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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Futurama timeline

I've seen a bundle of Futurama timelines around the place and I found them all to be inadequate, because they don't, by a long shot, include every conceivable dated event from the show. It's easy to guess at dates from things like "Pine trees went extinct eight hundred years ago" but that seems to be the limit of effort put in. So I went through, watched the whole 72-episode run again - yes, this is entirely my own work - and took notes in preparation for this, my considerably more exhaustive Futurama timeline.

Anything with a question mark in the date is probable, but not known for definite. A tilde (~) indicates that the date is approximate.

Only relatively few episodes have specific dates attached to them, but dates for the rest of them can be guessed at with a fair degree of certainty. For this purpose, I have made the simple assumption that the chronological order in which episodes occur is the same as the order of production code. There were four production seasons of roughly 18 episodes apiece. Space Pilot 3000 (1ACV01) is the first, The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings (4ACV18) is the last. This system enables all the episodes to be placed on the timeline, with only a little uncertainty and only one episode (Roswell That Ends Well) definitely out of sequence.

A slight anomaly is that this results in about 20 episodes taking place between January 1 and February 14, 3002. Hey ho. There are a few other interesting notes which you'll find as you read.

At this point the time-stream diverges. As is well recorded, Nibbler is hidden underneath the desk that Fry will sit at as the new millennium rolls in, intending to deliberately make Fry fall in the cryogenics tube, so that in the future (specifically, the episode "The Why Of Fry") he can defeat the brainspawn on behalf of all intelligent life.

In one timeline (timeline A) this goes ahead as planned. In timeline B, a Fry arrives from the future, sent back in time by the brains, just in time to deliver to Nibbler the dire warning, "Scootie-Puff Junior sucks!" This will have significant consequences, as we shall see in the year 3002 or so. Either way, Nibbler's plan proceeds as envisaged:

It is here that the split caused in 1999 becomes significant. Fry is sent by the Nibblonians into the brains' InfoSphere so that he can destroy it. In timeline A, Fry's vehicle - a Scootie-Puff Junior - shatters in his hands, and he is sucked along with the InfoSphere into an empty universe. The brains then send him back in time to 1999, timeline B: see above.

In timeline B, thanks to Fry's warning in 1999, the Nibblonians provide Fry with a Scootie-Puff Senior with which he escapes the InfoSphere in time.

Conclusions

Futurama has a pretty rich timeline which is much more complete and consistent than most people would imagine. Whether the writers are aware of this and have a definite plot of future history written, or they just got lucky, is unknown, but there is only one definite contradiction in the whole series' run (look up Hermes' Olympic exploits in 2980, then in 2984), which in fact is very impressive. One can only hope that if (and when) further Futurama episodes are made, Futurama's writers have the sense to respect and work within the continuity they have created for themselves.

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The Evolution of Alternative Music

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Trailer Tracking: The Best and Worst in Recent Movie Trailers

When the lights go down and that green "The Following Preview Has Been Approved" title card hits the big screen, movie fans everywhere are transported to that beautiful alternate reality of the coming attraction. It’s the magical realm where every horror movie is scary, every comedy is a non-stop barrage of one-liners, and every action movie is two minutes and 22 seconds of pure adrenaline. Sure, a lot of films blow their entire creative wad in these precious previews, but constructing a kick-ass movie trailer is a true art form and one that deserves to be celebrated (and, of course, criticized). Welcome to the latest Deadbolt recurring feature, Trailer Tracking.

We're trailer devotees at The Deadbolt and we thought we’d take a look at some recent coming attractions and rundown what we’re excited about, what under whelmed us, and what we’re planning to avoid - based on these little tightly-edited care packages of carefully-choreographed cinema. Turn off your cell phone, chomp down some popcorn, and let’s look at the real reasons why we love going to the movies.

Most Consistently Awesome Trailer: Iron Man

Who would’ve thought that the men behind Swingers and Chaplin would know exactly how to tap our inner Marvel zombies? Sam Raimi lost us with the embarrassingly cheesy Spider-Man 3, Brett Ratner lost us with, well, everything, and the less said about Ghost Rider, the better. But somehow, Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. have taken one of Marvel’s least accessible superheroes - a self-indulgent genius gearhead - and turned him into one of the most anticipated movie protagonists this side of Indy Jones. When the first Iron Man teaser debuted at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, it was the hands-down talk of the convention and quickly became a bootlegged internet sensation. And with each successive release of new Iron Man footage, comic fans and, more importantly, people who have absolutely no familiarity with the adventures of Tony Stark have gotten more excited for the film’s May 2nd release.

The first long-form official trailer debuted on February 28th and, in a word, it was awesome. The trailer succeeds on three different levels. First, it completely sells the concept and origin of Iron Man to a wide audience in two minutes. Second, it totally assuages the anxieties of comics nerds who were afraid that we wouldn’t get enough man-in-suit action. It looks like we’re going to get tons of Iron Man action moments that nicely blend in real FX with CGI, making sure that we won’t feel like we’re watching a cartoon the whole time. (Tony’s first test flight - and the resulting destruction - and the bad-ass "walking away as the tank blows up" moments were some of our favorite bits.) Third, the trailer sells the average moviegoer on the film’s humor, characters, and charisma. Soccer moms around the globe will (hopefully) watch that trailer, fall in love with Robert Downey Jr., and tell their husbands, "Ooh, I’ll go see that with you."

Most Talked-About Bootleg: X-Files 2: "Fight the Bad Taste the Last Two Seasons Left in Your Mouth"

As February ended, web-freaks everywhere were treated to a quick glimpse of an upcoming movie that would’ve made us scream like teenaged Beatles fans... if this was 1997. The filmmakers behind X-Files 2, a sequel that we’re uber-conflicted about, held a panel at the WonderCon convention in San Francisco and, of course, the early trailer they showed the con-crowd made it onto the internet in about ten minutes. Don’t get us wrong - we love Duchovny and Anderson, but X-Files the TV series had possibly the most ignominious, half-assed ending of any show in the history of the medium. The final episode should’ve been called "Squandering the Past Seven Years in 44 Minutes Time." It was that bad. So, please excuse us if we’re not foaming at the mouth for a long-overdue, monster-of-the-week mea culpa from Chris Carter.

But what did we think of the trailer itself? It was so-so. We would’ve loved it if Mulder and Scully had a cool Indiana Jones-esque reveal, but they were just sort of edited into the footage willy-nilly, getting about as much screen-time as their co-star Amanda Peet. (Bad call, Chris Carter.) Actually, the trailer seemed to go out of its way to not reference the TV show very much, which might be the best decision from a marketing perspective, but we’ll admit that it wounded our closeted "I Made This" fan-love. And we truly enjoyed the fact that we got to hear Scully scream "Mulder!" (a show staple) and the opening - a wild-eyed Billy Connolly leads a scared-looking FBI team through a frozen wasteland - was, admittedly, pretty intriguing.

All in all - it was underwhelming. It’s hard to pretend that The X-Files didn’t end on a monumental low note, but we need more of an intriguing premise and the show’s old wacky aesthetic to make us excited for the return of Fox and Dana.

Trailer We Want to See More Of: The Pineapple Express

(Sony removed this trailer from YouTube, we'll put it back once it returns)

Okay, we’ll admit it. We’re definitely Judd Apatow fans, but if we see one more trailer that says "From the guys who brought you Superbad," we’re going to punch McLovin in the face ourselves. Not that we’ve disliked any of the recent Apatow-verse movies, but come on, they have like 19 movies in production at the moment. We need to know what distinguishes Forgetting Sarah Marshall from all the other "schlubby guy has problems with his much hotter girlfriend" movies.

That said, after watching the red-band trailer for The Pineapple Express that debuted back in February 15, we’re totally sold on yet another Seth Rogen vehicle. It’s definitely got the Apatow flavor - Seth Rogen, James Franco, lots of weed - but there’s a whole Pulp Fiction/Beverly Hills Cop vibe that we’re really, really digging. The story involves two hapless stoners going on the run from a drug lord after witnessing an execution-style murder and, with that description in mind, you’re probably either thinking of something way too serious or way too stupid. The thing is... the trailer does an amazing job of blending the serious and the stupid into something wholly new and very appealing. (The sequence with Franco’s bloody foot sticking out of the police car windshield is perhaps the best example of this.) Mixing Apatow’s comic sensibilities with some action and bloodshed has a lot of potential, so here’s hoping, to quote Franco, that the final product ends up smelling "like God’s vagina" (which is a good thing).

Most Worrisome Trailer: The Love Guru

Oh, Mike Myers. Mike, Mike, Mike. We’ve all laughed at Wayne and Austin, and there are a lot of closeted So I Married An Axe Murderer fans out there too. But there’s this little thing called "the law of diminishing returns" that you really, really need to look into. We’re not going to say that we didn’t laugh at all when viewing the just-released trailer for your new comedic franchise-in-the-making, The Love Guru, but we will say that our laughs felt very familiar - almost like we were laughing at jokes we’d laughed at before... several times before.

It's just yet another fish-out-of-water with a heart of gold. It looks like yet another catch-phrase-spouting oddball who becomes strangely attractive to one of the hottest actresses available and makes short jokes about Verne Troyer. We’re not saying that the Guru is Austin Powers exactly, but come on - the whole "You are a midget" sequence in the preview is just a rehash of the Fred Savage "Moley, moley, moley" scene in Goldmember. We like Myers, we like his cast (Romany Malco is a great addition), and we like high-concept comedies. But when all the trailer does is remind us of other movies, it's not the best sign. Let’s all hope that the Guru finds his own voice and leaves the "Yeah Baby's at home.

Trailer That Should Quit While It’s Ahead: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Don’t get your fedoras in a bunch. You’ll find no Indiana Jones-haters here. Granted, we had some issues with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer - the "isn’t Indy the greatest hero EVER" montage in the beginning was a really awful decision - but we were bowled over by how good Harrison Ford looked, and hearing the John Williams score did, we’ll admit, arouse us slightly. In short, we liked the trailer.

But then we read the March 3rd AP News story titled "New Indiana Jones Trailer a Smash Hit" and it got us a little worried. Much like the preview’s flawed opening, the tone of the article is downright worshipful - "this trailer is the best thing ever and everyone in the world is excited to see Dr. Jones’ return." There are quotes from exhibitors praising the movie for cutting across all demographics, Paramount touts that over 200 million people have already watched the trailer, and, sadly, the whole thing comes off as a little conceited. In an era where probably 100 million people have watched the viral clip of that fat kid twirling his lightsaber, bragging about how many folks have watched your web video seems like a pretty empty victory.

Most people really, really liked the trailer, but almost no one we talked to LOVED it. Fans are cautiously optimistic about Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the key word there is "cautiously." The first preview wasn’t a home-run, but it was a solid double. Keep moving in the right direction, Lucas and Spielberg, but don’t rest on your laurels yet.

-- Tom Burns

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Jon Stewart Ponders Bush's Ignorance About $4 Gas

On Thursday night's episode of "The Daily Show," host Jon Stewart riffed on the fact that President Bush was unaware of the fact that analysts have predicted gas prices could soon reach four dollars a gallon.

Watch:


For further analysis of the escalating oil price fiasco, he turned to Middle East Correspondent Aasif Mandvi to futher break down the news.

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10,000 BC -- This Ain't Evolution

So we caught the new Roland "Independence Day" Emmerich vehicle 10,000 BC, opening in a theater near you today. It's a science fiction film in the most literal sense of those words. This flick takes the sciences of evolutionary biology and anthropology and turns them into fiction. Sadly, it wasn't the 300 style of anthropology fiction, where you know everything is wildly inaccurate but find yourself in a forgiving mood because the action is so terrific and the concept design kicks ass. 10,000 BC was actually so historically inaccurate that not even the giant ostrich attack scene made up for it. Spoilers and cranky comments about scientific accuracy ahead.

From the earliest moments in the film, when we get the cheesy "epic voiceover" telling us that this is the "story of blue eyes" and some other mystical garbage, it's obvious that 10,000 BC is a bad ripoff of Apocalypto. Which is to say, it's the tale of a small-town hunter-gatherer boy whose woman is stolen by bad guys from the big city full of pyramids and priests with weird makeup and strange fingernails. And it pains me to say this, but Apocalypto is a freakin masterpiece of scientific accuracy compared to 10,000 BC. At least Apocalypto director Mel Gibson had his timescale right for the Mayan Empire.

In 10,000 BC, you've got Egyptian pyramids being built by guys using woolly mammoths. I mean, it's the goddamn ice age, and then our main character walks over a hill and suddenly he's in the Nile Valley of 2,000 BC? And these anachronistic bad guy Egyptians (from the ice age) have got ships, horseback riding, and freakin STEEL. Steel? C'mon, guys, you couldn't even consult Wikipedia? I mean, why not just call the movie 2,000 BC and make it about ancient Egypt? Or keep it in 10,000 BC and come up with some other kind of bad guys? Jeezus.

So anyway, our hero lives in some undefined ice age region hunting mammoths (pretty decent CGI mammoths by the way), seemingly in Europe but a mere few days' walk from Egypt. A band of guys on horseback come zooming through one day, steal a bunch of his clansmen, and take off in the direction of the aforementioned historically-inaccurate city. Did I mention that 10,000 BC was right around the time agriculture was being invented? And that the first cities -- with no giant monuments -- didn't exist until roughly 4,000 BC?

OK, look, I know it's annoying when people go to science fiction movies and brap loudly about how light speed wouldn't work like that, and monsters that big would be crushed by gravity. However, at least with that shit we have the excuse that we don't really know how FTL could work, and we aren't sure what life would be like on other planets. But what was going on in the world 10,000 years ago? We don't know every damn granular detail, but we do know there were no giant cities where woolly mammoths from the ice age helped build pyramids. I mean, the movie Ice Age is practically more accurate than this crap.

Plus there's a lot of tribal ooga-booga where white people with dreads (who are somehow in charge of the brown people) talk about great spirits and generally act like a cross between the bad parts of Burning Man and the bad parts of the new agey 1970s. On the plus side, there are some cool CGI pyramids and the main character is almost killed by a sabre tooth tiger.

My biggest fear is that a bunch of teachers will take their classes to see this movie to teach them about human history. Because, you know, it's educational. I can't decide if it's worse to propagate 10,000 BC as evolutionary theory, or to propagate intelligent design as a theory of evolution. I think it may be an even match in the end.

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