Ah, Moonraker. Still as profoundly ludicrous and worshipping on the altar of Chuck Jones as ever. This is the dumbest and most outlandish of all James Bond films, yet I still have a love for it, as I’ve described before. Seeing it in a movie theater amplifies the flaws and its beauties. I have more questions than ever, some new some old: How does Bond know that Drax’s shuttle has a laser on it? Why does no one bother to do anything about the man shot to death on the pheasant hunt, like report it to the authorities? Why does Dr. Goodhead think it’s a decent idea to have a visitor with no experience try out a centrifuge training machine? Why does Chang attempt to assassinate Bond by attacking him with a non-lethal weapon? Why didn’t Bond double check on the location of Drax’s Venice laboratory before forcing M and the Minister of Defence to fly all the way out there and “see for themselves”? How is Drax a U.S. citizen despite seeming overwhelmingly Anglo-French? Does the U.S. actually keep a space-defense corps armed with lasers and zero-gravity packs on hand at all times with a space shuttle ready to launch? Is it a good idea to be a secret agent whose “reputation proceeds” him?
Well, whatever… John Barry music, Ken Adam sets, great visual effects, and that astonishing doberman death scene!

Ah, Moonraker. Still as profoundly ludicrous and worshipping on the altar of Chuck Jones as ever. This is the dumbest and most outlandish of all James Bond films, yet I still have a love for it, as I’ve described before. Seeing it in a movie theater amplifies the flaws and its beauties. I have more questions than ever, some new some old: How does Bond know that Drax’s shuttle has a laser on it? Why does no one bother to do anything about the man shot to death on the pheasant hunt, like report it to the authorities? Why does Dr. Goodhead think it’s a decent idea to have a visitor with no experience try out a centrifuge training machine? Why does Chang attempt to assassinate Bond by attacking him with a non-lethal weapon? Why didn’t Bond double check on the location of Drax’s Venice laboratory before forcing M and the Minister of Defence to fly all the way out there and “see for themselves”? How is Drax a U.S. citizen despite seeming overwhelmingly Anglo-French? Does the U.S. actually keep a space-defense corps armed with lasers and zero-gravity packs on hand at all times with a space shuttle ready to launch? Is it a good idea to be a secret agent whose “reputation proceeds” him?

Well, whatever… John Barry music, Ken Adam sets, great visual effects, and that astonishing doberman death scene!

New release this week from Scream Factory, which just keeps producing fantastic horror releases. This is an indie Canadian production that picked up a cult following quickly. This is the first time the movie has received a U.S. release in its proper aspect ratio; the previous DVD was a pretty bare-bones 4:3 presentation. This release is packed, it’ll take a while to get through all these bonuses.

New release this week from Scream Factory, which just keeps producing fantastic horror releases. This is an indie Canadian production that picked up a cult following quickly. This is the first time the movie has received a U.S. release in its proper aspect ratio; the previous DVD was a pretty bare-bones 4:3 presentation. This release is packed, it’ll take a while to get through all these bonuses.

King Kong Escapes is basically a live-action Saturday Morning cartoon show. (Remember those?) Which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the movie was a co-production between Toho Studios and Rankin/Bass to tie in with with latter’s Saturday morning cartoon, The King Kong Show. The movie is silly, light, colorful, filled with gadgets and gizmos, and designed to target 7–12  year-old boys. It works as exactly what it is. I imagine that director Ishiro Honda was a bit frustrated with it, since this sort of comic-book fantasy didn’t allow his more humanist interests to surface, but VFX director Eiji Tsubaraya sure got to run riot with the effects, which, aside from Kong, also feature Mechani-Kong (the giant robot that would inspire Mechagodzilla), the dinosaur Gorosaurus, a sea serpent, a super-sub, a flying all-terrain vehicle, and an underground Arctic base. The effects are plentiful, and with the exception of some iffy optical work, always pleasurable to watch.
The recent Blu-ray only contains the version that Universal released in the U.S., with dubbing for the Japanese actors. This is not as detrimental for King Kong Escapes compared to many kaiju films, because two of the leads, Rhodes Reason and Linda Miller, are English-speakers who spoke their own language on set. Linda Miller ended up dubbed by another English-speaking actress, but her lips still match. As a bonus, Paul Frees dubs the villain, Dr. Who (no relation), played by Eisei Amamoto. It’s always great hearing Paul Frees dub anything. However, the dubbed version does injure the performances of the other leads, Akira Takarada (who becomes Linda Miller’s love interest) and Mie Hama as the very sexy femme fatale spy Madame X. This was the same year that Mie Hama appeared as Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice, and she’s far more sultry here. She also undergoes a costume change every two minutes through a parade of great ‘60s fashions.

King Kong Escapes is basically a live-action Saturday Morning cartoon show. (Remember those?) Which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the movie was a co-production between Toho Studios and Rankin/Bass to tie in with with latter’s Saturday morning cartoon, The King Kong Show. The movie is silly, light, colorful, filled with gadgets and gizmos, and designed to target 7–12  year-old boys. It works as exactly what it is. I imagine that director Ishiro Honda was a bit frustrated with it, since this sort of comic-book fantasy didn’t allow his more humanist interests to surface, but VFX director Eiji Tsubaraya sure got to run riot with the effects, which, aside from Kong, also feature Mechani-Kong (the giant robot that would inspire Mechagodzilla), the dinosaur Gorosaurus, a sea serpent, a super-sub, a flying all-terrain vehicle, and an underground Arctic base. The effects are plentiful, and with the exception of some iffy optical work, always pleasurable to watch.

The recent Blu-ray only contains the version that Universal released in the U.S., with dubbing for the Japanese actors. This is not as detrimental for King Kong Escapes compared to many kaiju films, because two of the leads, Rhodes Reason and Linda Miller, are English-speakers who spoke their own language on set. Linda Miller ended up dubbed by another English-speaking actress, but her lips still match. As a bonus, Paul Frees dubs the villain, Dr. Who (no relation), played by Eisei Amamoto. It’s always great hearing Paul Frees dub anything. However, the dubbed version does injure the performances of the other leads, Akira Takarada (who becomes Linda Miller’s love interest) and Mie Hama as the very sexy femme fatale spy Madame X. This was the same year that Mie Hama appeared as Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice, and she’s far more sultry here. She also undergoes a costume change every two minutes through a parade of great ‘60s fashions.

This was the first Godzilla film I ever saw, catching it on TV as a five-year-old under the title Godzilla on Monster Island. It engrossed me, and watched the videotape recording of it over and over.
However, I don’t have much nostalgic affection for it now, and I attribute that to the massive amounts of stock footage it takes from other Toho VFX movies. I transferred my nostalgic affection to the movies that provided the stock footage, principally Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster.
This is definitely one of the poorest of the original series, cheap and uninspired. It does seem a bit better than the last few times I’ve watched, and that may stem from the quality of the Blu-ray. When it comes to the monster fights that don’t have enormous padding from re-used footage, they don’t fare too miserably, and Gigan is a great monster. But the human story and the low-budget alien invasion plot just doesn’t have much interesting going on in it, and the characters are anonymous with bland performances. It doesn’t help that there are no familiar Godzilla actors here, a sign of the demise of the studio system.

This was the first Godzilla film I ever saw, catching it on TV as a five-year-old under the title Godzilla on Monster Island. It engrossed me, and watched the videotape recording of it over and over.

However, I don’t have much nostalgic affection for it now, and I attribute that to the massive amounts of stock footage it takes from other Toho VFX movies. I transferred my nostalgic affection to the movies that provided the stock footage, principally Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster.

This is definitely one of the poorest of the original series, cheap and uninspired. It does seem a bit better than the last few times I’ve watched, and that may stem from the quality of the Blu-ray. When it comes to the monster fights that don’t have enormous padding from re-used footage, they don’t fare too miserably, and Gigan is a great monster. But the human story and the low-budget alien invasion plot just doesn’t have much interesting going on in it, and the characters are anonymous with bland performances. It doesn’t help that there are no familiar Godzilla actors here, a sign of the demise of the studio system.

As a James Bond completest, I knew I would have to purchase the Blu-ray of this eventually, despite having the hardest time making through it in a single sitting. (I think I’ve done it once.) However, when it went on sale for $4.99, well, there you go.

As a James Bond completest, I knew I would have to purchase the Blu-ray of this eventually, despite having the hardest time making through it in a single sitting. (I think I’ve done it once.) However, when it went on sale for $4.99, well, there you go.

And so I reach the first Planet of the Apes films, concluding my mirror-image viewing of the original series. I’ve made some strange discoveries along this journey, but one thing was always certain… the best was saved for last.
This is one of those rare movies that continues to grow greater with ever viewing. The intelligence of the script, the riveting dialogue, the immersive and fascinating ape society, the complexity of the themes, the avant garde score, Franklin Schafner’s perfect directorial choices, the astonishing makeup, and the performances of everyone involved… this is cinema magic, and even though it seems like such an odd film to span a franchise, how could something so great not span a franchise?

And so I reach the first Planet of the Apes films, concluding my mirror-image viewing of the original series. I’ve made some strange discoveries along this journey, but one thing was always certain… the best was saved for last.

This is one of those rare movies that continues to grow greater with ever viewing. The intelligence of the script, the riveting dialogue, the immersive and fascinating ape society, the complexity of the themes, the avant garde score, Franklin Schafner’s perfect directorial choices, the astonishing makeup, and the performances of everyone involved… this is cinema magic, and even though it seems like such an odd film to span a franchise, how could something so great not span a franchise?

I am almost at the end of this reverse trip through the original five Planet of the Apes movies. Watching the films in this order may enhance some (it really ups Conquest) but it commits some serious militaristic gorilla violence on a film that is already considered one of the weaker installments, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Watching it in proper chronological order, it’s seems forgivable that a sequel to one of the greatest of all SF films would drop down a few notches. But when viewed after the films that follow it, Beneath's lower quality looks more stark and harder to explain.
Not much about this movie works. For most of the running time, it’s a repeat of the original, except 1) lacking the surprise factor, 2) starring a far less interesting version of Charlton Heston as played by James Franciscus, and 3) without Roddy McDowall. Nothing against McDowall’s replacement, David Watson, who does a pretty spot-on McDowall impersonation, which was what he was hired to do, but McDowall is the franchise’s core character, and after watching him star in three movies in the series in a row (again, viewed backwards), his absence feels staggering.
After a dull 45-minute stretch that includes a terribly lifeless chase between Franciscus and the gorillas, the film at last brings in some new ideas with the mutants and their Alpha-Omega bomb culture. Unfortunately, most of this material come across as silly.
But… Beneath the Planet of the Apes does at last pull through and manage to notch itself at least one spot higher than Battle for the Planet of the Apes in quality with the nihilistic finale that just stuns for how misanthropic it is. Taylor proves Dr. Zaius was right all along: humans are no damn good and we’re just going to blow the whole place up… again! The finale is basically, “Well screw you all, I’m just going to kill everybody and how do you like that you damn dirty apes?”
Ah, early ’70s science fiction!

I am almost at the end of this reverse trip through the original five Planet of the Apes movies. Watching the films in this order may enhance some (it really ups Conquest) but it commits some serious militaristic gorilla violence on a film that is already considered one of the weaker installments, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Watching it in proper chronological order, it’s seems forgivable that a sequel to one of the greatest of all SF films would drop down a few notches. But when viewed after the films that follow it, Beneath's lower quality looks more stark and harder to explain.

Not much about this movie works. For most of the running time, it’s a repeat of the original, except 1) lacking the surprise factor, 2) starring a far less interesting version of Charlton Heston as played by James Franciscus, and 3) without Roddy McDowall. Nothing against McDowall’s replacement, David Watson, who does a pretty spot-on McDowall impersonation, which was what he was hired to do, but McDowall is the franchise’s core character, and after watching him star in three movies in the series in a row (again, viewed backwards), his absence feels staggering.

After a dull 45-minute stretch that includes a terribly lifeless chase between Franciscus and the gorillas, the film at last brings in some new ideas with the mutants and their Alpha-Omega bomb culture. Unfortunately, most of this material come across as silly.

But… Beneath the Planet of the Apes does at last pull through and manage to notch itself at least one spot higher than Battle for the Planet of the Apes in quality with the nihilistic finale that just stuns for how misanthropic it is. Taylor proves Dr. Zaius was right all along: humans are no damn good and we’re just going to blow the whole place up… again! The finale is basically, “Well screw you all, I’m just going to kill everybody and how do you like that you damn dirty apes?”

Ah, early ’70s science fiction!

In my continuing reverse voyage through the original five Planet of the Apes movies, I now arrive at Escape from the Planet of the Apes, a movie that brings the most levity to the series—and that has never sat well with me. The comic fish-out-of-water scenes of Zira and Cornelius becoming celebrities on present-day Earth feel forced and clumsy. And although the modern setting was a necessity of the dwindling budgets due to 20th Century Fox’s financial woes, it feels disappointing to only have two apes for most of the movie. No orangutans, no gorillas (except for a shabby costume of what is supposed to be a “real” gorilla), and no fantastic ape society.
However, it’s still a smart movie that plays a great role-reversal on the concept of the original Planet of the Apes, and once it leaves the comedy when the human cruelly turn against their two visitors, the movie proceeds to go to an incredibly dark place, setting up perfectly the rage that ensues in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
The film benefits from three great performances: Roddy McDowall (of course), Kim Hunter (so strong, so tragic), and Eric Braeden (my favorite villain of the original series) as the human version of Dr. Zaius. And it’s always a joy to have Ricardo Montalban around in anything. The score from original Apes composer Jerry Goldsmith is also excellent; he gives a contemporary Earth spin to his groundbreaking score to Planet of the Apes.

In my continuing reverse voyage through the original five Planet of the Apes movies, I now arrive at Escape from the Planet of the Apes, a movie that brings the most levity to the series—and that has never sat well with me. The comic fish-out-of-water scenes of Zira and Cornelius becoming celebrities on present-day Earth feel forced and clumsy. And although the modern setting was a necessity of the dwindling budgets due to 20th Century Fox’s financial woes, it feels disappointing to only have two apes for most of the movie. No orangutans, no gorillas (except for a shabby costume of what is supposed to be a “real” gorilla), and no fantastic ape society.

However, it’s still a smart movie that plays a great role-reversal on the concept of the original Planet of the Apes, and once it leaves the comedy when the human cruelly turn against their two visitors, the movie proceeds to go to an incredibly dark place, setting up perfectly the rage that ensues in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

The film benefits from three great performances: Roddy McDowall (of course), Kim Hunter (so strong, so tragic), and Eric Braeden (my favorite villain of the original series) as the human version of Dr. Zaius. And it’s always a joy to have Ricardo Montalban around in anything. The score from original Apes composer Jerry Goldsmith is also excellent; he gives a contemporary Earth spin to his groundbreaking score to Planet of the Apes.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will probably go down as the best film of the Summer of 2014, and along with Godzilla will help many of us feel better about anybody showing up to watch Transformers: Make It Stop. It’s intelligent, thrilling, makes daring choices, and plays perfectly with both the general Planet of the Apes mythology and the specific mythology developed from Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The apes are even more stunning creating here than than in Rise. Not only is the technology better so that the apes feel like photo-real creations, but there is so much character bestowed on them. Caesar, Koba, Maurice, Blue Eyes, Rocket are all as much characters—often more so—than the humans. The believability of the emerging ape culture, perfectly captured in a humanless first fifteen minutes, is astonishing to watch.

I’d love a spin-off TV series called Maurice, about the orangutan Maurice teaching young apes about phonics. I think Maurice is destined to become a Lawgiver figure who becomes the first great ape author. (His fascination with books is an important aside in the movie, and something I hope appears in the next films.)

There are so many possible directions for the follow-up film, and I can’t wait to see what happens now.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will probably go down as the best film of the Summer of 2014, and along with Godzilla will help many of us feel better about anybody showing up to watch Transformers: Make It Stop. It’s intelligent, thrilling, makes daring choices, and plays perfectly with both the general Planet of the Apes mythology and the specific mythology developed from Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The apes are even more stunning creating here than than in Rise. Not only is the technology better so that the apes feel like photo-real creations, but there is so much character bestowed on them. Caesar, Koba, Maurice, Blue Eyes, Rocket are all as much characters—often more so—than the humans. The believability of the emerging ape culture, perfectly captured in a humanless first fifteen minutes, is astonishing to watch.

I’d love a spin-off TV series called Maurice, about the orangutan Maurice teaching young apes about phonics. I think Maurice is destined to become a Lawgiver figure who becomes the first great ape author. (His fascination with books is an important aside in the movie, and something I hope appears in the next films.)

There are so many possible directions for the follow-up film, and I can’t wait to see what happens now.

Point Blank today looks and feels like a small indie production that would play a few festivals, then receive a very limited theatrical release with same day VOD. But at the time this was a major studio film starring one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood coming off his biggest hit. But the film was considered odd, even then. The fractured narrative, jumps in time, use of elision, and ending that seems to simply hang there continue to this one of the most beguiling crime movies ever made. It’s hard-boiled and its also European avant garde. It may be John Boorman’s bet film, but I find that on some days I lean toward Deliverance, and on other days toward Excalibur. None of these are bad positions to be in.
Sid Haig has a small role as a body guard in a apartment lobby. I didn’t realize that until this viewing.
I have my own idiosyncratic interpretation of Point Blank's events. I don't believe that Walker (Lee Marvin) dreamed the events as he lay expiring from his wounds in Alcatraz, which is the popular theory. I think Walker actually died, and for the rest of the film is a revenant, dimly aware that it is dead. (“You really did die in Alcatraz,” Chris tells him once.) Yost (Kenan Wynn) is a supernatural agent, a Devil-like figure, who has brought Walker back to work do his dirty work. (In the commentary, Boorman explicitly says that Yost is based on folkloric, Merlin-like figures.) Walker goes through with the steps, only to find at the end that Yost was using him. Walker, having learned futility through his journey, fades away and truly dies.

Point Blank today looks and feels like a small indie production that would play a few festivals, then receive a very limited theatrical release with same day VOD. But at the time this was a major studio film starring one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood coming off his biggest hit. But the film was considered odd, even then. The fractured narrative, jumps in time, use of elision, and ending that seems to simply hang there continue to this one of the most beguiling crime movies ever made. It’s hard-boiled and its also European avant garde. It may be John Boorman’s bet film, but I find that on some days I lean toward Deliverance, and on other days toward Excalibur. None of these are bad positions to be in.

Sid Haig has a small role as a body guard in a apartment lobby. I didn’t realize that until this viewing.

I have my own idiosyncratic interpretation of Point Blank's events. I don't believe that Walker (Lee Marvin) dreamed the events as he lay expiring from his wounds in Alcatraz, which is the popular theory. I think Walker actually died, and for the rest of the film is a revenant, dimly aware that it is dead. (“You really did die in Alcatraz,” Chris tells him once.) Yost (Kenan Wynn) is a supernatural agent, a Devil-like figure, who has brought Walker back to work do his dirty work. (In the commentary, Boorman explicitly says that Yost is based on folkloric, Merlin-like figures.) Walker goes through with the steps, only to find at the end that Yost was using him. Walker, having learned futility through his journey, fades away and truly dies.

This is my favorite of the four sequels to the Planet of the Apes (1968), dealing with the civil rights movement of the era through a violent science fiction examination. It’s a thrilling build toward an explosive minority revolution… which succeeds! Amazing. It became the blueprint for the reboot of the series in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which actually isn’t as daring as this one (although it is also a great film).
You might notice that I’m watching the original Planet of the Apes series backwards, starting with Battle of the Planet of the Apes last week.
I have a personal connection to this film, since it was almost filmed entirely in a few blocks of Century City a block from the apartment where I lived from 1998 to last year. Essentially, the movie occurs in my backyard, my own planet. This movie will always have a special feeling of “home” to me. Even as I watch it burn down from a massive revolution of chimpanzees and gorillas.

This is my favorite of the four sequels to the Planet of the Apes (1968), dealing with the civil rights movement of the era through a violent science fiction examination. It’s a thrilling build toward an explosive minority revolution… which succeeds! Amazing. It became the blueprint for the reboot of the series in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which actually isn’t as daring as this one (although it is also a great film).

You might notice that I’m watching the original Planet of the Apes series backwards, starting with Battle of the Planet of the Apes last week.

I have a personal connection to this film, since it was almost filmed entirely in a few blocks of Century City a block from the apartment where I lived from 1998 to last year. Essentially, the movie occurs in my backyard, my own planet. This movie will always have a special feeling of “home” to me. Even as I watch it burn down from a massive revolution of chimpanzees and gorillas.

Just released today, and arriving on my door, one of the few true classics of noir released in the 1960s, John Boorman’s stunning and strange crime drama Point Blank, remade in routine fashion as Payback with Mel Gibson. I consider this an essential viewing movie. It’s also a classic Los Angeles film, and it sure makes me miss home.

Just released today, and arriving on my door, one of the few true classics of noir released in the 1960s, John Boorman’s stunning and strange crime drama Point Blank, remade in routine fashion as Payback with Mel Gibson. I consider this an essential viewing movie. It’s also a classic Los Angeles film, and it sure makes me miss home.

This was the feature movie for a Day-After-Independence Day party, and it was a hit. I’m a fan of this movie (see my full review here), but I have to admit it works great as “goofy party movie” enjoyment. There really is nothing better than Richard Boone chewing the scenery in a fight with a dinosaur. I admire how the movie treats the Tyrannosaurus rex as a realistic creature, even though it doesn’t look realistic as an effect, instead of playing it like one of the crazy kaiju of the era.

This was the feature movie for a Day-After-Independence Day party, and it was a hit. I’m a fan of this movie (see my full review here), but I have to admit it works great as “goofy party movie” enjoyment. There really is nothing better than Richard Boone chewing the scenery in a fight with a dinosaur. I admire how the movie treats the Tyrannosaurus rex as a realistic creature, even though it doesn’t look realistic as an effect, instead of playing it like one of the crazy kaiju of the era.

Next week sees the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, sequel to the fantastic 2011 reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And just as Rise was a new take on the 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the new film is a take on Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which closed out the original five-movie series in 1973. So in the interest of preparation, I went to the source for a re-watch.
This is the least of the original “Apes” quintet, but still worth watching. Even when they weren’t at their best, the classic Planet of the Apes franchise was always watchable and packed with fantastic ideas. It’s unfortunate that the budget dwindled with every entry, and by 1973 there was not much money remaining for a proper epic finale. Despite the poster’s claims, the film isn’t a tremendous showdown. It’s actually the most uplifting finale for any of the films, with humans and simians living in peace in the wraparound segments with John Huston’s Lawgiver, which show no indication of the ape enslavement of humans seen in Planet of the Apes. (This is an alternate reality, after all, even with the attempts to connect the mutants of “the city” to the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Most of these connections appear in the Extended Cut.)

Next week sees the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, sequel to the fantastic 2011 reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And just as Rise was a new take on the 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the new film is a take on Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which closed out the original five-movie series in 1973. So in the interest of preparation, I went to the source for a re-watch.

This is the least of the original “Apes” quintet, but still worth watching. Even when they weren’t at their best, the classic Planet of the Apes franchise was always watchable and packed with fantastic ideas. It’s unfortunate that the budget dwindled with every entry, and by 1973 there was not much money remaining for a proper epic finale. Despite the poster’s claims, the film isn’t a tremendous showdown. It’s actually the most uplifting finale for any of the films, with humans and simians living in peace in the wraparound segments with John Huston’s Lawgiver, which show no indication of the ape enslavement of humans seen in Planet of the Apes. (This is an alternate reality, after all, even with the attempts to connect the mutants of “the city” to the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Most of these connections appear in the Extended Cut.)