Archive for the ‘movies’ category

The Guilty Pleasures of “BattleBots”

June 21, 2019

  

Robotic fighters have long been a recurring theme in science fiction, and an object of fascination to males like myself who refused to grow up.  From the Richard Matheson story to its adaptation in the Twilight Zone episode “Steel,” inspiration was drawn for the Hugh Jackman movie, “Real Steel.”  As an enabling step towards realization of those fantasies, we also have airing on The Discovery Channel the BattleBots series, a place where the pugilistic arts meet high technology in an arena of mechanical mayhem.

Now the tone of these different sagas varies greatly, with Steel as shown on The Twilight Zone dark and dystopian, and set in the then-distant future world of…(gasp)…1974!  Good ole Battling Maxo could no longer hold his own against the more advanced models then.  Far more family-friendly was Real Steel, a movie more centered upon the relationship of a father and son than upon the robots themselves.  The weekly BattleBots series is a strange spectacle featuring teams of bright people from around the world who at times don costumes and whoop and yell as they yet intently field weaponized remotely-controlled devices against one another in a containing area.  Their creations, often resembling lawn mowers from hell, inflict damage upon their opponents until an adversary is unable to operate, or time for a match runs out.  Although not choreographed, matches borrow from “over-the-top” traditions of professional wrestling, complete with a ring announcer, commentators, and a whipped-up audience waving signs…

…Now, it might be interesting to see some cross-over action on BattleBots, such as seeing those ‘bots versus a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, or perhaps a Dalek from Dr. Who.- – That ought to drive up the old ratings!

 

Jonesy’s Tale…

October 24, 2018



In the original 1979 classic science fiction movie Alien, officer Ellen Ripley and the ship’s cat, Jonesy, are the soul survivors of the cargo ship Nostromo when it comes under attack by a vicious predatory life form genetically engineered by another race. Jones the cat is left safely behind in the movie sequel Aliens when his mistress goes off to fight xenomorph hordes with space marines, presumably living out a more mundane existence.  

Ellen Ripley’s strong and resourceful character appears in two sequels to the original movie, with her clone appearing in yet another.  Now the enduring cat gets to tell his own story from the feline perspective in an 80-page illustrated book, Jonesy:  Nine Lives on the Nostromo.  More a graphic novel than a children’s book, the beloved fan-favorite cat in Rory Lucey’s book does not actively work with Ripley to defeat the alien but remains true to his species, displaying normal and at times disconcertingly humorous feline behavior throughout.  

In the movie, Jonesy at times perceives danger before his human shipmates do, a key to his survival in the face of an alpha predator.  In one brief although memorable scene, the crated cat and the alien simply regard one another through the carrier screen, each perhaps possessed of a mutual curiosity about the other before Ripley and the creature resume their fight to the death.  Ripley’s formidable protectiveness extends to the cat in the same way that it would later extend to the child Newt in the movie sequel.

Published earlier this year by Titan Books, Jonesy is a purr-fect find for fans of the series, and cat lovers in general…

 

 

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…