DVD-Reviews: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Today is Towel Day, the annual rememberance of Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its multiple incarnations. This article is basically a repost of the ones I posted in previous years, mainly starring the review of the original 1981 television series that also contains a lot of history of the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself. The BBC production was not actually based on the books, but on the radio series and while it might be corny and low-budget over thirty years later, next to the radio play and the movie it remains simply the best and most original incarnation of Douglas Adams’ story. Watch the earth get blown up with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect making a narrow escape! Vogon poetry reading! Space battles! Two-headed presidents on the run from the law! Listen to Marvin, the depressed robot argue with a smug talking door! All lovingly restored with many interesting extras on DVD from the BBC and even though the release is already over a decade years old, it’s still the best way to watch the series. The 2005 movie incarnation is different, but also a lot of fun and an original take on the Hitchhiker’s Guide in its own right – sadly there was never a sequel. Happy Towel Day!

Continue to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [1981] Review »
Continue to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [2005] Review »
Bonus Youtube Douglas Adams Playlist » from the Towel Day posting on my main blog.

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TV-News: Stargazing Live 2017

It’s that time of year again and the BBC is going to look at the skies: Stargazing Live is coming back for a seventh year and this time it’s completely different. Usually broadcast from the Lovell Observatory in England, the program moves its base of operations to the Australian Siding Spring Observatory for the first time to look at the southern sky.

Brian Cox and Dara O Briain will be hosting again, although there is an announcement from ABC TV that Australian tv presenter Julia Zemiro is going to co-host with Brian Cox. It looks like ABC is going to do three live shows on their own because when the BBC show airs, it’s in the middle of the night – that would mean pulling double duty for Brian! [Update: Sorry, the Australian version is actually airing one week later from April 4 to 6!] The Australian broadcast will also be followed by the Back to Earth after-shows, which the BBC apparently are not doing this time around. Hopefully the BBC is going to broadcast a recording of the Australian shows sometime.

The BBC broadcast airs from Tuesday, March 28 to Thursday, March 30 at 8pm UK time on BBC2. All programs are scheduled to be one hour long without an after-show segment.

Unfortunately the series has, typically for a BBC live production, never been released on DVD, but some episodes from 2011 and 2012 are still online – the rest has sadly been deleted.

Stargazing Live 2011Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3
Stargazing Live 2012Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3

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DVD-Review: Forbidden Planet

It was not the first of its kind, but one of the most influental and innovative ones: Forbidden Planet was the first real science-fiction movie of the 1950s, paving the way for a revolution of the genre. Unlike many other science fiction movies of its time, it still holds up well today, six decades after its making – and it feels like the unofficial first episode of Star Trek as well!

Last year I unfortunately missed the 60th anniversary of Forbidden Planet and I never completed the translation of my original German review, but now I’m making up for it with an improved and expanded English edition that is basically a whole new article on its own. For those who haven’t been here before much: my reviews usually consist mainly of in-depth reviews, while the technical review of the DVD I’m watching is more of an afterthought. This review is about the German DVD release from 2007, but basically applies to all new editions of Forbidden Planet released since 2006. Click on the cover on the left or on the link below to go to the full review!

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TV-News: Planet Earth II starts this Sunday

It’s been a decade since Planet Earth and while the BBC has produced a lot of brilliant nature documentaries, it was time for an update. Everyone’s already shouting it from the rooftops: Planet Earth 2 is coming and the BBC1 broadcast starts this Sunday, November 6, at 8pm British time. There’s already a fantastic trailer and almost every media outlet has an article like this one from the Guardian – David Attenborough will, once again, be the voice of the series and much has been made of the technical advances, but even if you only watch in plain old standard definition, Planet Earth 2 will be as fascinating as its predecessor. A bit worrying is the mention of Hans Zimmer as the composer, which could mean that the tendency to unnecessary drama and emotion, which has been creeping into other BBC nature documentaries, could be out in full force here, but maybe it will be completely the opposite. The animals accompanied by Sir David’s voiceover will be the stars of the series anyway.

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DVD-News: Red Dwarf XI is coming!

It’s been a while since it was announced, but now that the last episode of the new Red Dwarf Series XI has aired, I might as well mentioned it here: The home video release of the first six new episodes will be on November 14 in the UK and – probably because it has not been shown over there yet – November 8 in the US! The original announcement was a bit light on the details, but a follow-up with the cover design revealed the bonus materials, which do not look all that exciting: all what’s listed is Behind the ScenesDeleted Scenes, Smeg Ups, Trailers/Promos, Visual Effects, Model Shots and an Image Gallery – unfortunately not one word about a documentary or audio commentaries, which is somewhat underwhelming. The reverse cover with the design matching the older DVDs promises Over 90 Minutes of Deleted Scenes, Outtakes and Extras. The soundtrack is also listed as plain stereo, which is more than a bit surprising – wasn’t there a 5.1 broadcast mix?

We’ll find out when the DVD is released in two weeks – I’ve already got it on preorder and I’m not sure if I can do a complete review, but a blog post with a quick look should be possible. Stay tuned!

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TV-News: QI Series N starts this Friday!

It’s mid-October again and that means the most amazing British television quiz show QI is going to return this Friday, October 21 at 22:00 UK time on BBC2 with the episodes of series N recorded earlier this summer. The 45-minute XL versions will apparently air on Sundays now, with the first one slate for October 23 at 22:35 BST. This year it’s going to be somewhat different with Sandy Toksvig taking over the Quizmaster’s role from Stephen Fry, who left after thirteen years and 180 episodes in 2015. There is already a very promising – and surprising! – preliminary episode list with all the guests on Wikipedia.

I expect that the new QI will be a lot like the old QI, because Sandi Toksvig has been a guest on the show so often that she practically belongs to the team. She will be awesome as the new, but still familiar presenter and the fact that there have been no major changes behind the scenes is a good indicator that QI will continue to be the quite interesting quiz panel that it has always been. Sidekick Alan Davies reportedly almost quit together with Stephen Fry, but along with producers Pierce Fletcher and John Lloyd he’s still a part of the series. The QI Elves, are also busy researching in the background and have not only had their own podcast No Such Thing As A Fish for a while, but also recently branched out into their own tv series No Such Thing As The News!

Update 22.10.: The first episode aired last night and, as expected, it was amazing. I’m not going to write a full review because I fully agree with this Telegraph article that says everything I would have written. Sandi Toksvig has hit her stride immediately and the show was everything you’d expect it to be. This way only the 30-minute version, the XL 45-minute edition airs on Sunday and it’s probably going to be even better.

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Raumpatrouille Orion – The 50th Anniversary

Fifty years ago to this day, the first and only science fiction series ever produced in Germany started its seven-episode broadcast, almost simultaneously with Star Trek in the USA. Raumpatrouille Orion launched six years before the German television audience even got a glimpse of its American counterpart and although the first reactions were not altogether positive and no more episode were ever made, Raumpatrouille Orion became a cult classic in its own right over time.

For the 50th Anniversary of the first broadcast on September 17, 1966, I’ve given the English translation of my extensive review another slight overhaul and although it’s a review of the one and only DVD release, it is more about the history of the series itself. Also, out of frustration that there has not been a remastered or restored version been released since the first DVD seventeen years ago, I’d like to point everyone to this Youtube Playlist that has the whole series in decent quality – and with optional English subtitles for the international audience. Those are not my uploads and while they are technically a copyright violation, due to the non-availability of the series outside of Germany and the lack of a properly restored version I can only endorse them. Except the first episode, they have already been blocked here in Germany, but they should be playable from other countries.

So, let’s launch the Orion once again and watch Commander McLane and his Crew get into trouble!

Continue to the Review »
Continue to the Series on Youtube »

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David Attenborough turns 90

On Sunday, May 8, the amazing David Attenborough will turn 90 years old. He is the original nature documentary filmmaker who pioneered and practically invented the genre with a multitude of programs and series spanning over sixty years of broadcasting not only in England, but all over the world. His unmistakeable voiceovers, always written by himself, gives countless documentaries something very special even if he does not appear in person while his own documentaries are always even more fascinating, showing his own boundless sense of wonder and enthusiasm.

The BBC has a modest birthday program for David Attenborough with some specially selected archival documentaries, a new hour-long interview program and a new one-off documentary. BBC2 screens Attenborough’s Passion Project on Satuday, May 7 starting at 18:30 (all times UK) with the two reruns A Blank on the Map from 1971 and The Lost Gods of Easter Island from 2000 which are both available on DVD in the collection Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages. On Sunday, May 8, BBC1 starts with a re-run of the recent Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur at 16:35 with the interview special Attenborough at 90 following at 19:00 GMT. The new documentary Attenborough’s Life that Glows is then shown on Monday, May 9 on BBC2 at 21:00.

On Tuesday, May 10 at 23:00, BBC4 will be showing a rerun of the 2012 Natural World Special Attenborough’s Ark and Saturday, May 14 brings a second part of Attenborough’s Passion Project on BBC2 starting at 18:30 with one episode from the Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives from 1989 and Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life from 2009.

Tuesday, May 17 has the most interesting program of them all: BBC4 will be showing the 90-minute documentary David Attenborough’s Zoo Quest in Colour starting at 21:00. Recently, it was discovered that some of the surviving 16mm footage from his early Zoo Quest series was actually filmed in colour, but only printed and broadcast in black and white – this program will showcase this discovery with Attenborough and his camera man Charles Lague remembering their first foray into documentary filmmaking in the 1950s.

This seems to be all the BBC has to offer, but wait – Aardman has made two wonderful Creature Comforts specials which are on Youtube as Lyrebird Meets Attenborough and Penguins Meet Attenborough – Happy Birthday!

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Comcast buys Dreamworks – End of an Era?

It was no secret that Dreamworks had been looking for a prospective buyer recently, but this still came out of the blue: the studio was bought by Comcast for $3.8 Billion Dollars, making it a part of the NBCUniversal empire when the deal is finished at the end of this year. At first it was reported that Jeffrey Katzenberg might leave Dreamworks altogether, which is still sort of happening because Dreamworks Animation will be headed by Illumination’s Chris Meledandri, while Katzenberg will be head of Dreamworks New Media, a new branch of the company focused on streaming and television.

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TV-News: Atkinson does Maigret & Attenborough Returns

British television continues to surprise, and this time it’s not the BBC but ITV: the Guardian revealed that Rowan Atkinson will be taking over the iconic role of Jules Maigret in two feature-length movies. The first one, titled Maigret sets a Trap, will be aired on March 27, Easter Sunday, at 8pm GMT on ITV1. But can Atkinson, to many viewers primarily known as the bumbling Mr. Bean, pull this off? I believe so, because he is actually a terrific character actor, which you can see in Blackadder or even Johnny English, where he is much less a clown but more serious most of the time. There may be a bit of subtle comedy infused into this new incarnation of the french detective, but I’m confident that this could be Rowan Atkinson’s finest hour. Viewers expecting an Inspector Clouseau clone should probably stay clear of this adaptation, but as the Guardian article remarks, this could fill the gap that David Suchet’s retirement as Hercule Poirot, also an ITV production, has left.

More good news also comes from the BBC: Planet Earth 2 has been announced, to be aired later this year and it will again be presented by David Attenborough, who will also be honoured by an hour-long interview programme for his 90th birthday on May 8th. There is also an interesting remark in this article about Attenborough making a documentary about luminescent lifeforms called Light on Earth for BBC2 which will also air this year.

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