dragon as well. The rest of the party arrives, along with Ignus, who reveals a secret Momon told his brothers: he is Greyfarn’s son.MV5BOTExZGRmNzItMTBlNi00NWViLWI2YWItODRkODVmZTliNmFlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_Overwhelmed by this revelation, Greyfarn falls on the Zoidberg creature (who had claimed the Die), allowing Momon to seize the Die. Cornwood collapses in on itself, hurling the characters back into the real world. With the crystal back in the Professor’s stomach, Mom once again orders Walt and Larry to retrieve it. Before his moment of discomfort, the Professor requests a hug from Igner. Mom complies, saying someone should hug him as she never has. As the Professor had theorized, Igner had swallowed Mom’s crystal in defiance and the hug brings the crystals in the two men’s stomachs close enough to render all dark matter useless, breaking Mom’s stranglehold on the fuel supply. As a temporary propulsion source, the crew harnesses dozens of Nibblonians to pull their ship home, which they call “Nibbler Power”.x1080Maybe its the more linear and less “crazy” storyline that does the trick, maybe the deeper character development than in earlier installments, “Benders Game” should definitely satisfy fans and newcomers alike

REVIEW: FUTURAMA: BENDER’S BIG SCORE

 

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Segal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
David Herman (Angel)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
Dawnn Lewis (Dreamgirls)
Coolio (Batman and Robin)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob)
Mark Hamill (Batman: TAS)
Sarah Silverman (School of Rock)

John DiMaggio in Futurama: Bender's Big Score (2007)I honestly thought this show was dead and would never come back. I only watch the episodes once a year because I don’t want to wear out my favourite animated show. To hear of the comeback was great. To have to wait quite a while, not so much. Seeing the final product, a real joy and pleasant surprise.Futurama: Bender's Big Score (2007)To be sure, they’re a little rusty in places. Some of the lines, especially in the initial third of the film, are questionable and would not have made the final cut under the regime that provided us with the standard series. Hermes, only occasionally an entertaining character, gets too much screen time in a somewhat superfluous side plot featuring his equally unentertaining wife and his irritating enemy Barbados Slim. The villains – the scammer aliens – are disgusting when they should be fearsome. These are the things that lose the film a perfect rating, and are the sorts of niggles I would have expected after such a long hiatus.Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, and Billy West in Futurama: Bender's Big Score (2007)But I marvel at what they did right. It retains much of the trademark dynamic writing, taking in some of the same unbelievable and jaw-dropping spins on science and human/alien relationships and making us laugh when explaining away the continuity errors the writers were aware were needed to create an engrossing story. It makes good use of screen time and never drags it heelsMV5BMzI2NDNkODYtZjZmOC00MmVlLTllMDctY2U5YTcxN2JhZDFiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTM5NjkxMzM@._V1_Now I’ve covered the good and the bad, it is time to address the ugly – the backlash. Some have moaned that there isn’t enough humour in this feature. To be honest, one of my favourite features of the original series was getting us away from the old cliché which seems to doom a lot of animated shows, namely: Cartoon = Funny. Yes it has several moments of great humour – a nice fifty-fifty of building set pieces and incisive one-liners – but it balances them well with a poignant story which I think they pull off as well as ‘The Devils Hands Are Idle Playthings’ if you consider that they had to pace it out over nearly ninety minutes which is over four times the length of a standard episode.she-ra-s1It’s a tall order for almost any script writer used to cramming in the jokes in thirty minutes or less, but these writers don’t have a lot of trouble with it. Another point of contention with the hardcore fans has been what a few of them have called a hopelessly complicated plot. This makes me laugh because the hardcore brethren praise the show constantly for intelligent post-geek humour then with the same breath criticise this new installment for breaking out of the shows comfort zone to use that same intelligence to create a mind blowing story. They must have been watching a different movie because I stuck with almost every twist and turn with awe, and the few I haven’t resolved yet will – like all great works of art – reveal themselves with further observation.
x1080In closing – to you hardcore fans who say this isn’t a patch on the original episodes, get off your soap box and think yourself lucky there’s anything new at all and secondly, I bet you only grew to love those episodes through repeated viewings so stop being so hard on what is a logical continuation of a great premise!

REVIEW: FUTURAMA – SEASON 4

 

MAIN CAST

Billy West (Duck Dodgers)
Katey Segal (8 Simple Rules)
John DiMaggio (TMNT)
Maurice LaMarche (Freakazoid)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)

Futurama (1999)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
David Herman (Angel)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob)
Dawnn Lewis (Izombie)
William Shatner (Star Trek)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Walter Koening (Star Trek)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek)
Jonathan Frakes (STar Trek: TNG)
Al Gore (30 Rock)
Kath Soucie (Rugrats)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul)
Roseanne Barr (Roseanne)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)

Futurama is one of the funniest, smartest, most bitingly satirical TV shows around, and I say that with a degree of sighing regret because, with the release of this Volume 4 set, the marvelous ride has come to an end—and far too soon. Filled to brimming with not only eye candy but mind candy, Futurama is definitely a thinking man’s comedy, and for that reason, it’s no wonder Fox had trouble deciding what the hell to do with it. This is a show that requires you to pay attention to its details. Its humor is more often in the minutiae than in the big picture. It’s constantly throwing ripe movie and TV references, accurate yet absurd science trivia, and colorful social commentary in your face, so fast that you can barely keep up, so consistently that it’s one of those rare shows that requires second and third viewings. The brilliance and beauty of Futurama is that it is positively infused with its rib-poking sci-fi geek attitude, from top to bottom, making it one of the more pure TV half-hours I can remember.By now, you know the sordid story behind Fox’s dwindling of support for the decidedly odd Futurama. You know how Fox executives, who apparently just didn’t “get” the show, gradually turned their collective back on Matt Groening’s second TV brainchild, running it only haphazardly and dropping promotions. Surely you know that the show appeared to air for five increasingly sporadic seasons, but that, in fact, Fox simply left the show to die after four seasons worth of episodes were in the can and ran fresh episodes whenever the mood struck them to do so. To be fair, Futurama with its elaborate mix of traditional hand-drawn animation and CGI, was an expensive endeavor. You can understand a profit-motivated studio’s decision to go with something cheaper and less inspired and original—something like, for example, Family Guy. But there’s a certain moment when you have to step back and look at the situation from a global view: The derivative Family Guy is achieving a renaissance of sorts, finding its mediocre way back on the air, whereas Futurama is already relegated to cult status among thinkers. How often will the whims of moneymen, over time, ultimately determine the tastes of the viewership? Can our karma afford such a dumbing down of entertainment? I speak half in jest, but in my opinion, Futurama didn’t deserve its too-quick demise.Futurama (1999)The ultimate irony—or perhaps a form of apology—is the fact that Fox has only now (now that the show is dead) lavished the proper attention on this first-rate show in the form of gorgeous and elaborate DVD season sets. Season 4—at least when considered in its production order, and not in Fox’s careless air-date order—provides a fitting, even emotionally resonant conclusion to a show that grew from geeky lark to wild, confidently hilarious entertainment.Futurama (1999)I doubt you’re new to the show, but if you are, I recommend gathering the first three seasons and watching in production order before you get to this set. That way, you can really appreciate the comic evolution of this unique series. Futurama is about the continuing adventures of Philip J. Fry (Billy West), a 20th-century pizza-deliveryboy blasted into the future, who has found himself suddenly inhabiting a strange Earth filled with weird aliens and robots, an insane media, and any fancifully technological marvel that suits any given episode’s plot. Fry has become part of a bizarre star-hopping troupe of characters that include cyclopean hottie Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal), the blissfully malevolent robot Bender (John DiMaggio), the Grandpa Simpson-inspired Professor Farnsworth (also West), the squid-like Dr. Zoidberg (also West), the Jamaican bureaucrat Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and the Asian human Amy Wong (Lauren Tom). The strength of the cast lies in its leads—Fry, Leela, Bender, and, to a lesser extent, Professor Farnsworth. All are impeccably drawn, distinct personalities, and their humor extends from their characterizations. The minor characters don’t fare quite as well. Indeed, when you compare Futurama’s ensemble with that of The Simpsons, Futurama can’t help but suffer. However, the increasingly no-holds-barred nature of the humor can’t be denied—it’s such an insane, fast-moving barrage of parody and sharp wit that you’ll barely notice any flaws amidst copious laughter. Futurama is a potent, absurd, cartoony sociological commentary about our own present-day world.Futurama (1999)Of the 18 episodes of season 4 I found only a few to be clunkers. The gender-bending Bend Her just didn’t seem have that typical Futurama sharpness of wit. I’ve never been a huge Zoidberg fan, so his big episode, A Taste of Freedom, felt flat. Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch, which also focuses on one of the show’s minor characters, comes across as an equally minor effort. But taken overall, Futurama: Volume 4 is an immensely satisfying amalgam of trippy ideas, loving sci-fi parody, and surprisingly character-driven humor. Considering the show’s steadily brilliant escalation in goofiness, and its refusal to bow to anything in the realm of formulaic, we fans are left feeling a great emptiness when we reach the end of that last show, when Fry finally has Leela’s undivided attention in that abandoned theater. We’re left considering what could have been, had Fox shown a little more faith in one of the more remarkable products it’s ever hefted onto the air.I will rewatch many of these episodes quite often. After exploring this box set, I’m left with the lingering memories of the hilariously ridiculous super-identities of Leela, Fry, and Bender in Less Than Hero; the unexpectedly touching conclusion of Jurassic Bark; the effects of a Planet Express team growing younger in Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles; the wonderfully in-on-the-joke Star Trek cast in Where No Fan Has Gone Before; the fun mind trickery of The Farnsworth Parabox; and—perhaps most of all—the final touching moments of The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings.