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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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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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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!

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Continue to the Series on Youtube »

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DVD-Review: Futurama Season 4

It’s time to bring the first batch of Matt Groening’s other animated series to a finish, although Futurama Season 4 was not the end of the series by a long shot, even though it looked like it back in Summer 2003 when the ‘final’ episode was broadcast. Even after 72 episodes, the series had only produced a few bad apples and the fourth production season – which was actually partly the fourth and fifth broadcast season – was the best one yet. Futurama had evolved from a science-fiction workplace sitcom to epic storytelling with often complex plots developing an overall mythology of the series’ own universe – combined with the brilliant animation and the indespensable voice acting, this made the series into a classic far ahead of its time. Back in the early 2000s, there was no was to watch it in its original English version here in Germany except from the DVDs, which were thankfully quickly released in the UK and were absolutely indespensable – and a lot of fun because of the great extras. This review is, as usual, primarily about the series itself with a technical DVD review tacked on almost as an afterthought.

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DVD-Review: Futurama Season Three

Once again it has taken me ages, but I’m still continuing with my Futurama review series as good as I can. Today it’s Futurama Season Three on the menu, when the series had reached its perfection that would last a long time. The first two seasons were great, this is when Futurama became amazing with only a few episodes showing some weaknesses. It was also the season in which the big mythology of the series slowly started to emerge, making Futurama much more than just a collection of unconnected stories. Even today, those earlier episodes are surprisingly good considering they are now about fifteen years old. The DVDs are a bit limited in terms of image quality due to the production circumstances, but the commentary tracks on every episodes make them an invaluable collection you won’t get on today’s streaming services.

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DVD-Review: The Penguins of Madagascar

I’m almost a year too late with this review, but I’ve had such a lot of fun with this movie that I decided to write a review anyway. It’s absolutely classic Dreamworks Animation material – The Penguins of Madagascar may not be the pinnacle of moviemaking, but it’s simply great and clever entertainment with the special twist the studio has become famous for. It also marks the end of an era as the last production of the original PDI studio, where it all began in the mid-1990s. With a fast and quirky script, a bunch of fantastic characters with a wonderful voice cast all brought to life by the brilliant animators, this movie hits all the right notes and while it was not enough to save the venerable PDI part of Dreamworks, it still remains one of their best movies. The DVD is, unfortunately, slightly disappointing with the now common lack of extras, but the technical quality is absolutely impeccable. This article is, like most of my recent ones, more focused on the fim than on the disc itself, so it’s more of a movie review.

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DVD-Review: Shaun the Sheep Movie

The sheep are on the loose, but they’re on a mission – to get their farmer back home! Aardman Animations has done the impossible with successfully bringing Shaun the Sheep from the small to the big screen in the most amazing way possible. Simply called Shaun the Sheep Movie, it’s an instant Aardman classic every bit as good as their previous movies with just a few tiny faults. The concept of the original series was brilliantly expanded into a longer story and is not just a collection of the short episodes from the original series. Made possible by Studio Canal and an European film investor group, this is also Aardman’s first cinema adventure completely separate from anything Hollywood and it’s refreshing to see what they can accomplish independently. The DVD release is practically identical with the simultaneously released Blu-Ray and although low on extras (it’s the first Aardman movie without a commentary track), the presentation itself is absolutely first rate.

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DVD-Review: Futurama Season Two

It’s been a while since the last review, but here’s the continuation of the review series about that other thing Matt Groening once did: Futurama! This article is not only a review of the DVDs, but mainly an in-depth piece about Futurama Season Two, when the series became even better than the already amazing first season and hit its stride that would almost constantly continue for a long time. There are only few slightly weak episodes and some of the biggest classics of the series with lots of new character development, introductions and plenty of crazy stories. Even those early episodes hold up very well and it’s almost unbelievable that they are already over one and a half decades old. The DVDs suffer a little under the somewhat less than optimal image quality, but make more than up for it with great extras including the enormously entertaining audio commentaries on each episode.

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Note: As I wrote in the previous review, the next reviews are going to follow when they’re ready. That means not necessarily in weekly installments – but they’re coming! I’m just taking things slow – stay tuned!

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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. Because I certainly know where my towel is, last year I translated and improved my original article about the original 1981 television series, which was based not on the books, but actually on the radio series. It might be corny and low-budget over thirty years later, but next to the radio play and the 2005 movie, it remains simply the best and most original incarnation of Douglas Adams’ story until today. 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. Read all about the beginnings of the Hitchhiker’s Guide and the creation of the radio play and television series in today’s articles – and also about the quite different, but still amazing 2005 movie incarnation, whose review is now finally translated together with the original!

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

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DVD-Reviews: Yuri’s Night 2015

Fifty-three years ago, mankind had reached space for the first time when Yuri Gagarin had made his flight and since about a decade, this event has been celebrated as Yuri’s Night all over the world. This post is the same as last year and I have already written another article on my other blog about the event, but for this occasion I’d also like to bring a little something together from my archives, because there are now quite a few English-language reviews. There is nothing specifically about Yuri Gagarin, but the movies and television series are covering the early years of spaceflight very well.

Documentaries and Dramatisations:
The Right Stuff » – The Mercury program, as told by Tom Wolfe (1959-1963)
From the Earth to the Moon » – Gemini & Apollo – the way to the Moon (1963-1972)
For All Mankind » – The Apollo Program in original footage & sound (1969-1972)
The Dish » – The moon landing from an Australia perspective (1969)
Apollo 13 » – Dramatisation of the near-catastrophy (1970)

Although I have never written about it before, I can also recommend the BBC four-part miniseries Space Race, an excellent docudrama about the beginnings of spaceflight from the perspectives of the rocket designers Sergei Korolev and Wernher von Braun. The series is available on DVD, but can also be found on Youtube.

More Fiction than Science:
Space Cowboys » – Clint Eastwood, the Space Shuttle and a broken Soviet satellite. A fond spaceflight comedy from the shuttle era.

And in closing another tip: First Orbit was made for the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagrin’s flight in 2011 with footage from the ISS, recreating his flight in space with amazing visuals and original sounds. The 99-minute movie can still be viewed on Youtube for free, but it is now also available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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