Film Review: Planet of the Apes (1968)

Release Date: February 8th, 1968 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by: Michael Wilson, Rod Sterling
Based on: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison

APJAC Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” – George Taylor

I’ve been meaning to review the original Planet of the Apes film series for quite awhile but I’ve also been meaning to review a lot of other films too and I can only do so much at a time.

Anyway, I’m here now and I’m glad that I revisited this, as it’s actually been a really long time since I’ve watched the original five films. In fact, it would’ve been before the 2011 reboot series started.

While I’ve always loved the Planet of the Apes concept and I’ve enjoyed all the films in their own way, I never found myself being super nostalgic for them. That’s probably a generational thing, as the first film came out more than ten years before I was born. However, these movies were on television a lot and I grew to really love them but nowhere near as much as the other franchises I loved before I was born like Godzilla, Star Trek, Doctor Who and James Bond.

This first movie is, hands down, the best of the lot. I like the story of the fourth film best overall and it’s the one I would watch the most but this film is on a different level, as far as being cinematic art.

Also, a lot of this film’s greatness is due to Charlton Heston. While he also appears in the first sequel, from memory, that film was an extreme misfire and surprisingly didn’t wreck the franchise. Granted, I’ll have a clearer view on it after I revisit it and review it in about a week.

This film follows a group of astronauts after an accident, they wind up on a planet ruled by intelligent apes. Heston is the only one to really survive through the whole ordeal and the movie focuses on his captivity and his being immersed in ape culture. Mostly, the film serves as a sort of metaphor for xenophobia and bigotry. I think it was Hollywood’s way of making that message more palatable than trying to be heavy-handed about it. Plus, this was supposed to be entertainment. Maybe modern Hollywood should’ve taken notes from older Hollywood. But the message here isn’t too dissimilar from what Stan Lee tried to convey in his ’60s X-Men comics.

The point is, art doesn’t need to be extremely literal. The message, if presented well, can come across and seep into the minds of the art consuming masses. Planet of the Apes succeeded in that regard and that’s probably why it became such an iconic picture in the science fiction genre, which still was a long way off from reaching full acceptance by the general public.

Low brow entertainment aside, this is a well-crafted film with good pacing and even better cinematography and shot framing. From top-to-bottom, it’s a competent picture. It is also well acted and has some of the best special effects of its time. The ape makeup still looks tremendous in spite of its limitations. I was glad that Tim Burton carried the practical, physical style of effects into his 2001 reboot.

Ultimately, the original Planet of the Apes is a true science fiction classic, deserving of its praise and longevity.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the four other Planet of the Apes movies from the original run, as well as the television show from the ’70s.

Film Review: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Also known as: Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (complete title)
Release Date: February 7th, 1980 (Italy)
Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
Written by: Gianfranco Clerici
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Robert Kerman, Carl Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Luca Barbareschi, Perry Pirkanen

F.D. Cinematografica, 95 Minutes, 89 Minutes (heavily cut), 90 Minutes (animal cruelty free cut), 86 Minutes (Quebec version)

Review:

“Man is omnipotent; nothing is impossible for him. What seemed like unthinkable undertakings yesterday are history today. The conquest of the moon for example: who talks about it anymore? Today we are already on the threshold of conquering our galaxy, and in a not too distant tomorrow, we’ll be considering the conquest of the universe, and yet man seems to ignore the fact that on this very planet there are still people living in the stone age and practicing cannibalism.” – PABS Reporter

I’ve seen bits and pieces of this film over the years but I’ve never seen it uncut and in its entirety. If I’m being honest, I never had much urge to, as I’m not keen on gore and shock just for the sake of gore and shock.

Plus, the way the film has been described to me, by everyone for years, made it sound like it was just a fucked up piece of shit that gorehounds love without much merit or relevance beyond that.

What I ended up seeing, for the most part, was a well shot, competent film that is definitely shocking but nowhere near as fucked up as my head made it seem, after filling in the blanks based off of the comments and critiques I’ve heard for years.

Granted, I’m pretty desensitized to violence and gore and the only thing that really bothered me about the movie was the legitimate animal cruelty, which was completely unnecessary regardless of “the art” or “authenticity”. I also don’t say that as some hippie vegan; I love eating meat. However, brutalizing animals to get a shot in a film is unacceptable, regardless of how you want to chop that up… no pun intended.

Anyway, despite not hating it on an immense level, I still don’t like the movie and found it tough to get through regardless of the shocking content. While it has an interesting premise that could be explored, this wasn’t the first movie of its kind and I don’t know if it’s the best either. I’d gather that these things are pretty cookie cutter and they’re just the product of a short fad in the exploitation realm of Italian filmmaking.

I don’t really want to ever see another one of these cannibal films again and the only reason I even relented and watched this in the first place was because it was featured on Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In.

The truth is, I didn’t gain anything from seeing this, other than having more of an understanding about what the finished product is. But it’s really a film that I feel wasted the talents the filmmakers had.

As I’ve said, it was competently shot and there is a definite understanding of shot framing and the concept of mise-en-scène but that in no way makes it good; it just makes it better than the level of dreck I expected it to be.

The only other positive is its use of music. It uses certain musical tones almost ironically at some points and whether this was done intentionally or stupidly, it leaves an even more unsettling sensation than just the scene playing out on its own.

Ultimately, this is a really fucked up movie by a fucked up filmmaker that valued his terribly, shitty art over the lives of animals or the people in the film, who were forced into burning huts longer than they needed to be.

But hey, it got people talking! Am I right?

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other cannibal and gory, violent exploitation films of the era.

Comic Review: Conan the Barbarian: The Devourer of Souls

Published: January, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: Jim Owsley
Art by: Val Semeiks, Geof Isherwood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian and other characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 476 Pages

Review:

The title The Devourer of Souls isn’t the official title of this story. In fact, this is just what I call the larger story arc that takes place from Conan the Barbarian issues 190 through 200, plus the 12th annual.

This stretch of issues is actually several smaller stories but they all connect into a larger narrative around the antagonist referred to as “The Devourer of Souls” a.k.a. Wrarrl.

Outside of the classic Roy Thomas era, this is my favorite section of the original Marvel Conan the Barbarian run. It was a real high point and this is actually where I started reading the series when I was a kid.

What makes this so good and actually kind of epic is that it features the best villain in the Conan comics, as well as bringing in other Robert E. Howard characters: Red Sonja, Kull and Thulsa Doom.

Fans of the villainous Thulsa Doom might really dig this, as he actually works alongside Conan and the other heroes in their attempt to defeat the super powerful and immensely dangerous Wrarrl.

The plot by Jim Owsley is well constructed with great pacing and clever twists that prevent this great tale from being predictable or too derivative of previous Marvel sword and sorcery books.

I also love the art by Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood, which was a perfect marriage of pencils, inks and colors.

Reading this entire saga might seem like a big undertaking but it’s well worth the time invested into it. It’s hands down one of the best stretches on the premiere Conan title and one of the greatest fantasy stories in the comic book medium.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and Red Sonja stories from their classic Marvel runs.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 3

Published: March 6th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 247 Pages

Review:

Man, I’m really glad that I started reading Fantastic Four from the beginning. There’s just something unique and truly special about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations and collaborations. And while these stories are hokey and not as refined as they would become, it’s really cool seeing the earliest version of the Marvel universe take shape.

Each volume in the Masterworks releases really builds off of the previous ones and expands the larger universe more and more.

Here, we get to see stories with the Avengers, as well as the X-Men, bringing several core Marvel characters together in their earliest days. I also liked that the Hulk came back for a multi-part story arc. Although, this one was lacking in Spider-Man magic. But I also just love old school Spidey and FF stories.

This brings back most of the main villains from previous issues and even introduces some new ones like The Hate-Monger. I actually own that comic in its original floppy form, so reading it here means that I don’t have to physically touch my already weathered copy.

Stan Lee really seems to be hitting his stride with these characters and these stories while Jack Kirby’s art seems a bit more fine tuned and dynamic. Granted, Kirby was one of the most dynamic comic book artists in history but his work in this collection really shows how much he’s enjoying drawing these characters. It just has this little extra flair that’s hard to describe. I guess it’s like eating a meal made with love, as opposed to eating a meal that was just made out of necessity.

Overall, this was thoroughly enjoyable and it kept moving the story forward while constructing a very young universe that would grow into something massive.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Film Review: Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Nelson Shin
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: The Transformers by Hasbro, Takara
Music by: Vince DiCola
Cast: Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Orson Welles, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Scatman Crothers, John Moschitta Jr., Michael Bell, Casey Kasem, Chris Latta, Clive Revill

Toei Animation, Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, Hasbro, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Megatron must be stopped… no matter the cost.” – Optimus Prime

I’ve been meaning to revisit this for awhile, as I’ve also wanted to review the television series seasons after the movie. However, my DVD was missing and I just found it under my DVD shelf. It could’ve been there for years.

Anyway, having dusted this off, the 20th Anniversary Edition, I fired it up and gave it a watch. Man, it’s been too long and it doesn’t matter that I have nearly every line of dialogue still memorized, because every time I see this, it still feels like the first time.

I love this movie and it’s definitely the better film between it and Hasbro’s other major motion picture: G.I. Joe: The Movie. This was also the only one to get a theatrical release, as the backlash this film received, as well as it under performing, made them re-think their strategy.

However, the backlash and criticism was stupid and I wrote about it here.

Beyond that, it doesn’t matter that the franchise’s primary hero was killed off in the first act of the film. In fact, it gave this film much more weight than an episode of the cartoon could have. It also paved the way for a new line of toys and characters, which is really what this franchise was designed for.

For fans of the animated show, this movie was larger than life. It took these beloved characters and their universe and threw them up on the big screen and gave audiences a story that was worth that larger piece of real estate.

Now the plot isn’t perfect and the film has a few pacing issues but the pros far outweigh the cons and Transformers has never been cooler than it was with this movie.

The animation is done in the same style as the television show except it’s much better and the film looks stupendous. Honestly, it still looks great and it has held up really well, even with modern CGI and computer programs doing most of the heavy lifting.

Transformers: The Movie still feels like a living, breathing work of art. It’s an animated film of the highest caliber from an era that was stuffed full of so much fantastic pop culture shit.

That being said, there wasn’t an animated film that I appreciated and enjoyed as much as this one when I saw it. Looking at it now, I still feel the same way, other than a handful of Japanese animes that I discovered later.

Sure, this is no Akira but for something produced by an American company, it’s light years ahead of its domestic competition. Hell, I even prefer it over the best Disney movies of the ’80s.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Transformers television series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Comic Review: Spider-Man/Red Sonja

Published: 2007
Written by: Michael Avon Oeming
Art by: Mel Rubi, Michael Turner (covers)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted to like this but it left me mostly, underwhelmed and baffled.

A long time ago, back when Marvel had the full-time publishing rights to Red Sonja, they did a one-off story about Mary Jane being possessed by Sonja and then had her team-up with her boyfriend, Spider-Man.

This longer, five-part miniseries is just a rehash of that story, as opposed to having Spidey actually team-up with the real Sonja in the flesh.

Still, it’s not the worst idea for bringing these characters together but doing it a second time seems lazy and uninspiring. But then, so does the rest of this story.

Red Sonja’s villain Kulan Gath shows up in modern day New York City to create havoc because that’s what villains do. He then uses Venom to try and take out Sonja and Spidey but ultimately, he steals the Venom symbiote for himself because this story is already cookie cutter as shit and aiming low seems to be what they were going for.

We also get suped up magical versions of well-known Spidey villains because why wouldn’t we?

I don’t know, more often than not, crossovers like this are really bad and half-assed schlock made to grab a buck from multiple fan bases. I guess this one didn’t strive to be anything different.

I mostly liked the interior art though and the covers were solid.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja crossovers or stories that put her in modern times.

Film Review: Planet of the Apes (2001)

Also known as: The Visitor, Return of the Apes (working titles)
Release Date: July 26th, 2001 (Hong Kong, Puerto Rico)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Based on: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren, Paul Giamatti, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Lisa Marie, Glenn Shadix, Linda Harrison, Charlton Heston (uncredited)

Tim Burton Productions, The Zanuck Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 119 Minutes

Review:

“Get your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human!” – Attar

I feel as if I was one of the few people that didn’t seem to mind this film when it came out. It certainly deviated greatly from its source material but I liked some of the ideas that were explored in this picture and I liked that it took a well-known concept and tried to create something new out of it without rehashing things we’ve already seen five times within its own franchise and a dozen times over with all the ripoffs of it.

This hasn’t aged well, however, and it is pretty apparent that the movie just seemed to be aimless without much meat to chew on. It honestly feels as if the film wasn’t completed and it’s missing an entire act.

There’s just a real lack of story and context and while you can follow the simplicity of the narrative, all the characters come across as paper thin and there is obviously a history between many of them that needed to be expanded upon.

However, the film did have production issues, as its start date was delayed and one of the major locations was suffering from a drought and needed water pumped in. There have been other issues alluded to in interviews with those involved, over the years, but a lot of that could be brushed off as hearsay.

One thing I like about the movie is that it used practical, physical effects for the Apes. Everyone in the film wore prosthetics and it gave the film an authentic sense of realism where most movies were already reliant on CGI in just about every regard.

Additionally, I like the visual tone of the film and its general style. It looks cool and the world feels lived in and legit.

Still, it’s just lacking a real sense of plot and character development and because of that, it feels soulless and flat.

Also, while I liked this initially, it’s kind of a boring movie once you look passed the very distracting and alluring visuals. I honestly feel like I have a love/hate relationship with this film as there are many things that went wonderfully right but there are major things that didn’t deliver.

In the end, the film feels half-assed, rushed and like a wasted opportunity. This could have been the start of a new, exciting version of the Planet of the Apes franchise but instead, it’s a disappointing dud that left a pretty harsh blemish on Tim Burton’s career, which was still damn solid in 2001.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Planet of the Apes movies, regardless of era, as well as late ’90s/early ’00s blockbuster science fiction.

Comic Review: Red Hood: The Lost Days

Published: June 28th, 2011
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Jeremy Haun, Pablo Raimondi

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

I went into this with zero expectations but I’ve got to say, I was pretty enthralled with the story and it didn’t just fill-in the blanks between Jason Todd’s death and his reappearance as Red Hood but it gave so much extra context and meaning to the character.

Additionally, I loved how this tied into the Hush story arc and serves to set the stage for that epic tale while also leading into the Under the Hood plot, which saw Jason Todd come back into Batman’s life in a pretty badass way.

I wouldn’t read this story first, though. I’d save it for last because even if it is a prequel, I think it’ll read better with the knowledge obtained from the other two stories. Also, this might spoil those stories if you haven’t read them.

From  beginning to end, this was really engaging and it added new layers to Jason Todd’s redemption arc. It shows how he struggles with his new reality and how he is used and exploited in an effort to become a weapon against Batman. However, it also shows how well the character can adapt and how he doesn’t follow the paths that others have tried to lay our for him.

Additionally, the art in this was really good and it just added an extra sizzle to this already wonderful steak.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other early Red Hood stories, as well as his solo titles of the last few years.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Release Date: June 13th, 2012 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Based on: The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, C. Thomas Howell

Marvel Entertainment, Arad Production Inc., Matt Tolmach Productions, Laura Ziskin Productions, Inc., Columbia Pictures, 136 Minutes

Review:

“Peter? I know things have been difficult lately and I’m sorry about that. I think I know what you’re feeling. Ever since you were a little boy, you’ve been living with so many unresolved things. Well, take it from an old man. Those things send us down a road… they make us who we are. And if anyone’s destined for greatness, it’s you, son. You owe the world your gifts. You just have to figure out how to use them and know that wherever they take you, we’ll always be here. So, come on home, Peter. You’re my hero… and I love you!” – Ben Parker

I never had much urge to re-watch this. However, I hadn’t yet reviewed it and a lot of time had passed. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try to revisit it with somewhat fresh eyes and little memory of it, other than I didn’t particularly like it.

Almost from the get go, though, I realized that this would be a real slog to get through.

I was immediately reminded of how much I don’t like Andrew Garfield. While I’ve only really seen him in these Spider-Man movies and The Social Network, he does smarmy, self-impressed douchebag so well, I can’t see him as anything but that. His Spider-Man is terrible and his Peter Parker is even worse. Granted, he probably looks the part better than anyone else.

This film is also wrecked by atrocious, cookie cutter dialogue, the overabundance of superhero movie tropes and not actually understanding its source material and characters. All the Flash Thompson stuff is garbage and that’s not the actor’s fault, it’s the way the character is written and presented. He’s not a lowest common denominator asshole bully from an ’80s movie with a hip-hop makeover. He’s actually a guy that didn’t like Peter Parker looking at his girl but actually used to try and include him despite that friction. He was a complex character that often times showed that he wasn’t some jack off meathead.

The film also alters some of the key parts of Spider-Man’s origin and pales in comparison to the 2002 Spider-Man film’s ability to adapt those elements. Also, this film, for some reason, just makes up a bunch of random shit and has to make Peter’s dad some special somebody tied to all the villain shit.

Beyond that, even the action is crap. The CGI is shit and the look of The Lizard is so underwhelming and disappointing that fans of that character will feel immensely cheated.

The villain’s plot is dumb, run of the mill schlock that just made me scratch my head and audibly say, “Really?” even though I was alone in my room.

The only high point in this film is Emma Stone but she’s Emma fucking Stone. She has a beauty and natural charm that other modern actresses just can’t compete with. Well, except for a select few. She’s just likable in everything and she, at least, brightens up the film when she’s in it.

I also mostly liked Denis Leary, Sally Field and Martin Sheen in this but the bad script didn’t do them any favors.

Ultimately, this is a dud. I like it better than its deplorable sequel but even then, this picture was a huge misstep in just about every way.

Rating: 4.25/10

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War

Published: May 1st, 2013
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Andy Kuhn
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 107 Pages

Review:

With as many comics as I read, I’ve already reached volume five of IDW’s modern Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, despite having to mix in a lot of other titles from other publishers for review purposes. Plus, I like to spread the love.

However, as I’ve said in the reviews of the four previous volumes, I really dig the hell out of this series.

This installment really changes the course of the series somewhat, as it has the Turtles crossover into Dimension X for the first time and it also makes them aware of General Krang, who has really only operated in the shadows, thus far.

This also continues to delve into the rivalry between Krang and Shredder, as they aren’t immediate allies like old school fans might assume. With that, it also further develops Shredder’s granddaughter, a character I’m really starting to like.

As far as the writing and the art, it’s all consistent with the volumes that came before this. But I really liked seeing the writers and artist explore the Dimension X realm. It gave the series more weight and brought in some new visual flourish by taking the heroes out of New York City for a quick story arc.

The next two volumes are a larger arc broken out into two parts. I’ll probably read and review them as a whole, however.

So far, so good with the IDW TMNT run, though. I wish I had started to read these earlier on.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.