Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle – I am not a fan of stoner movies (or the culture in general), but there is something special about this movie. I watch this movie annually during Easter. The first time I saw it was during Easter, and it also fits in with the theme of spring w/r/t rebirth and stuff like that. It might also make a good thanksgiving movie since it’s largely about food and eating, so maybe I should add it to my biannual list, in fact, I should make a list of the annual movies at some point, that might make an interesting post in itself. Anyway, just great chemistry between the two main actors, there are some very dirty lines in the movie, and had they been delivered by any other pair of actors the movie would have gone right in the trash (for most people) but Harold and Kumar have just so much of this boyish innocence about them that it works. People criticize the Cheetah scene often, but it makes about as much sense as any of the other astronomically unlikely events throughout the film. That’s what I noticed the most on this viewing, but it would take a lengthier analyst to explain it. This is a great comedy whether you like stoner films or not.
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay* – (remember that the asterisk means I opened the seal on that particular DVD) This is the sequel to the first movie, starting immediately after the events of the first film. It’s still funny, definitely a lot of good lines that made me laugh, and a few that made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe, but it’s not as good as the first, not nearly the perfect comedy that H&KG2WC is. There’s a lot more toilet humor here and a little too much story in this movie, compared to the first, which hurts the overall package to some extent. Still 4 out of 5 stars. I probably won’t make this part of the annual viewing. I still want to see “A Very Merry Harold and a Kumar Christmas.”
Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law Vol. 1 – one of the original Adult Swim shows, this reused footage from old Hanna Barbara Cartoons to make a parody Courtroom Drama. It’s very funny but also a very dry and sophisticated (for the most part) sense of humor, and a great cast of a characters: Reducto and Phil Ken Sebben (both voiced by Stephen Colbert), Peanut, Mentok the Mind Taker, Freezoid, Potomuse, Spyro just for the regulars. Each episode features a wealth of different cartoon characters as well. Probably the best episode on the DVD is “Dabba Don” which has Fred Flintstone as a mob boss. Though the rest of the episodes are quite enjoyable as well. Legal Eagle actually did a reaction to the first episode “Bannon Custody Battle”
Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law Vol. 2 – the show got more outrageous as the series continued. Starting with “Back to the Present” where the Jetsons go back in time to sue the past (our present – actually now our past since it was 15 years ago) for the pollution that caused flooding in the future. The DVD ends with “Beyond the Valley of the Dinosaurs” in which Harvey and Potomus go back in time. For some reason, it skips the episode “Turner Classic Birdman” which is introduced by Robert Osborn. the DVD has the infamous episode “Guitar Control” which was played on constant repeat on adult swim on the night of November 2nd 2004 (the second George W. Bush election) and has a great little song by the Funky Phantom. One of my favorites on the DVD is “Droopy’s Botox” in which shows Droopy Dog saying “Boo-Hoo” several times and is as funny as it is sad.
Heathcliff the Complete Series – this is a longer package, 9 DVDs. I had already watched the first one, maybe a year earlier, and the second DVD is the same as the one on my TV Toons to Go DVD which I already watch once a quarter. I will probably be doing the same when I get to the other shows that are from that DVD: the Littles, Postcards from Buster, and Johnny Test. I didn’t give the show the full attention that I usually do for first time viewed DVDs, but it’s a kids cartoon, and a good thing to keep on in the background even if you’re not paying attention. The DVD that I watch all the time gives you enough Heathcliff to comprehend the rest of the series. It’s interesting to see in some of the later episodes when the Cadillac Cats interact with Heathcliff directly, or how the Cadillac Cats go back and forth between running the junkyard to not really supposed to be there. Each episode has 4 parts: the intro song (another one of the great theme songs of the ’80s), a Heathcliff short, a Cadillac Cats short, and a very brief tip about pets. This is one I’ll be coming back to from time to time, not so much because of how much I liked it, but more because it’s good to have on in the background, it portrays a warm innocent ambiance to the room while being on (and I seem to write better while it’s on for some reason).
Heathers – one of my favorite movies, particularly my favorite movie that I watched in 2018, it tells the story of a high school girl who gets involved with a guy who is on a warpath to blow up the school. In 1988 when this movie was made the storyline was a little far fetched, these days… less so. The movie is a standard of the bizarro genre, everything is extreme and grotesque and caricatured to a point of being beyond reality, but which in turn turns a mirror on reality itself. This was a major early film for both Winona Ryder and Christian Slater and a must-watch if you haven’t seen it yet. Both funny and deep. Minty did a good YouTube review of this movie that I would also recommend watching.
Hero – this is one of those highbrow, arty kung-fu/wire-fu movies a la Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Although it’s not as good as CTHD, but it still holds it’s own and it is more or less a true story. Jet Li plays a nameless assassin who is trying to kill Emperor Qin Shi Huang, There is a lot of detail to the visuals and the colors in this movie, so much so that the beauty of the film itself matches the beauty of the fighting. It’s been a while since I watched this one, but I think I need to watch it more often. At some point, I may be doing a Kung-Fu marathon, at which point this movie will be a welcomed inclusion.
The History of Prostitution – this is a documentary from the History Channel, back when the History Channel was colloquially known as the Hitler Channel, and the vast majority of the shows consisted of documentaries made up of monologues by experts, stock footage and reenactments of the discussed topic. This, in my opinion, was the better era. Pawn Stars and its spin-offs are considerably different, and good to don’t get me wrong, but I really like the old 90’s era History Channel format. It’s dryer, less entertaining, but far more interesting. The topic of this episode is of course Prostitution, and they present a Third Wave/Sex Positive feminist view that more prostitution results in less violence against women.
History of the World Pt. 1 – don’t let people tell you that Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks’ best film, because it isn’t, this movie isn’t his best either, but it’s still much better than Young Frankenstein. This movie is a parody of history itself. The three main segments are: the Dawn of Man, the Roman Empire (where Brooks plays a Stand-up Philosopher performing at Caesar’s Palace) and the French Revolution (where Brooks plays the dual roles of Luis XVI and a “piss boy” who stands in for the king when the revolution breaks out). There are a few other shorter segments as well: the Old Testament, the last supper, the Spanish Inquisition, and previews of History of the World Pt. 2. There is, of course, no History of the World Pt. 2 (unless it was made in secret and will only be released after someone’s death). the Spanish Inquisition is presented as a Vegas-style song and dance, and is very over the top and catchy (I find it getting stuck in my head all the time).
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – easily the funniest science fiction movie that I’ve ever seen, and works both as a sci-fi and a comedy. I love the books and love the movie too. My only problem with it is that they still haven’t made the sequels. Interesting note on how I picked up this DVD: in the last days of Blockbuster Video instead of charging a late fee they would ask right off the bat “do you want to keep it” and it was an extra 10$ or so, I figured what the hell and said yes. I think this is the only DVD in my collection that was acquired this way (as best I remember).
Hitler: the Rise of Evil* – even though I broke the seal on this DVD for this marathon, I’ve seen it before, several times I had tapped it back when it first aired on TV in 2003 and then sat on the tape for another 6 years until I finally watched it in 2009 when I started watching my old tapes more heavily. It’s very well done, it takes an awful lot to make Hitler a sympathetic character, and yet they are able to do this (not that the movie is in any way pro Hitler). It captures a lot of the less discussed aspects of Hitler’s life, including his early life, his family, etc; and the movie ends with the Nuremberg Rally. I wish they’d make a sequel, even though we already know how it will end. Stand out performances by all involved, and if I’m not mistaken this is Peter O’Toole’s final performance. The DVD has 4 additional Hitler documentaries as bonus features, but I didn’t watch them, I probably will at some point.
The Hobbit – this DVD was acquired by borrowing it from a friend and then forgetting to return it… if he asks for it back I’ll give it to him. If your wondering this is the 1977 animated movie, not the more recent live-action one. I had seen it once or twice before but didn’t remember it, every time I have tried to watch it before I would be distracted in some way and miss most of the movie (it’s a short one at only 78 minutes). That being said the songs were familiar, the main ballot I knew because of the Lemmiwinks Song from South Park, the “Funny Little Things” was also familiar, but I’m not entirely sure why, and also part of the score is very similar to “The Ballad of the Wind Fish” from Links Awakening, though maybe that’s just me. It’s a good movie, the animation reminds me a lot of David the Gnome and that’s a good thing indeed. You may notice that the Peter Jackson Hobbit movies are not on here, and that’s because I got very displeased with Jackson after Lord of the Rings because I wanted to see more of middle earth, and he gave us a King Kong remake that nobody was asking for and The Lovely Bones before he buckled down into middle earth again, and by that point, I had lost interest (a story which seems to be repeating itself with George R. R. Martin)
Monty Python’s Holy Grail – I’ve been watching this movie fairly frequently this year, at first to remember the loss of Terry Jones (Sir Bedevere), and then because I tend to watch this movie multiple times in a row. It is by far my favorite Monty Python movie, the first one I ever saw, and the first one to show up on the list (I filed the 3 Python movies under their subtitles), also picked up in the first year of collecting DVDs. I love the story of King Arthur, and this does a great job of telling that story in the funniest possible way. There are no bad or miss sketches in this movie, my favorites are: the Black Knight Battle, the Three-Headed Knight, and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. But my favorite scene by far is the Bloody Weather animation sequence, I can’t explain why but I just love the surrealist animation based on enlightenment era artwork.
Home Improvement Season 8* – yes starting all the way at the end of the series, I wouldn’t mind getting the whole series on DVD, it’s a nice package that comes in a toolbox, but it’s pricey, too pricey for me. Starting with this DVD I decided to buy one DVD per (most) letter of this marathon (just before starting the letter) off of Amazon, I’ll point out the others that have or will follow in this vein. I ended up going with season 8 of Home Improvement (known hereafter as HI) because of the entire series this is the season I knew the least, I remember watching the final episode, but not much of what lead to it. That being said, it turned out I did remember most of these episodes, some from when they were on, some from when they started showing HI on Nick at Night, and some from when I was watching clips on YouTube last year. Aside from the final episode, some other important ones from this season are: “Adios” (where Randy leaves the series – I have a lot to say on that but for another time), “Al’s Fair Lady” (where Al’s girlfriend gives him a Ferrari for their one month anniversary), “Bewitched” (the final Halloween episode, where everyone teams up to scare Tim), “Thanks but No Thanks” (where Tim has his schlimazel brother Marty moves into his house), “Home for the Holidays” (where Randy comes back for one episode as a guest and his final appearance on the show), “Love’s Labor Lost” (a two-part episode about Jill getting a hysterectomy, one of the heavier ones), and “Dead Weight” (where Al’s Mom dies, less heavy then the aforementioned episode). and of course, there is “The Long and Winding Road,” the final episode, in 3 parts, with a clip show in the middle, and a better finally then Seinfeld. speaking of… This show was the big competitor of Seinfeld, ABC/Disney’s heaviest Gun, but Seinfeld eventually beat it, it’s also similar in that the main character is an entertainer who gets his material through the situations of his life. Both shows have a show within a show, for Seinfeld (known hereafter as “S”) it is his stand up routines, for HI it’s “Tool Time”. But there are differences too: S is in Manhattan, HI is a suburb of Detroit; S follows a single guy and his friend, HI follows a married man and his family. The more I write this the more I think that I should be doing a longer essay comparing the two shows. This may yet come, but before it does, I’ll have to get the rest of the seasons. Not something I would mind doing very much either, truth be told. It’s not Seinfeld, Time Taylor is significantly less influential on my life, but it’s still a good show.
Howl’s Moving Castle* – I rate movies on a scale of five, 5 stars being the best, this movie is 6 stars. I have seen this one before, yet I paid particularly close attention to it this time because I was watching it on Blu-ray. Cartoons (or anime – if you want to consider that a separate format) usually don’t need to be in HD, and for years I had no idea why they would bother upgrading. Well, it turns out I am not right about everything after all, I don’t know how they do it or even how to describe it, but HD upgraded cartoons are something else entirely, and now, given the choice, I will be getting all my future cartoons on Blu-ray. This is a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack. But enough about media and formatting. This movie is just simply incredible. It has a cutesy fantastical name, and yes it lives to that standard at times, but at more times it is a complex love story and an anti-war story, with a moral ambiguity as to who the “bad” characters actually are. Christian Bale does the voice of Howl, Billy Crystal as the voice of the Fire Daemon Calcifer, and even more surprisingly Lauren Bacall does the voice of the Witch of the Waste (I thought she had died some 20 years before this movie came out). This is one of the rare examples where the movie is far far better then the book (which yes I have ready, and it’s fine if you don’t compare it to the movie), but this is a Hayao Miyazaki film (the Japanese Walt Disney) and his films tend to be in a category if their very own. The story is set in a Steampunk world about a young girl with a poor self-image who is turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, and then gets involved with a young handsome wizard named Howl, while a massive war caused by the disappearance of a prince is starting to rip two kingdoms apart. It is a complex story, and a beautiful one, try not to cry at the end.
Hugo* – I read the book this movie is based on shortly after it came out, and I can’t recommend it enough, it’s a thick book, but it’s mostly pictures with only about 100 words or so per page, so it’s a quick read. More interestingly it is printed in white ink on black paper. But enough about the book. This movie is a love letter to George Melies, who was one of the great pioneers of film, maybe not the very first filmmaker, but essentially the first man to turn the film from simply a moving picture to a medium of storytelling. His best-known film is called “A Trip to the Moon” the first Science Fiction Movie, though by today’s standards of fiction taxonomy it would fall more into the category of Science Fantasy. Hugo itself is another Steampunk, about a kid who lives in the walls of a train station, setting all the clocks and in his spare time rebuilding an automaton that was the only thing his father left him after he died. This leads to an adventure and mystery that will ultimately pull the depressed and reclusive Melies out of obscurity, and also dares the viewer not to shed a tear at the end. Don’t miss Sasha Baron Cohen in a somewhat non-comedic role, and Christopher Lee as not a bad guy (or a wizard). Great film all the way through. And two great films to end the letter.
I should have started this practice earlier, but the average rating for all the movies in this letter (we will exclude TV shows) is: 4.5, that’s a pretty good rating in my opinion. The best movie was “Howl’s Moving Castle” and the worst movie of the lot was “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and that one is still pretty good.