Film Review: Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Also known as: Secret of the Planet of the Apes (working title)
Release Date: May 26th, 1971 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Don Taylor
Written by: Paul Dehn
Based on: characters by Peter Boulle
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braeden, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, M. Emmet Walsh, Charlton Heston (archive footage)

Twentieth Century Fox, APJAC Productions, 98 Minutes

Review:

“They became alert to the concept of slavery. And, as their numbers grew, to slavery’s antidote which, of course, is unity. At first, they began assembling in small groups. They learned the art of corporate and militant action. They learned to refuse. At first, they just grunted their refusal. But then, on an historic day, which is commemorated by my species and fully documented in the sacred scrolls, there came Aldo. He did not grunt. He articulated. He spoke a word which had been spoken to him time without number by humans. He said ‘No.’ So that’s how it all started.” – Cornelius

I guess I remembered the beginning of this film wrong, as I said in my review of the previous one that the ending kind of didn’t leave it open for the films after it. However, this one starts off in what was then modern times. From memory, I thought that the apes in the picture went back in time at some point midway through the story but they actually start off in 1970s America.

Anyway, it’s been a few decades since I’ve seen this one and memories can do weird things, especially when one has spent a lot of the time between the memory and now, experimenting with several vices. Don’t worry, I barely party anymore because getting old makes you more chill and because amateurs at the local bars and opium dens is a deterrent.

I really dug the hell out of this film though and revisiting it was certainly a worthwhile and entertaining experience. As of now, this is my favorite film of the lot. While I see the first chapter as a better motion picture, overall, I found this one to be more entertaining and more effective at making its point, using the bigotry between apes and humans as a metaphor for xenophobia.

I was also really glad to see Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter move into the main focus of the story, as their arrival on Earth sets in motion a hope for unity but ultimately leads to fear overcoming the masses and eventual tragedy.

Due to the time travel element, this sets the stage for its sequels and it also makes the whole series a time loop. Honestly, after this sets in motion the events that cause the creation of the ape world from the first film, you can watch the five movies in a constant loop or start with whichever chapter you want and then loop back around to it. It’s a pretty unique thing and it’s one of the many factors that make the original Planet of the Apes franchise really damn cool.

The acting in this is also really good and it’s certainly a step up from the second, fairly mundane movie. I’d say the acting is on the same level as the original but with McDowall and Hunter doing most of the heavy lifting, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the four other Planet of the Apes movies from the original run, as well as the television show from the ’70s.

Comic Review: Nightwing: Our Worlds at War – One-Shot

Published: July 11th, 2001
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Rick Leonardi, John Lowe, Noelle Giddings, Jae Lee (cover)

DC Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

While this was released as a one-shot comic book, it is tied-in to a larger story arc. Therefore, working as its own story, it kind of falls flat, as I wasn’t privy to the details and didn’t have the context to fit this into.

It’s pretty enjoyable though for those who like the relationship between Nightwing and Oracle. They’ve been my favorite semi-romantic pairing in comics since it was first teased and they’ve always had good chemistry when written well. Thankfully, this benefits from having Chuck Dixon as the writer, as he really gets both characters and their bond.

And ultimately, this story is carried by that bond.

Other than that, this sees our heroes traveling backwards through time in an effort to arrive at a place where the story’s unseen villain can’t touch them and thus, alter their present and future.

This is pretty short but we do get to see several different scenarios of the heroes coming into a new time and having to immediately deal with the threats waiting for them. In the end, they have to find a way to outwit the villain who is orchestrating these traps.

I wasn’t aware that this was tied to a larger plot and it probably would’ve read better had I known that beforehand and actually read the whole arc. However, there is still enough to sink your teeth into and it just further solidifies why these two characters are two of the most beloved in DC Comics lore.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Chuck Dixon era Nightwing and Batman comics.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)

While not all licensed property video games are created equal, most in the 8-bit era were terrible. While this isn’t as good as DuckTales or the ’89 Batman game, it is actually better than most games like it. It certainly blows that Nintendo X-Men game out of the water! It’s also a lot less frustrating than the Silver Surfer game, which gave me an ulcer and a permanent lifelong migraine when I was eleven years-old.

This Spider-Man game is fairly okay but it pales in comparison to the 16-bit games like the first Genesis Spider-Man title and the much beloved Maximum Carnage.

Still, this brings together the Sinister Six and lets you fight through them all in an effort to stop their nefarious plan.

This version of the villain group consists of Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, The Vulture, The Sandman, Electro and Mysterio. All of them are regular Sinister Six members so I was pretty happy with the lineup, as we didn’t get stuck with some schmo like Carrion, Boomerang, Tarantula, Vermin or Shocker.

As far as design goes, the levels are pretty basic and a bit tedious to work through. Granted, the game certainly isn’t unbeatable and you can get through it with enough practice or if you’re just an 8-bit platform master.

The biggest thing working against you though, isn’t the level design and overabundance of enemies and projectiles, it’s the clunky, shitty mechanics. Spidey is a bitch to control and the physics are terrible.

When it comes to boss battles, most of them seem pretty hard the first time but once you figure out the enemy’s pattern, they aren’t too hard to beat. I actually thought the final boss, Doctor Octopus, was one of the easiest in the game.

Overall, this is both fun and frustrating. For those who grew up in this game’s era and who loved the Sinister Six story arcs in the comics, you’ll most likely enjoy this. Even if it overwhelms you about midway through, it’s not a hard game to adjust to and eventually conquer.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling 8-bit era action games based on comic books characters.

Film Review: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Also known as: Spider-Man: No More, Spider-Man 2: Lives, The Amazing Spider-Man (working title), Spider-Man 2.1 (recut version)
Release Date: June 25th, 2004 (Lithuania)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Alfred Molina, Donna Murphy, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Daniel Gillies, Vanessa Ferlito, Elya Baskin, Hal Sparks, Joel McHale, Emily Deschanel, Joey Diaz, Chloe Dykstra, John Landis (cameo), Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Phil LaMarr (uncredited), Peyton List (uncredited)

Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 127 Minutes, 135 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“We need a hero, couragous sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero, people line up for ’em, cheer for them, scream their names, and years later tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to HOLD ON a second longer. I believe theres a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dreams.” – May Parker

I always thought of Spider-Man 2 as the superior film between the first two. However, having revisited them for the first time in over a decade, I think they break even. And that’s a good thing, as the first was a wee bit better than I remembered and this one was just about the same.

I like the story and the stakes in the first one better but this film has what I consider to be one of the greatest moments in superhero film history, if not the greatest.

That moment comes at the end of the train battle where Spider-Man exposes himself to the people on the train while he is risking his own life to save them from a horrible death. Those people, in a very powerful moment, stand up for Spidey and vow to protect his identity. Shit gets me misty… every fucking time.

The rest of the film is pretty great too and while I get bored with there being a lot of romance in superhero films, Sam Raimi did a stupendous job with these pictures, as he truly captures the emotions and the heartbreak of the characters, showing both sides of the equation equally and fairly.

A lot of the credit also has to go to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who played these roles greatly while also having incredible chemistry. Sure, their story gets a bit fucked up in the third film but I’ll review that one in about a week.

Another thing I like about the film is how Raimi foreshadows things to come. Spider-Man is exposed to the public, which sort of foreshadows his identity becoming known to his love Mary Jane and his best friend Harry Osborn, who has vowed to get revenge on Spider-Man for the accidental death of his father.

It also foreshadows stories to come after this film by including Dr. Curt Connors, the man who would become The Lizard, as well as J. Jonah Jameson’s son, who would become Man-Wolf. Granted, Raimi never got to explore these characters more, as Spider-Man 4 and the films following it were eventually cancelled after the third movie misfired pretty hard.

It also felt like the groundwork was being laid for a Sinister Six story, which would become a focal point of The Amazing Spider-Man films that followed but that series was also cancelled in favor of another reboot that brought Spidey into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe via Captain America: Civil War and his own solo films and guest appearances that followed.

Anyway, getting back on the topic of this film, my only real criticisms of it are the same as the previous one and that’s the visual style of it and how it looks overly copper. Granted, that feels like it is less of a problem here and the visual aesthetic was a bit more fine tuned and natural looking.

Apart from that, I just don’t like Dr. Octopus as much as I liked the Green Goblin. Both characters had weird designs and outfits in these movies but with the films being so good, you quickly look passed that. But Octopus feels kind of generic and uninspiring. While I like Alfred Molina in the role, I felt like he needed more meat to chew on and a much better look. In the end, however, you do really sympathize with him when he realizes what he’s done and decides to undo his work in an effort to save New York City and redeem himself in the eyes of Peter Parker, a kid he likes and respects.

Wrapping up two movies, this picture has an absolutely perfect ending. If the series ended here, it probably would’ve been remembered even more fondly but we did get that third film that derailed everything and it sort of left a stink on top of the series. Plus, after this, it would’ve felt almost criminal not to continue on.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.

Film Review: I Come In Peace (1990)

Also known as: Dark Angel (original title), Lethal Contact (working title)
Release Date: January 26th, 1990 (South Korea)
Directed by: Craig R. Baxley
Written by: Jonathan Tydor, David Koepp
Music by: Jan Hammer
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Matthias Hues, Jay Bilas, Michael J. Pollard, Al Leong

Vision PDG, Epic Productions, Trans World Entertainment, Triumph Releasing Corporation, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Either you’re Santa Claus or you’re dead, pal.” – Jack Caine

At least this movie isn’t as bad as its poster.

That’s not to say that this is a good film by any stretch of the imagination but I enjoyed it for what it was, a pretty mindless, hard-edged action flick starring Dolph Lundgren at the height of his earlier career.

The story follows a badass, no nonsense, “fuck playing by the book”, ’80s movie cop. He discovers that an alien drug dealer has arrived on Earth and is killing people to steal endorphins from their brains, as that’s a powerful narcotic on his home planet. He uses some snake-like tendril that shoots out of his wrist and sucks the endorphin juice out of humans like a crazy straw.

The alien has a goofy weapon that is basically a CD disc what flies around, slitting throats and chopping off body parts. He also has a pretty badass gun that looks like a fairly normal pistol but it fires more like an attack from an Apache helicopter. It’s absolutely ridiculous but it definitely gives this film a few extra badass points.

Let’s not talk about the acting, the direction or the paper thin plot that makes you suspend disbelief at record levels. The quality of those things are exactly what one would expect from a cheesy sci-fi action flick from this era.

I like the tone and the visual style of the movie. It’s certainly derivative of the other schlock-y goodness one can compare this film to but it utilizes these things much better than average and setting it in Houston, as opposed to L.A., New York or Chicago, was a nice touch that gave the viewer something cool to look at, as far as the background environments.

Honestly, this isn’t a motion picture that I’d really recommend to anyone, other than those that really like the combination of the action and sci-fi genres from a time when action films were still unapologetic, balls out bonanzas. 

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Dolph Lundgren action pictures of the era, as well as other R-rated sci-fi action flicks.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 4

Published: June 5th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 272 Pages

Review:

I’ve been blowing through these Fantastic Four – Masterworks collections pretty fast. But these represent the collaboration of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at its best while also showcasing the earliest stages of the Marvel universe, as it was still developing, taking shape and hitting its stride.

This one kicks off with the second Fantastic Four annual and then collects issues 31 through 40.

I’ve always wanted to read the second annual and man, it did not disappoint. It actually tells the origin of Doctor Doom, as well as showing him meet Rama-Tut a.k.a. Kang the Conqueror for the first time. I knew enough of what was in this massive 72-page issue but I never got to read it until now.

Beyond that, this gives us more Namor, the return of the Mole Man, as well as a great Skrull story. Probably my two favorite things come in the second half though, which sees the debut of the villainous Frightful Four, as well as the first time that the Fantastic Four meet Daredevil, which is a great story on its own.

This was a real high point for me in the overall grander Fantastic Four mythos. A lot of cool stuff happens and this just keeps building up the Marvel universe in a great way.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Film Review: Mayhem (2017)

Release Date: March 13th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: Joe Lynch
Written by: Matias Caruso
Music by: Steve Moore
Cast: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Dallas Roberts

Circle of Confusion, Royal Viking Entertainment, RLJE Films, 86 Minutes

Review:

“My mother used to say that no one raindrop ever thought it caused the flood. I now know what she meant by that.” – Melanie Cross

The Last Drive-In had it’s worst week ever when it showed this, paired with Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Both of these are films I hate but I’ll save my criticism of Tetsuo for that review.

As far as Mayhem goes, fuck this turd.

It basically takes the concept of 28 Days Later and sets it in an office building. The story sees people get infected with a virus that causes them to act out their most violent and sexual impulses. Due to this infection, the entire office building is locked down in quarantine for several hours.

We then get treated to terrible people doing terrible things to one another in what is one of the most derivative and low brow edgy boi movies I’ve seen in quite some time. 

This is a film that wants you to think that it is pushing the bar but you might only fall for that if you’re thirteen. It doesn’t push the bar and in fact, it pulls its punches. Hell, when the two main characters decide to give into their animalistic urges and fuck, they don’t even rip their clothes off. By the end of this film, they should’ve been running around naked, covered in blood, screaming and killing with reckless abandon. I mean, that is if you want me to buy into the juvenile and done-to-death premise.

It’s like this film was written by a deranged middle schooler after a wet dream nightmare following a night of drinking mass amounts of cough syrup while binge watching Workaholics.

It’s so poorly acted that it actually has me second guessing its star, Steven Yeun. Maybe it is best that he got his brain bludgeoned in by Negan on The Walking Dead. Honestly, I was secretly hoping for Negan to show up and do that again.

I guess Samara Weaving was the best thing about the picture but I’m still not sure if she’s got the potential to be an actress that deserves more than this. This film certainly didn’t do her any favors despite being the only real bright spot.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: The Belko Experiment and bad, edgy horror films that try to pass themselves off as high art.

Comic Review: He-Man: The Eternity War

Published: 2014-2016
Written by: Dan Abnett, Rob David
Art by: Pop Mhan
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel

DC Comics, 341 Pages

Review:

I didn’t have the highest of expectations going into this massive story arc but I’m really happy to say that this was one badass read! I loved it! It also really reinvigorated my love of everything revolving around Masters of the Universe, which was one of the first franchises I went crazy for as a kid.

However, other than that fairly satisfactory reboot animated series from 2002 or so, there hasn’t been much that has really re-energized my love of the property. As an adult, going back to the original cartoon was met with some disappointment, as it doesn’t play well for a forty-ish year-old man.

Maybe I should have expected more, as I typically enjoy Dan Abnett’s writing, specifically his recent run on Aquaman, which included a segment of the larger DC Comics universe that one could say is similar to the universe of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Abnett impressed me greatly, as he really taps into the core of the MOTU mythos and really gives all of these characters life and purpose. I guess this is set after a previous story in the DC Comics MOTU canon but I didn’t realize that until after I already started this. But I’d like to go back and give that stuff a read, even though the earlier stories weren’t penned by Abnett.

Anyway, Abnett took a well-crafted world and expanded on it, adding a lot of really good context to the larger scheme of things while also weaving together these characters in new and interesting ways. It was cool seeing how their relationships and rivalries have evolved since this was presented in its original animated form. I especially liked how She-Ra was tied to Skeletor and Hordak and then the swerves that the villains kept pulling on one another.

This was a masterfully articulated story of epic proportions without a dull moment and with each issue building off of the previous ones, while never losing steam or getting too far ahead of itself. It was grandiose in the great way that great comics can be but it didn’t just become pointless spectacle like so many big event comics come across in the modern era. Frankly, it is one of my favorite things that Dan Abnett has ever worked on.

Additionally, the art by Pop Mhan is absolutely spectacular and stunning. His character designs were perfect, as was his dynamic action, backgrounds and use of color. There isn’t a single bad thing that I can say about the art.

This is a near perfect storm where everything kind of went right. This is a great example of how to make a great comic book based off of an intellectual property that isn’t directly owned by the publisher. The writers of I.P.s like G.I. Joe, Transformers, Doctor Who, Star Trek and Star Wars should really take note.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other modern Masters of the Universe comics.

Film Review: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Also known as: Planet of the Man, Planet of the Apes Revisited (working titles)
Release Date: April 23rd, 1970 (Italy)
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: Paul Dehn, Mort Abrahams
Based on: characters by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, Charlton Heston, Paul Richards, Victor Buono, Gregory Sierra

APJAC Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.” – Mendez

From memory, I always considered this to be the worst of the Planet of the Apes movies. I’m pretty sure I’ll still see it that way, once I get done revisiting the original five pictures.

This is just a really weird film and a major misfire, after its great predecessor and its mostly enjoyable sequels. Plus, this ends in a way that sort of kills the franchise. I’m not sure how they explain away this film’s ending in the next movie because I haven’t seen it in years, but this movie ends with the destruction of Earth.

Anyway, Charlton Heston returns but he’s only in the opening of the film and then in the third act. The lead role was given to James Franciscus, who looks an awfully lot like Heston, even though he’s a new character. However, he eventually meets Heston and works with him in trying to free themselves from the apes.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes is so bizarre, though. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Apart from the apes, we meet a new group of antagonists, which are humans with psychic powers due to their exposure to radioactivity from Earth being nuked by mankind, earlier in this timeline’s history. The people also wear masks to cover up their disfigured faces. However, their masks are realistic versions of what their faces would look like without being destroyed by radiation. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s just a stupid plot device so that the studio could cheap out and only use makeup effects sparingly.

In the larger Apes mythos, it’s almost best to ignore this picture. It doesn’t really fit with what comes after it and it threw a curveball into the narrative and concept that was so bad, it was never revisited or re-adapted in future remakes.

Apart from that, this is still a good looking film for its time but it’s still pretty obvious that the studio was trying to do things on the cheap: recycling previous set pieces and props while using less makeup effects and diverting away from the apes as the biggest focal point.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the four other Planet of the Apes movies from the original run, as well as the television show from the ’70s.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 3

Published: July 2nd, 2015
Written by: Frank Miller, Mike W. Barr
Art by: John Buscema, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 317 Pages

Review:

While this is the weakest of the three volumes that collect the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, it’s still a damn good book and it closes out the run, setting things up for a new creative team.

In the previous volume, we already dealt with the death of Elektra and the defeat of Bullseye. This one pretty much covers the fallout from that, emotionally, as well as how it effects the overall story and the primary characters within.

This collection also includes the graphic novel Love & War, which I will actually review as its own body of work at a later date.

The thing I really liked seeing in here was how Daredevil dealt with his grief, as well as how he and Black Widow sort of came back into each other’s lives after everything that happened to them previously, as well as the issues Daredevil is left to deal with after losing the love of his life.

The story also does a great job of fleshing out Foggy Nelson and giving him things to do, other than just being Matt Murdock’s best bud and business partner.

On top of that, we get a powerful moment between Daredevil and Bullseye, as well as some really interesting and character defining moments for The Kingpin.

This was definitely a worthy conclusion to the Frank Miller era, even if it wasn’t as exciting as the other two volumes. This is much more a story about human emotion and working through it than it is straight action and street level badassery. However, there’s enough of that stuff in here to keep the normie superhero comic book fan engaged.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.