Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 - DVD)

Although I've yet to see the original movie, the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland in the lead role has become more well-known and iconic over time, particularly its final scene which has been parodied and referenced countless times. Much has been made about how the plot is a metaphor for Communism (though maybe that's more true of the original than the remake), but upon my second viewing of this film, I saw it as something else: A perfect metaphor for losing your passion as you get older.

In the beginning of the film, the two main characters are employees of the city health department who are very passionate about their work. Slowly they begin to notice all the people around them changing overnight, becoming emotionless shells of their former selves. While the movie makes it clear in no uncertain terms that a paranormal presence is at work here, I couldn't help but feel that this is exactly what happened to me. At this stage of my life, I have almost no passion for anything. I keep on living and doing the same things I've always done without thinking or caring much about it. It's like my past non-cynical self was a completely different person. I'm left wondering if the aliens don't have the right idea - we're all eventually going to become loveless husks without any hope or dreams anyway, so why not take the deal?

Sometimes the movie rewrites its own rules out of convenience, like when (spoiler): it's revealed the doppelgangers come out of giant plant pods, but earlier the Jeff Goldblum double was lying on a table, under a blanket, with no pod in sight, and no explanation as to how it got there. But, whatever, it's still a decent suspense-fest, and it has a dog with a man's head. It's worth it just for that.

Rating: 3.5/5

Freakazoid! Season 2 (1996 - DVD)

Season 2 takes everything great about the first season, ditched all the stuff that didn't work, and rolled it into a comedy cyclone that will leave you sorely hating that this show was canceled, just when it was getting really good. The sketch format is gone and with it, the one-off characters that were sometimes funny, but often just made me wish the show focused more on Freakazoid himself. The core cast is now more defined and the writers were getting a better handle on them. One great example is Roddy MacStew's role expanding from a computer programmer who happens to talk and dress like a stereotypical Scotsman to Freakazoid's progressively more unhinged mentor with psycho-kinetic powers.

I still contest that this show was more for adults than children, and Season 2 drives even further into that territory by means of its references and guest stars. Just when the opening episode seems like it's over, the Lobe (clearly the favorite breakout villain of the writers), returns to the crime scene to participate in a ridiculously elaborate song and dance routine based on "Hello, Dolly". When finding guest actors for an animated superhero cartoon, Freakazoid! looked no further than film critic Leonard Maltin and This Old House personality Norm Abram. I wonder if a single child watching this in the 90s knew that it was funny when the latter starts fighting villains with backflips and Judo moves.

While cartoons with spontaneous jokes, nonsense humor, and topical references have become more common since (notably, Family Guy), it's still worth visiting or revisiting Freakazoid! to see why, despite not having been a big success in its original run, it has developed a well-earned cult following.

Rating: 4.5/5

Futurama Volume One (1999 - DVD)

The first season of Futurama is a bit like a yo-yo in some ways. I was impressed with the second episode's moral that no matter what happens in the future, the past should always be remembered and respected. But then, strangely enough, the show does a 180 on this several episodes later when Fry discovers he's a billionaire. He uses the money to buy an old apartment and watches VHS tapes of old TV shows all day. The moral of that episode seemed to be, "You should forget the past and spend all your time with your friends." ??? This dialogue from Freakazoid! about how you can get married and still eat a lot of meat was a goofy non-sequitir in the episode, but it's funny how often it can apply to other situations - Why can't you like old TV shows and still spend time with your friends? And the episode didn't even have anything to do with that until the end - the rest was more about reckless spending and conservation of the earth's resources, yet that was the favored moral.

Another time it flip-flops is when an early episode establishes that Bender babbles incoherently when he comes in contact with a magnet, only to show up in a later episode with something (I can't remember what now) stuck to his body with magnets and having no ill effects. The show also can't seem to make up its mind whether Bender has a drinking problem, or has to drink to power his fuel cells.

I think much of this is the result of the show not quite having its footing yet in the first season (which is a very common thing), and perhaps having writers with different attitudes about nostalgia and alcoholism. With that being said, there is still a lot here to like. Like Freakazoid!, it's almost a perfect time capsule of the era in which it originally aired, although that seems a bit more odd for this show considering it takes place 1,000 years in the future - you'd think there'd be a thousand years worth of culture for Fry to catch up on, but one of the first things they do is go to a Beastie Boys concert.

My only gripe is that "Fry and Slurm Factory", the last episode on the set, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes Fry's stupidity extends well beyond the point that I want to kill him, and that episode was not only the worst one for that, but it was topped off with a huge helping of grossness.

Rating: 3.5/5



AddThis Social Bookmark Button Dreamhost