Family Guy: Blue Harvest – the F’s are going to take some time, 13 DVDs 7 of them are TV shows and one is a 6 season box. Up first is one of several Family Guy DVDs. You may think I would start with the regular seasons but they are listed as volumes so they will be later on. Blue Harvest, which is the parody of Star Wars a New Hope. As readers of this blog may already know, I am not a Star Wars fan, but I do enjoy the parodies of Star Wars, and this one is quite good. There are ample Star Wars references in the show proper, but in this “short movie” there are way more. By the time I actually saw Star Wars for the first time I already knew the story quite well, and I’ll admit I did like it, I didn’t love it, it’s popularity is still a mystery to me, but that’s just my opinion… try not to hate me for it. If I picked this DVD up at full price I may have been pissed off by the lack of content, but I believe I got it at a library sale for 1$, in that case it was well worth the price.
Family Guy: It’s a Trap – the third of the Family Guy Star Wars Trilogy. There is a lot of references to the movie being the worst of the three (I assume they are right, but I wouldn’t know), but it is the funnier of the two episodes I’ve seen. Carter Pewterschmit as the emperor is funny and the anti-Seth Green comments throughout, and especially the “Dig your own grave” sequence. The episode (and series) was summed up nicely at the end with the cast digging in on Seth McFarland after having laid into Green throughout the entire episode. Nicely done, it’s always good when someone can laugh at themselves.
The Family Guy Movie: Stewie Griffin the Untold Story – this is a great “movie” and I put that in quotation marks because it’s not a movie but three episodes strung together in a loose arc. The first episode has little to do with the other two except for the ending. The whole movie is bookended with segments showing the Family Guy stable attending the release of the movie proper and the after-party. This is one of the best examples I know of a TV show made into a movie, usually, they attempt to make something more substantial and break the mold of the show itself, this movie does not in any way do that. It takes what made the show work, did it three times, and bookended it to make the movie, that’s it, that’s all that needed to be done and it made a pretty good movie, just what the audience would want.
Family Guy Vol 1 – This DVD consists of both seasons 1 and 2, 4 disks, 28 episodes. If I remember my history correctly, Family Guy was canceled and somewhat forgotten until it was released on DVD. The DVD was so popular that it wrenched the show back into existence to be the behemoth that it is today, and this is that DVD. I’ve always found the early episodes to seem longer than they actually were, in a good way. It’s a sitcom and the first situation would lead into the second situation. For example, the first episode sees peter losing his job, then he goes on welfare and becomes rich thanks to a typo, to me this is two episodes. By the second season, for the most part, the stories are more congealed into one. I also notice just how far the envelope has been pushed since the first season, back then it parodied the old family sitcoms of the 80’s so much that it nearly became an 80’s family sitcom. The show is far more edgier and darker then it’s inception. Better than or now? I’d probably lean towards the ladder, but these early pieces are still worth watching, 100%.
Family Guy Vol 2 – More good Family Guy material. This DVD covers the entirety of the third season, just before the show’s cancellation. More funny stuff in this one but you can see where the show gets slightly more serious… slightly. Some personal favorites from this set: Lethal Weapons, Mr. Saturday Knight, a Fish Out of Water (with a brief voice cameo by Brian Doyal Murray), To Love and Die in Dixie (always great to see the south getting stomped on), Road to Europe (the road episodes rarely disappoint), and Family Guy Viewer Mail #1 (probably my favorite). The set also features the infamous “When You Wish Upon a Winesteen” which was the first episode to be pulled, but it’s fairly tame compared to other pulled episodes from the series.
Family Guy Vol. 4 – this volume starts in the middle of Season 4 with the very funny episode “PTV,” (the episode that takes on extreme censorship) and ends with the “Griffin Family History” (where the Griffin’s home is invaded and they wait it out in a panic room while Peter tells them the story of his ancestors), aside from those two episodes… just about all the rest of them are great too. “Father Son and the Holy Fonz” which takes on religion is probably my favorite, but it’s rather hard to choose amongst the selection.
Farce of the Penguins – As anyone may already know I am a big fan of penguins, my wife and I both, but I won’t go into detail about that. I knew of this movie back when it came out in 2007 and was glad to pick up a copy at a library sale when I saw it. Unfortunately, it’s not all that good, very low brow toilet humor that can be funny in small doses but an hour and a half of it go a long way. It does have Lewis Black (my personal favorite comedian), Bob Saget, and a bevy of other comedians doing voices, plus the photography of Antarctica make it tolerable, but just nearly. It is an important piece in my collection, but probably not one I see myself ever watching again.
Fun and Fancy Free – after a month’s hiatus to watch only 80’s things we return to the Mega DVD Marathon, and now we have our first Disney animated feature. This is from my favorite (and not well regarded/remembered) Disney era, the anthologies. With WWII and everything, Disney was struggling a bit, so rather than using the resources it would take to make a full animated feature, they packaged together some of their shorts into a film. I don’t have a whole lot of Disney Movies on DVD, but… I have everyone from this era, all 6 of them. This movie is probably the best known of the era, it is a good friend of mine’s favorite Disney movie, but it is not mine for a few reasons. This movie only has two featurettes, and it is overall a sad movie. It starts out with the frame narrative with Jimminy Cricket talking to two sad toys, goes into a sad story about a circus bear who escapes and finds difficulty coping in the wild (Bongo) and then goes into the starving farmers of “Mickey’s Beanstalk,” which is the best part of the whole movie, and the reason I picked it up. But still, though, there’s nothing funny about being hungry (which a lot of writers fail to see for some reason, and as we see even Walt Disney himself is guilty of this). The music is a little blasé for my particular tastes. So overall not one of my favorites. On the plus side, there is Edgar Bergman in the movie to lighten the mood a little bit, and the use of the uncommon word “phantasmagoria” (I can’t believe I spelled it right, first try). Also “Mickey’s Beanstalk” (hunger sequence notwithstanding) is a pretty good cartoon, it actually combines a little of “Puss in Boots” into the primary story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” which is pretty much my favorite fairytale, and done quite well by a fairytale master. I should mention where this DVD came from. In 2001-2002 or thereabouts I signed up with the Disney Movie Club. They sent an option of 3 DVD’s to you every month at a significant discount, and you had to buy I think 6 in a year to stay a member. This is where I got almost all of my Disney DVDs from. I’m not sure how many of any of these types of mail-order clubs exist anymore, But they were rampant in the ’80s, the best known of them was Columbia House. They have kind of been replaced these days with Mystery Box services.
Fraggle Rock Season 2 – I vaguely remember this show as a kid, very vaguely, I remember it mostly from their cameo appearance in a Muppet Family Christmas. The show was basically brand new to me at this viewing, and it was quite good. Jim Henson does not disappoint. It’s kind of a midpoint between the juvenalia of Sesame Street and the postmodern adult humor of the Muppets. The show is definitely meant for a younger audience however it has an interesting method of storytelling: each episode opens and closes with Doc and Sprocket setting up and concluding a theme that the Fraggles usually illustrate, while the Doozers or the Gorgs illustrate as well. Some episodes have three levels of storytelling and there is even the possibility of 4 levels (though I don’t think this ever comes up). While watching the last disk (which was all special features) I listened to my new “Best of Fragile Rock” vinyl, it’s a nice production: half red and half yellow and semi-translucent. It has the theme song on it (which is great) but it also has “Pass It On” which is a pseudo-Christmas song and “Yes We Can” which is a very upbeat doozers song. I actually broke a vinyl rule when listening to the album and listening to those two songs while in the midsts of listening to the album.
Frasier Seasons 1-6 – This is one of the longest DVDs in my collection, surpassed only by the complete series of Wings (8 seasons in one box) and this has so far taken the longest to get through. Typically, since I haven’t seen most of these episodes in 20 years or more, I gave them my full attention, and the show warrants it in spades. Toward the end of the box, I started curling up with my laptop at night watching it, which has helped me through some difficult times (of which I will not be going into here). As for the show, what can I say, it’s hilarious. I understand a lot more of the show now than when I first watched it, though there were still a handful of words I had to look up (such a “profiterole” – you probably had to look it up too). Some of the most iconic episodes are on this DVD box: “The Show Where Sam Shows Up” (hearkening back to the parent show Cheers – I remember having that episode tapped and watching it on a Sunday morning while playing Metroid on GameBoy), “Travel’s with Martin,” “The Good Son” (the pilot episode which I’ve seen far more than any other episode because it is on one of my treasured tapes), “The Innkeepers,” “The Club” (my personal favorite episode, which has lead to my recent interests in Gentleman’s Clubs, and an idea for a story to possibly be written soon), and perhaps the best of all the episodes… “The Ski Lodge.” I’ve spent many years of my life quoting Seinfeld where appropriate, over the past few months (it took some time to get through this box) I’ve been doing the same with Frasier. I don’t know exactly where the show goes after season 6… but I guess now I have to find out.
Fritz the Cat – I’m not going to get into what it took to get this movie or the following one. As those animation buffs out there probably already know, Fritz the Cat, directed by Ralf Bakshi, is the first animated movie to be rated X (back before X was replaced by the less conspicuous “NC-17” rating). I’ve been asked in the past “is it really X rated by today’s standards?” And the answer is yes, perhaps even more so. Forget Disney era casual racism implying the crows in dumbo were black, the crows in Fritz are black, and the pigs are cops, a heroin addict hiding in a trash can shoots up to the beat of the background music, and the first 20 minutes of the movie is an orgy scene. The movie depicts 60’s era politics, and collegiate hedonism vividly. This is a must-see for film and/or cartoon buffs, there is no way around it, but good luck trying to get a copy. This is only the second time I’ve seen it, on the first viewing I watched it like a hawk, judging and approving of the surreal psychedelic choices made in the animation, and enjoying the novelty and historic importance of the film. Upon second viewing the movie really turns into what it is supposed to be, an over the top (way over) screwball comedy, with some social commentary thrown into the mix. I’d like to make this movie part of the annual viewing list, but I don’t know a good time of year to watch it yet… well it’s covered for this year at least.
The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat – The sequel (filed under “F” for “Fritz”) this time rated R and more tame and with a much looser plot essentially made of up daydreams. There are quite a few interesting characters in the movie such as Hitler (a lion with one testicle), Lucifer (who’s very gay), an Indian guru (who dwells in the sewer looking for recruits), the president of a black splinter nation (New Jersey), and even God (a homeless alcoholic dog). With a cast of characters like that, they could have really made something interesting, but the dialogue is often drowned out by sound effects. The various gags are not all that funny, and the commentary that the original film makes is virtually nonexistent in this film. It ranks lower compared to a lot of other movies in my collection, but still worth watching if you enjoyed the original.
Futurama Vol. 1 – Yes this letter features not one but two great Fox Animated Sitcoms: Family Guy and Futurama, which one is better? Well, I have to go with Family Guy, because it has both good stories and a plethora of nonsequiturs that can be enjoyed on their own. As far as the stories go themselves, well I got to side with Futurama on that, especially later in the series, but even in the short 13 episode first volume there are some gems: a parody of Titanic, a parody of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the last episode of the DVD and probably my favorite), a parody of Animal House. There are some great and fairly unique characters in the show, Fry (the dumb almost savant main character), Turanga Lila (the lonely cyclops alien/mutant, I’ll get into the significance of her name in a bit), Bender (the foul-mouthed, alcoholic, egocentric, yet sensitive and lovable robot), Professor Farnsworth (brilliant but senile), Zoidberg (the incompetent and also very Jewish lobster based alien doctor), Hermes (the Rastafarian accountant… “tally me banana”), etc. etc. ad (almost) Infinitum. Multiple viewings are required as Easter eggs and hidden references are peppered throughout each episode. If you like science fiction, action, comedy, horror, and drama, this is the show for you. As for me, there is another season and a movie to come.
Futurama Vol. 4 – this is actually one of my wife’s DVDs that I have absconded for my own collection. Strangely she liked this show a lot, even though it is far from her typical fair… though the show itself is far from anything else as is. This was the last volume of episodes before the show was canceled the first time, and there are some heavier episodes here. Lila finds out that she is not an orphaned alien but a mutant, which comes up in a few episodes, Fry wipes the universe out of existence and then saves it, and this volume contains the episode Dino Mutt which I absolutely refuse to ever watch again or discuss here (if your really interested you can look for it on your own, I am not even going to link anything to it). There are also some gems in this volume, the very surreal Bee Sting episode (which I thought would have made a good last episode), and the last episode in which Fry switches his hands for the Robot Devil’s so he can play the holophone, the Farnsworth Parabox, and many more. This seems like a good place to mention Lila’s full name. Turangalila is loosely translated from Sanskrit meaning “Love Song” or “Hymn of Joy” it is the title of a lengthy symphony, composed by Olivier Messian for a full orchestra with a Piano and an early synthesizer called an Ondes Martenot (which sounds kind of like a theremin). Using that as the name of one of the characters is one of hundreds of subtle nods and obscure references, some of which I don’t know if I will ever truly realize, and that’s what makes this show so great.
Futurama: Bender’s Big Score – Well I was right about this letter taking some time to get through, and it sure did. Even after starting the practice of watching DVDs on my laptop before bed some nights. This letter took just about a year to get through, and a lot of things happened in that time, things which are in no way appropriate to share on this blog. Regardless, a year later, I’ve finally finished the letter and hopefully, no other letter will take nearly as long. That’s enough of that, onto the movie. Yes this is a movie, in the time between the show being canceled, gaining a new popularity via adult swim, and being purchased by Comedy Central for a few more seasons (I think it has since been canceled or ended again) the team at Futurama had made 4 movies, this is the first of them. The storyline is about 3 nude alien scammers that end up stealing earth with the help (kind of) the Planet Express crew. They brought back just about all of the characters from the show, even the minor ones like Al Gore (who does his own voice), the Harlem Globetrotters, Hypnotoad, Elzar, And even Seymour (fry’s dog… which I won’t go into). The plotline is an odd one which involves time travel and a split storyline. The story is also a little on the heavy side. I haven’t seen any of the other movies yet, and I’m not sure if I will, though I am a little more then intrigued with the title of the second movie “The Beast with a Billion Backs” I don’t know, maybe one day. For now… on to the G’s.