Archive for the ‘movies’ category

Vintage Sci-Fi Delights, or Nasty Things from Venus…

May 21, 2018


I recently revisited Ray Harryhausen’s 20 Million Miles to Earth, which I first saw as a kid and which hooked me on science fiction for life.  The 1957 black and white film featured Harryhausen’s stop-action creature features, and was filmed in Italy because that was where Harryhausen wanted to vacation.  He wanted the film to be in color, but they didn’t have the budget to do so at the time although a later colorized version was made. The name of the snake-tailed Ymir creature from Venus was not mentioned in the film because they were afraid people would confuse the name with “Emir.”

The film included many memorable scenes such as a fight to the death between the Ymir and an elephant, which traumatized the young me as the elephant lost.  Then there was the grand finale scene which featured a show-down with the creature in the Roman Coliseum; what could be better staging?!

Equally epic was Harryhausen’s stop-action filmed fight with the skeleton army in Jason and the Argonauts.  That one creeped me out as a kid for some time…

 

 

Rampage:  Megafauna Rampant…

April 11, 2018

I’m glad that my cousin, Ralph, finally made it to the big screen!  He always had dreams of going to Hollywood, and deserved it after all those years of parking cars, pumping gas, and hanging out at furry and video game conventions.  It was annoying to him that people would pull at his costume only to discover that it wasn’t one. – – Ahh, his mother would have been so proud of him!  On the other hand, I wasn’t granted Ralph’s athleticism, being only a bookish writer…fortune, thou art a cruel mistress!

I suppose it was inevitable that they’d make a movie loosely based on the vintage video game, Rampage, and starring Dwayne Johnson.  After all, Doom turned out so well!  In the long-ago, I can remember playing the video game, and never doing terribly well…such is the the story of my life!  Anyways, in his latest action film outing, the Rock plays primatologist Davis Okoye who is attempting to intervene on behalf of his albino silverback gorilla, George, the object of a rogue genetic experiment gone awry. – –Tell me about it!  George, Ralph, and other mutant animals grown to enormous size are, well, rampaging through North America, and causing big trouble and general mayhem.  It’s up to Dwayne Johnson and others to find an antidote…

This sci fi/fantasy offering sounds like good brainless fun, and is opening April 13th at a theater near you!  A CGI-heavy movie, it also features Jeffrey Dean Morgan of The Walking Dead, minus his Negan bat, Lucille.  I expect that Ralphie will give a memorable performance, and even if he doesn’t, I’m still proud of the big lug… 😉

“The Shape of Water” is Extraordinary!

December 7, 2017

It’s being called everything from a sympathetic re-telling of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” to an origins story for the Abe Sapien character from Hellboy, but by most accounts The Shape of Water is one of the best films that Guillermo del Toro has produced.  

Set circa 1962 during the depths of the Cold War, the fantasy drama concerns the unlikely relationship between a mute female custodian, Elisa,  and an intelligent amphibious humanoid creature torn from South America and kept in a secret government laboratory in Baltimore.  It’s readily believable for any dabbler in government conspiracy theories.  Called “the Asset” by his captors, the being faces exploitation and eventual “harvesting” in order that his biology might be further studied and applied to the space program.  As their relationship deepens, the humble cleaning lady resolves to take action to save a unique individual from captivity and worse…and “the Asset” has additional capabilities of his own…

The film works on many levels, and is rightfully up for numerous awards.  Seeing it might be the best Xmas present that you could give yourself!

Kong:  Skull Island

March 15, 2017

Magnificent, isn’t he? – – And that’s as it should be, because it’s hard to imagine an imaginary creature with the history and pedigree of King Kong.  This is not a “monster,” but rather royalty…and from his cinematic origins in the 1930’s original, Kong has spawned a variety of movies, such as the 1976 and 2005 versions.  Nothing breeds imitation like success…

While we aren’t going back to the world of 1933 in this version, it’s set in the era of 1973, and is part King Kong reboot and part homage to such Vietnam era movies as Apocalypse Now and Platoon, complete with period cultural references.  The movie runs almost two hours, and we’re introduced to the big guy after about half an hour. Most of the human characters are two dimensional stereotypes and are basically monster chow, although such notables as John Goodman appear as a “tinfoil hat” crazy theorist. There’s lots of good mayhem, with Kong not only taking on humans but also a giant octopus and Huey gunships, one of which he spikes like a volleyball.  We visit also a gigantic water buffalo and enormous ants; Kong isn’t even the baddest creature to inhabit this lost world.

Kong:  Skull Island is also a launching pad for a “MonsterVerse” of additional but related movies which will include the re-emergence of Godzilla, and of course the inevitable battle royal between these two cinematic icons.  It should be a fun ride, and it’s playing now in theaters…

 

The Legend of Tarzan…

March 22, 2016

 

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Every so often, the buff guy in the loincloth is reinvented for a new generation.  In the upcoming “The Legend of Tarzan” flick, the Lord of the Jungle is actually returning to his old digs in the Congo as a trade emissary of Parliament, following a time of luxury and privilege as a London aristocrat.  He’s unaware that he’s a pawn in a Belgian captain’s deadly plot. ..

The preview clips I’ve seen look promising, with the CGI apes looking as good and realistic as those in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise minus the clothing and English language capabilities. Time is devoted to the Tarzan “origins” story, and the African landscapes and animals are magnificent. And yes, we do hear the legendary Tarzan yell, and see the Jungle Lord swinging on vines and making awesome leaps.

Not to lose out on the jungle thing, Disney is apparently coming out with a new version of the Jungle Book, so everything old is new again…

“Zootopia” is coming!

February 10, 2016

 

 

 

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Imagine a world in which “humans never happened,” and you have the central premise of Disney’s upcoming 3D computer animated feature, Zootopia.  Now the mammals which dominate are anthropomorphic, which to the uninitiated means they are human-like intelligent bipedal creatures who use language, wear clothing, and employ technology in a civilized society.  This is a familiar realm to a card-carrying furry like myself; my world, and welcome to it!

Now two of the central characters include Judy Hopps, a rookie police officer rabbit and a red fox called Nick Wilde (played by Jason Bateman), described as being a small-time con artist (while I prefer to consider him as sly). Together the two form an unlikely alliance to solve the case of a missing otter.

The result is a buddy comedy/adventure with a large cast of animal characters that include a gazelle pop star and a noble lion mayor. Opening in early March, you’ve never seen anything like Zootopia be-fur…

Shaun the Sheep!

August 6, 2015

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Although a smaller sheep, Shaun the Sheep has leadership written all over him, and would probably be a better presidential candidate than most of the Republican field.  A break-out character from the third Wallace & Gromit short, ‘A Close Shave,’ Shaun is a resident of the Mossy Bottom Farm who needs some time off from the farm, eventually winding up with the flock in the Big City (London).  The farmer who pursues them winds up hospitalized with amnesia, and it falls to Shaun to free the farmer, return home, and restore the normal order of things.

Remarkably, this can be done without dialogue save for the odd sound effect and musical score.  Visual humor is key, with references made to The Shawshank Redemption, The Silence of the Lambs, and even The Wolverine.  We also learn that sheep, long under-rated creatures, can sing harmony.

Other films from Aardman Animations include Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run.  The resourceful Shaun also has his own television show in the United Kingdom…