Futurama was conceived in 1999 as a potential successor to that long-running animated classic, The Simpsons. The same creator, Matt Groening had created a show which seemed simple on the outset, but overflowed with sci-fi references and highbrow gags, as well as being superbly animated and with a cast of characters the viewer could genuinely care about. Things looked up from the start with high-ratings and much critical acclaim, but it didn't take long for the initial success to turn sour thanks to an argument between Groening and Fox considering the content of the show, which resulted in a spate of pre-emptions and re-scheduling. Ratings soon fell as people didn't know what time their favourite show came on or whether it was still on at all, and Fox took advantage of that by announcing in 2002 that the show was on definite hiatus with no new episodes being made for the time being. This position might have been justified if the programs that replaced Futurama in it's timeslot had garnered superior ratings, but those pretenders barely fared better than the show they had desposed. The only possible explanation is that the replacements were cheaper to produce than an animated show, or maybe they were worried that it wouldn't have the staying power of a brand name like The Simpsons. However, our yellow skinned family has been on the slide for a while now, and Futurama only being four years old still feels relatively fresh and perhaps would have been a contender for the crown with a bit more advertising, but Fox again didn't seem remotely bothered and just hung out the show to die. Another quality program, Family Guy suffered the same fate while another undeserved survivor, King Of The Hill, stumbles on like a dead duck. What a crazy, sad world we live in.
With the event of reality TV providing an inexpensive easy ratings winner, the future for decent programming looks even bleaker as intelligent, funny shows such as this get swept aside for another attempt to make a star out of some talent-less wannabe. Fortunately, Futurama will never die, the availability of all 72 episodes on DVD will see to that, but you can't help but feel that they barely scratched the surface of this universe: there were more stories to tell, more adventures to be lived, but that will never be now, thanks to TV executives after a quick buck. What will happen to Fry, Leela, Bender etc? Only a million fanfics and the imagination of the Futurama-loving nation can answer that. On TV I'm afraid this space voyage has come to an end, and there is nothing left to do but to say goodbye and hope that the unaired 8 or so episodes will be shown sooner rather than later. What a waste of a brilliant concept.
Plot: The most irritating Irish girl in the world moves to London with her boyfriend after her graduation. She tries to get a job, but after embarrassing herself in an interview by vomiting all over some fish (don't ask) the best she can manage is a position as head photocopier. After her partner leaves her far later than most sane men would, she hitches up with some weirdo from her office, gets pregnant from him then finds herself in a bit of a pickle when her ex returns. Oooh 'eck!! Hilarity (allegably) ensues.
Things I like about it: You are kidding right? Even the accents were awful.
Things I don't like about it: How long have you got? OK seeing as I'm struck for time, I'll just say 5.
1. The endless monologues to the camera (a'la Shirley Valentine) were not only not funny or interesting, but they brought the plot to a crashing halt.
2. Suffer from motion sickness? Don't watch this. (In fact, don't watch it anyway) During one musical montage, the camera spins round London at night with the lights going on and off and people rushing around our heroine at light speed as she does her work. What is the point of putting that scene in here?! I haven't a clue. Maybe so the director could show what a clever boy he is.
3. Mind numbingly predictable doesn't even begin to describe this. Near the start, our lad and lass are on the aeroplane bound for London and are feeling a tad frisky. What do they do in the bathroom? You guessed it! Later on, our female protaganist spends all of 5 minutes practicing a speech to her beloved about how sorry she is for putting him through so much trouble and that she really loves him, and when she gets back to her flat, will he be there? What do you think? And see that nice boy that walked her home who's just leaving, when she calls him back what manner of revenge has she got in mind? BINGO!! And finally, who will she end up with in the last 5 minutes of the programme, her brusque violent psychopath of a Irish boyfriend, or the nice, polite foppish British lad who she had a one night stand with and is the father of her baby? Hmm.. can I phone a friend?!
4. So many better actors here than Anna Friel, yet they are stuck here playing supporting roles to her in a showcase for her dubious "talents." If I were them, I'd get sick of playing second banana to vacuous star names and hire me a better agent.
5. The ending. Gag. Pass me a sick bag. And there was me thinking only American films could be this cloyingly sentimental. Boy was I wrong..
And there you have it. 5 reasons (plus many more that I couldn't be bothered to list) to better your life significantly by avoiding this pile of old trousers like the proverbial plague. Don't make the same mistake I did. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some scrubbing to do. I feel unclean all of a sudden..
(2) Eric Roberts's manic, amusing performance where he acts like a hyperactive child on valium half the time.
(3) "Give me churches..schools..houses."
(4) Kangeroos being rescued from planes on their way to the vet.
(5) The ultra-sexy Greta Scacchi shower scene where nothing is left to the imagination.
(6) The super-sexy Greta Scacchi's seduction of Roberts involving a Santa suit, a shoe that keeps coming off and feathers. Lots and lots of feathers.
(7) The tour of the McDowell factory, the Willy Wonka of the drinks Industry.
(8) Gay parties with Roberts dancing with the most unconvincing drag queen this side of Priscilla.
(9) An impromptu sing-along of that perennial Australian favourite, Waltzing Matilda, with backing vocals provided by a group of dancing Santas.
(10) The ending text, something about the world ending and the US declaring war on China (you what!?)
Apart from those, there are plot holes big enough to drive a double-decker bus through and the whole film undertakes annoying changes in tone from time to time. There is some good stuff here and it certainly earns the tag "original" but I cannot in all good conscience give this heroic faliure a:
Take care now!!
The film actually starts out quite well, with Steve Zahn playing the straight role as the police officer who, with his partner, makes a warehouse bust and become involved in a shoot out with the bad guys. Unfortunatly, his partner gets shot and dies, and the criminals get away. While this is going on, motormouth Lawrence (covering the same sort of territory Chris Rock mined in the Rush Hour movies) is training to be a cop, sadly though in a training exercise he goes slightly overboard and ends up destroying most of his surroundings. He gets kicked off the premises, and on his way home he stops to get something to eat, locking his car door but leaving the keys inside. At this point Zahn comes past just having returned from his friends funeral and spots Lawrence's futile attempts to retrieve his keys by sticking his hand through the open window. He obviously makes the assumption that perhaps he has a case of grand theft auto on his hands, and stops to question Lawrence. It's at this point the movie starts to pall, with Lawrence thinking his arrest is down to racism and after a mistake involving a tourist's camera and a bumble-bee Zahn is thrown off the force for allegedly abusing Lawrence with his stick. After spending the best part of six months in solitary, he can be forgiven for wanting to knock Lawrence into the middle of next week for lying at the trial and generally being an obnoxious idiot, but for the time being the two must team up as security men to crack a metal alloy smuggling ring (don't ask) one of whom's members wouldn't you know, turns out to be the guy who shot Zahn's partner. Funny that!
Every time Lawrence opens his gob in National Security, it will either be a) A white man/ black man joke or b) a statement along the lines of "I know more about police work than you do." It is true that Eddie Murphy said much the same things in the Beverly Hills Cop films, but he actually made some effort to flesh out his character and provide himself with some semblance of personality, here Lawrence seems to takes offense to everything that is said or done to him and responds with a tirade of racial jokes, which grow old real fast. Also he seems to possess a strange magnetism in this film that causes every woman he comes into contact with to fall at his feet with desire. (The exception is a polite middle-aged lady who doesn't take too kindly to the idea of our mismatched duo hi-jacking her vehicle for an emergency chase). This is a complete mystery as he has nothing to offer at all apart from a few cheap innuendos involving handcuffs and strip-searches (ho ho). This is a key example of a script making people respond to situations in a way they never would in real life. Zahn on the other hand, tends to fade into the background at times and lets Lawrence get on with it. Unlike Lawrence, he has a few emotional moments that he handles quite well, though they feel out of place in what is essentially a knockabout comedy.
The plot goes off on its tired little way, and we get crosses, double crosses, plenty of fights between our combative twosome and lots of completely over the top explosions, which must have ate up at least a third of the budget (Lawrence and Zahn aren't exactly marquee names.) You'll probably more fun ticking the cliches off: The Police chief is a big black man, The lead villian has bleached blonde hair (He looks like a grown up version of Malfoy from the Harry Potter flicks) and the partners who can't stand the sight of each other are best friends by the end of the movie. Yeah!! To be fair, there are a few amusing scenes and a pretty good shoot-out in a drink storage room if you like that sort of thing, but overall you can do much better than this and I wouldn't even recommend it as a rental. In fact you'll probably have forgotten about it in less time than it took you to read this review. Now what was it called again?!
A couple of American Lads have a three month holiday backpacking round Europe lined up, so where do they start? You betcha, sunny olde England!! Between suffering the twin indignities of having to hitch a ride on a van full of sheep and being thrown out of a pub populated by English eccentrics, they now have to cope with the inconvenience of a werewolf attack on the Yorkshire Moors. This left one of them stuck in Limbo as a walking corpse in a slow state of deteriation and the other with the strange habit of sprouting hair and tearing people up every full moon. Can David find a solution to his affliction before it affects his relationship with sexy British nurse Alex? Can Jack have peace in death at last and stop being as David brands him "A walking meat loaf"? And will David's family ever be able to finish off that episode of "The Muppet Show" without being viciously murdered by zombie Nazis? All will be revealed..
The key to American Werewolf's success is twofold: Rick Baker's Oscar winning make-up and an excellent storyline.The transformation scenes are all the more amazing because they were done when computer animation was practically unheard of so everything you see is manual. They still look good now over 2 decades on, however some later shots of the animal in flight may seem slightly dated. Overall though a great job considering the era's limitations. Even more impressive though is the script that successfully juggles two different styles and turns them into a solid whole. As well as the jump-out-of-your-seat scenes and the hilarious lampooning of old horror films, it actually makes us care about the characters and hope against hope that they find someway out of their situation, also in large part due to good work by David Naughton playing the hugely sympathetic hero and Jenny Agutter as the NHS love interest. Griffin Dunn is mostly there as a comic foil, but even he has some human moments that emerge from his schick.
The recent DVD release gives this classic the treatment it deserves: a much cleaner, digitally remastered picture and tons of extras, including a hilarious commentary with Naughton & Dunne, outtakes and a feature length interview with director John Landis himself. I recommend this for fans of the film, which will surely still be simultaniously making people giggle and scream in equal measure in another 20 years time.
To start with, the animation is a huge improvement from the TV programme, with bright colours and some actual movement in the background. Madeline and her friends are pretty simplisticly drawn, but the art does it's purpose and does not claim to be Toy Story quality. The voiceovers are typically in English but done in French accents: how these people who were born and bred in France are fluent in English is not explained, neither is why they never use their native tongue (They write in it a couple of times) but it sounds amusing nontheless, with Lauren Bacall the undoubted highlight playing the very bald villianess.
The storyline gets pretty frenetic at times, but not so much that young minds will get lost in it. There are some pretty scary moments involving a child abduction and threats made with a pair of scissors, but nothing that should unduly concern any parent of a child of school going age. However, the songs in the film are absolutely dreadful, with forced rhymes and twee lyrics a common factor: don't expect the accompaning soundtrack album to exactly sell out in the shops. A good idea to praise the inventor of the mute switch, methinks. Aside from that, they are a couple of moments for grown-ups in the movie, like when a police artist does a Picasso rather than what he is instructed to do, but such parts are rare and mostly this is a kid-only enterprise.
Basically this is an ideal babysitter for the sprogs when Mum and Dad are busy round the house, but anybody over the age of 10 will probably quickly tire of it any go off to do something more interesting. By all means watch it with your young un's, but don't be surprised if you nod off after half an hour. There are certain cartoon films out there designed for all the family and people of all ages, like Shrek and Ice Age. This is not one of them.
If you think I'm being unfair, take a look at some other D.H Lawrence films that originated from his books e.g Women in Love and The Rainbow then come back and tell me which scenes were most memorable in them for you. Was it the brilliant acting? The great period detail? The romantic storylines? No? Well then, you can see my point!!
So now we have realised that it has virtually nothing in the laugh department, what kept people watching for 6 odd years? What it the lead's height problem? The "catchy" theme tune? The disbelieving state of mind that a programme so awful could take up valuable air time? I have to draw a blank, I'm afraid. All I will say is: if you can survive half an hour of any episode of this without rolling your eyes whenever Arnold does his little routine, cringing whenever Kimberly opened her big fat gob to moan about how unfair life is or feel violently sick whenever Drummond spun yet another of his sentimental philosophies about family unity which always ended in a "group hug" then you are a better man than me.
To begin with there isn't really a plot at all, merely some utterly unconvincing fights set in the background of a misty forest. Oh, of course you get the usual nonsense about the father who died and his only son who grows up to avenge him, but that only becomes relevant in the last five minutes of the film. Most of the running time here is taken up with sweaty men grunting at each other ( there isn't much dialogue which is just as well: what there is is unbelievably badly dubbed and trite) looking more like failed WWF wrestlers than actors and romantic interludes in which our chum Thor splashes in the surf and rolls around in the hay with a busty female warrior who he was going to decapitate but then decides to spare the life of, especially as he finds out she can bear in his own words "the fruit of his loins." Nice thought, eh?
Other friends include a sorceror who can turn himself into an owl who decided to take Thor under his wing (ho ho) after his dads premature demise. He is pretty much ineffectual throughout most of the film, stopping only to spy on his adopted son's lovemaking and offering useless clues in prose as to what he should do next. Oh, he conjours up a horse for the final showdown and does his part to cure our hero of blindness, but you'd think with all the power at his disposal he'd be able to do a bit more then sit in a branch and talk gobble de gook. Then there's the bad guy who Thor is after who is another of those types who spurns the chance to kill his nemesis when presented with it, preferring instead to laugh manically and abuse our hero's bride-to-be. Safe to say that in the pantheon of villians, Hans Gruber and Darth Vader can sleep easy.
I've already wasted enough enough time on this waste of celluloid but just 2 more observations 1. The bombastic score that alternates between cheap action music during the fight scenes and slushy love tunes when our hero gets to show his mushy side is dreadful.. turn that stereo down and 2. The aforementioned final battle where the sorceror's horse manages to scare off 20 or so grunting extras without Thor having to lay a finger on them. Yes, we know they've never seen one before but a bit of an extreme reaction don't you think? And with that I bid you good day and remember: life is too short to waste on movies like this, go and read a good book or take your kids to the park, just leave it on the shelf!!