Showing posts with label apes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label apes. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ape Watch: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)



I was skeptical when Matt Reeves and Co. relaunched the Planet of the Apes franchise a few years back.  We're big fans of the original five films here at The Signal Watch - but despite a certain affection for Tim Burton and an appreciation for anything with a simian in a featured role, I've only seen that remake once.  Because I kind of hated it and wound up having to apologize to several friends who agreed to go see the movie with me.

So, yet another go at the idea wasn't something I was looking forward to initially.

But, lo and behold, Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were released, and, yea, I dug them. They managed to find an astonishing line where they could break from the original narrative but still give nods enough, show respect for those movies and still be entirely their own thing.  If Caesar wasn't the child of apes who'd traveled through time and space, we still found a way to make him the founder of the Ape Society that didn't need to bend time and space to get the job done.  And if I always stood by the complex heart of the original slate of films, the new movies refused to be any less challenging.

I'm pleased to report that War for the Planet of the Apes is a worthy conclusion to the trilogy, an astonishing technical achievement, and - as all the apes movies have been (save the Burton one-off) a thoughtful character study and examination of morals.  And, of course, a dystopian sci-fi franchise that actually earns its dim view of humanity.  It isn't just ignorance or folly that leads to man's downfall, it's mankind's inability to tame our demons that drives us straight over the cliff.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ape Watch: King Kong (1976)



With Kong: Skull Island checked off my "must see" list, I noted King Kong starring Jessica Lange was on Amazon Prime.

If ever a movie was a mixed bag, it's the 1976 version of King Kong.  It's a movie only the 1970's could have produced, still in the echoes of the pessimistic Planet of the Apes saga but brimming with the romanticism we'd see in Superman: The Movie and Star Wars.  It features two/ three stars busting out - nobody aware they'd become Hollywood icons - in Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin, who would go on to be Charles Grodin (and that is not a complaint).

But it's also a movie with a very good mask/ make-up on a guy in an ape suit, big animatronic hands, arms and legs for Lange to cling to, and a re-writing of the premise as an Energy-Crisis-conscious abandoning of the showbiz angle of the original for something about oil exploration.  And it really whittles down the wonder of Skull Island - dumping the dinosaurs in exchange for more dialog and human moments, severely diminishing the idea that this is an adventure film.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ape Watch: Kong - Skull Island (2017)




Box office numbers will give me the answer to the question "was anyone really wanting a new King Kong movie, let alone a re-imagined one?"  Because I really don't know.  Our theater was near sold out, but I had the distinct impression it was full of the kinds of movie goers who think picking what movie they'll see ahead of time is a waste of time - you just buy tickets for whatever is starting next.

King Kong, like Frankenstein, is one of those movie concepts that bled out into the pop culture to such a degree - it's just part of the cultural lexicon.  This in spite of the fact very few folks you talk to have actually sat through the original films.  But the imagery of both has become so iconic, the concepts both bizarre and yet easy to grasp and the metaphor so accessible... we all get it.  Giant apes and flesh golems tend to stick in the mind.

Weirdly, Kong: Skull Island (2017) arguably throws away all of that metaphor, telling a different story.  No more Ann Darrow, no John Driscoll, no showboating Carl Denham.  No more "'twas Beauty who killed The Beast."  This is a 1970's-era landing on Skull Island by a mix of government scientists and soon-to-be-done Army soldiers, rotating out of Vietnam and a whole lotta explosions.

The end result is also something altogether different, and that alone can take some getting used to.  You're in for two hours of fast-moving excitement, a razor thin script, name actors without much to do, and a Vietnam known only via high-profile filmic depictions.  All in all, Kong: Skull Island (2017) is maybe not what I was expecting, but it is visually stunning, entertaining, contains some pretty amazing FX and action sequences, and if you don't have a bunch of people talking behind you, is going to keep you glued to the screen for the run-time of the movie.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Jungle Re-Watch: Tarzan (2016)


No real write-up.  We re-watched The Legend of Tarzan (2016), which I wrote up this summer.

It's too bad this film didn't perform better and get more attention, because I quite like where they were going with Tarzan here.  It's a leap from the books and various other incarnations, but it was a version I would have gotten me back to the theater for a sequel, and it was at least as fun as Doctor Strange, while also having something of a point to it (which I'm not sure you can say about Marvel's latest entry).

It's also weird to think a movie can make $356 million and be seen as a "meh" performance, but that's today's Hollywood.  If a movie isn't part of a system like the Marvel franchise where they can build and build on even a middling performer (see Ant-Man or even the first Captain America movie), it's really tough to get a second go or, weirdly, even to get any attention.  I mean, it's kind of funny we'll take Doctor Strange seriously (it's at $350 million after a week!  Go, Doc Strange!), but without the Marvel label, we'll shrug off Tarzan.

In short: that Marvel brand is a powerful thing.  Being seen as old or legacy is not.

It's not a perfect movie or even a great movie, but it's certainly okay.  I wish it did some things it didn't, but it did lots of things that surprised me, and gave me the first Jane Porter outside of the books or comics I've really liked.

Ah, well.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Comic-Con Trailer Discussion! DC, Marvel, Kong!



Randy suggested I take a look at the trailers that came out during Comic-Con, and while I haven't looked at every one of them, and some of them I have no opinion on in general (like the new Harry Potter), I guess I can do this fairly quickly and painlessly.


DC


Wonder Woman



I've already been asked how accurate this is to the original comics, but as one always has to say with DC comics and characters, in particular, the specifics aren't that important.  Especially trying to bring the character to the big screen in 2017 versus what the characters were like in their 1941 original first appearance.

The question needs to be:  how did they handle the origin in general (do the producers understand the character well enough to understand the importance and resonance of the most important details of the character), and what did they do to demonstrate that the character is not a new character masquerading as the titular character?

I am not expecting the poly-sexual, bdsm subliminal antics of the original comics to ever make the big screen (we can make arguments about Season 1 of the Lynda Carter show some other time).  This is the Wonder Woman of the Greg Rucka era, who still carries the lasso, but is like to pick up a sword and shield.  To avoid comparisons to her contemporary creation, Captain America, the origin story has been transported to WWI instead of WWII, a change which I feel doesn't exactly make sense for a downed aviator to find Themyscira by accident (the range on those flyers was not putting them out over the mid-Atlantic, and aircraft carriers barely existed at the time).

But, ignoring the logistics of aviation history, I have to say I'm as excited by this trailer as I likely am to be about anything spinning out of DC/WB's theatrical efforts.  Gadot isn't my first choice, but she seems fine in the part.  The action looks like it's not softened in the slightest and the Amazons are living up to their potential from the comics if this trailer is to be believed.

Like Captain America, the action is likely to move to the modern era for any sequels, which kind of begs the question "why set it in WWI when it's going to draw so many comparisons to Captain America?"  It's not like we've lacked for military conflict in the past 20 years.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: The Return of Tarzan (by ERB, 1913)



What's most surprising about reading a 1913 Tarzan novel is, really, in many ways how modern it feels.  Whether ERB was reflective of a particular brand of cliff-hanger storytelling or whether he shaped a lot of what I think of as a feature of modern adventure entertainment - it's pretty amazing how much you can see of how the adventures of Tarzan work, structurally, in comics and adventure television of all stripes (and probably books, but I don't read that much of this sort of thing).

Tarzan's origin is detailed in the first half of the first book, most of the rest of the book providing the set-up for the ensuing adventures (or, more of the origin, I guess).  This second book picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first as Jane takes off with not-Tarzan, aka: William Clayton (but Tarzan's cousin, who is Lord Greystoke as far as the world is concerned).

It's important to point out that ERB's Tarzan is not the "me Tarzan, you Jane" of the Johnny Weissmuller films.  He's a hyper-intelligent super human who picks up languages the way I pick up unnecessary action figures.  You kind of have to dump everything you've ever read about actual feral-children, maybe one of the saddest things you're likely to read about, and buy into the premise that Tarzan is a really well-adjusted guy in many ways for someone who eats raw flesh and speaks gorilla.

That said - the arc of this second novel is about Tarzan deciding who and what he will be.  And, putting up with a shady Russian who keeps turning up like a bad penny.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jungle Watch: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)



In some ways it's a goddamn crime that the version of Tarzan that Millennials grew up with was saddled with Phil Collins music and Rosie O'Donnell's voice blasting like an air-horn throughout.  I recently tried to re-watch the Disney version of Tarzan, and for all the technical achievements of the film, that "let's do things tied entirely to what's popular in the moment", upon reconsideration, makes the film a grating mess.

I guess Gen X may have been the last generation to be given Tarzan to enjoy in steady doses.  I remember watching black and white Tarzan on TV as a kid, and I have to assume it was Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan with Cheeta.  It's also possible we were watching later movies, the 1960's TV series...   Who knows? Tarzan has known a lot of incarnations in film and television, including maybe the version that really informed me most about Tarzan, the 1970's-era cartoon show.

Before the release of 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, Marvel put out a Tarzan magazine comic which covered the first half of the first Tarzan novel.


And this was really what informed me as to the more detailed version of Tarzan's origin.

Like a lot of kids, we played "Tarzan", even if I can't really recall what that meant other than climbing whatever we could get a grip on around the yard and imagining we'd made friends and foes of the 10 or so jungle animals we could name.  But being able to talk to monkeys and lions seemed like a pretty good deal to us.  The 70's and 80's were still safely within the 20th Century, and the notion of High Adventure was still very much a marketable commodity at the time, across nearly all genres, and Tarzan was right at the center of that.

I finally watched the original Johnny Weissmuller movie and read the actual Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of Tarzan of the Apes just last year.  The book is a book of its time, as is the movie, and both have their place in history.  While the prose of the novel may be purple and many ideas in the book would now seem dated, the story still holds as an adventure and romance.  And if we're looking for our own cultural DNA, both Tarzan and ERB's John Carter are vital to understanding what was to come with superheroes and superhumans in fiction and popular culture, and - of course - that's now escalated to culture writ large with fifth generation offspring of Burroughs' creations throwing shields in billion dollar movies.

All that to say, I was a bit pre-disposed to want to see a new Tarzan movie, and, yet, I've seen very, very few of them to date.  Not even Greystoke, which I am told again and again is not worth seeing.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ape Watch: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

I had decided that for my Labor Day, I was going to watch a Planet of the Apes movie, probably the first one from 1968.  Instead, I wound up watching the recent Apes reboot reboot sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) as it started early on HBO.  A nice coincidence.



It's no secret I'm a big fan of the Planet of the Apes movies, starting with Heston.  I didn't like the Tim Burton attempt at a reboot in the slightest, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes got me back to the theater.  

The first time I saw this movie, it kind of got ruined by a drunk and/ or disorderly woman sitting behind me.  You hate to think something like that will color how you see a movie, but, boy howdy.

In the comfort of my own home, and with only Jamie and the dogs here to act drunk and disorderly, it was a lot less distracting to get through.

The movie begins after the Simian-Flu, the modern answer to the nuclear fears of the Cold War era Apes movies, has devastated humanity over the course of a decade or more.  In the forests North of the Golden Gate Bridge, the apes that escaped in the climax of Rise of the Planet of the Apes have settled and built a society.  They hunt, live in structures, communicate via sign language and seem to carry the intelligence of man.  A handy thing as "struggling with intellect versus the baser instincts of man" is the driving force of the picture.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ape Watch: Every Which Way But Loose (1978)


It's been about 24 hours since I finished watching Every Which Way But Loose (1978), and I'm glad that I didn't have time nor energy to write much about it immediately after turning off the TV.  I don't want to give the movie too much credit, but as the credits rolled, I was left thinking what an odd product of its time the movie really was.  And the more I thought about it, the odder the movie seemed.

It's action star Clint Eastwood, well established in everything from the Spaghetti Westerns he'd conquer to the Dirty Harry movies to Where Eagles Dare and Kelly's Heroes.  And then he goes off and makes a movie where it seems the biggest draw is the inexplicable inclusion of an orangutan that doesn't seem to really drive the plot.

Eastwood plays Philo Beddoe, a tow-truck driver who seems to know his only real skill is with his fists.  So good is he, he both never backs down from a fight and he earns no small amount of side-money in illegal bare-knuckle matches in parking lots and on factory floors.  He's distinctly blue-collar, as is the movie (something that would fade within 10 years), all of the characters scraping by and living outside of polite society.  Philo meets a lovely young country star, Lynn, and for once he seems interested in something beyond the next moment.

Lynn seems to be in some trouble with an ex, and departs somewhat abruptly.  Philo grabs his Orangutan and decides to follow her.

Along the way, Philo and his buddy (his brother?  I wasn't clear) Orville stumble across the same ridiculous biker gang over and over, the biker gang losing bikes and fights along the way.  And Philo accidentally draws the attention of a cop who would just as soon throw his career away to find Philo for the humiliating beating he takes in a bar.

Deep down, I think this movie was trying to be something a bit more than a movie about a guy, an ape and punching out dopey bikers and cops.  And it sort of succeeds.  There's a certain lovely pointlessness to the movie, a sort of open-ended road-trip mentality that wants to embrace absurdity that never quite ever realizes that usually there's a sort of point to the pointlessness.  Yeah, we get that Philo relates better to the silent ape than people and it's through Clyde that he works out that he's even having feelings, but, I dunno.  There's just not a whole lot of payoff that seems so close to occurring.

I'm not sure the kids are aware that as big of a deal as disco may have been in the 70's, country music was a sort of omnipresent force as well. Hee-Haw was a thing which people happily watched. The movie does have some nice cameos, and does have a pretty good theme song:



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spy Shows, Melodrama, Planet of the Apes

The only TV I had time to watch this weekend was an episode of Archer and a week-and-a-half-old episode of The Americans.  I'm still liking the show well enough, but I kind of think they need to slow it the hell down.  I'm no master spy, but having a new mission every week while you're supposed to be undercover and a sort of sleeper agent feels like a lot of missions.  Perhaps it makes sense in the context of Archer, but I'm cool with long-game sorts of scenarios and letting the domestic issues the show writers seem to want to focus on (and I welcome) broil from episode to episode is fine.

But, really, I have no complaints.

Well, one.  Every episode now seems to end with our leads in their bedroom having a whispery and angry conversation, and it's a bad pattern to get stuck in.  Yes, we need to see these two together, but somehow it reminds me of how Smallville started going downhill when every episode started ending the A Plot with 10-15 minutes left, and spent 10 minutes with Lana and Clark in Clark's barn-loft with Lana making cow eyes at each other and being weepy teens.

If the killer Russian spies turn into Clana, I shall be disappointed.

I also picked up and read the second volume of  a trade of a Planet of the Apes comics series that has to be two or three years old now.  It's well written and fantastically drawn, and, like all POTA stuff, it's also headed somewhere incredibly nihilistic and depressing.  Just showing a world where humans still talk is the start of the end of a world where humans cease talking and become primitive and beast-like by their first appearance in the Cheston films.  And, of course, when you blow up the Earth in the second movie (spoiler?), there's just not really a "and things get better" to be had.*

All of this makes it hard to go seek out the third volume as... I kind of know how all this wraps up.  Hmmm...

Mostly, I worked on Saturday, and today I made a cake for Jamie's birthday.  And then we made dinner.  And now I'm sort of done.  And the weekend is over, and we're starting all over again.





*yes, there are three more films after they blow up Earth.  What of it?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

King Kong Released March 2, 1933

I don't remember a time in my life where I didn't generally like the concept of King Kong.  One of the books I remember best from about the age of 4 or 5 was a story book of King Kong, based on the 1933 film with nice illustrations, that my folks read to me.  In the way things are when you're a kid, I just knew who King Kong was, already.  I knew he'd climbed buildings and wreaked havoc, but not much else.

if Kong can make it over there, he can make it anywhere...!


I saw the 1970's Jessica Lange/ Jeff Bridges/ Charles Grodin version on TV around 1st grade, right up until Kong was walking through New York and stepped on some people and, I still recall, me freaking out a little.

By the mid-80's, my folks dropped me and Jason and someone else (I think our own Matt A.) off at Showplace 6 to go see King Kong Lives.  If you've not see it, and I haven't since a brief cable run shortly after it was in the theater, it was amazing.  Oddly, it never really took off as a fan favorite.  It does star a young Linda Hamilton.

One evening when I was in high school AMC finally ran the original, and I taped it in glorious VHS and then watched it, like, three times.  If I liked King Kong as an idea before, I adored the original movie.

If you've never seen it, it's an amazing technical masterpiece for the time.  The stop-motion animation and miniatures are terrifically seamless with the practical sets and actors, the puppetry for Kong manages to create a true character, and the entire Empire State Building Sequence is just truly a remarkable feat.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: King Kong (1933)

I was in high school before I got to see King Kong (1933) in its entirety, and I've probably seen it almost a dozen times since.  Before that I had seen both the 1976 version of King Kong with Jessica Lange and the almost forgotten King Kong Lives (1986) in the theater.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

General Update: SXSW, Books, This week's Comics, Pop Art

Howdy!

While I'm still not firing on all cylinders, I'm so much better than this time last week.  Basically, I think I'll have a cough and sinus issues for a while, and I don't want to risk 30 minutes on the elliptical til this weekend, but I'm basically back up to firing speed.

SXSW

As we say in Austin, "South By" is on.  Tomorrow begins the musical portion, and I will not get to see Bruce Springsteen.

We missed Nathan this year as we were a sick house, and in no condition to get the house prepped, even had I not worried about hacking a lung all over him.  From watching him on Facebook, it looks like he had another great few days of coverage of the Film portion.

Some other friends from Seattle (if you knew me back in The Day, you might know them) showed up.  The My, Bryan M and their two bandmates.  We grabbed a meal with them and then they came to my office this week at work just to see me and see what I'm up to, which cracked me up.  Unfortunately I still haven't felt well enough to go out to any of their showcase shows.

Books

I just re-read A Princess of Mars and am starting Gods of Mars, the second John Carter book by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I'd like to read at least the first three novels (especially as they came in a handy, single volume from Simon & Shuster for a really reasonable price).  Meanwhile, I decided to countermeasure that by giving 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke a listen as an audio book during my commute.

Yes, I've seen the movie a half-dozen times, but I'd always heard such good things about the book, and I wasn't ready to jump right into Rendevous with Rama.  If I like 2001, I will add that one to my bucket list.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thanks to Randy!

The Amazing Rando, our own RandyT, sent me a surprise package in the mail.  No idea what inspired this outpouring of generosity, but with two Jill Thompson books and a vintage Planet of the Apes book, Randy wins the week for being my favorite person with whom I do not share a house or who is not related to me in some way.

Way to go, Rando!


 Step it up, Jim.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Signal Watch Watches: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Anyone who brings up the Planet of the Apes franchise around me is going to regret that slip of the tongue. I love the Apes. I love not just the premise of Cheston landing on a strange planet where Apes evolved and man did not (ahem, SPOILERS) but the twist ending that lets you know this was a Rod Serling Joint.


I love that there are four more Apes movies of varying quality with a bizarre and twisted time-travel logic to them. I love Roddy McDowell as Cornelius and Caesar, and Kim Hunter as Zira. I love Cheston as Cheston on a planet full of intelligent Apes. I love the fact that Beneath the Planet of the Apes stars James Franciscus, who is sort of a mini-Cheston AND Cheston.

I'm not old enough to have participated in the Apes phenomenon the first time around, and while I watched the movies as a kid (and liked them), it was in college that I became obsessed. Like all good sci-fi, it was a terrific inversion of our world and our way of looking at our fellow beings.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

new "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" footage looks promising

I can't help but wonder - can movie audiences deal with a movie that is science fiction but not necessarily an action movie?

This clip looks very promising when you consider the themes of the Planet of the Apes movies.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" trailer

There's a new trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes that echoes quite a bit from the turn taken in the 3rd Apes film of the original series where we came to understand how and why the Apes rose and that man wasn't exactly innocent in the scenario. Sure, they've drastically changed the continuity of the films, but this still looks interesting.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

By the way, there's a Planet of the Apes comic out, and its really pretty good

In the midst of all this Planet of the Apes movie hullabaloo, I'd be remiss if I did not mention the current Planet of the Apes comic (from Boom!) which saw its second issue released last week. 

I can almost hear the Jerry Goldsmith music in my head
The two names on the cover are Daryl Gregory (writer) and Carlos Magno (artist), and I tip my hat to both.  I'm not overly familiar with either person's work, but both obviously referenced the heck out of the Apes movies, but set the comic in a period not covered in the movie series explicitly.  Doing some math, the suggestion is that this story occurs shortly after the framing sequence of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, or roughly 600 years after the main action in Battle

In just two short issues, Gregory has managed to frame his world within the grand scope of the Apes movies, set up multiple characters, the political situation, and reference the transitions occurring that would need to occur for the state of things between (chronologically) Battle and Planet of the Apes.  I'm impressed.

Artist Magno's style fits the material very well, with the rough-hewn world of the Apes and Humans pulling up a new civilization with hints of the old.  His faces are pretty great, and hew well to the style of the Ape makeup from the movies but using the freedom given to him by the pen to get anatmoy up to a grander scale on gorillas, etc...

I confess to some confusion at the... uh... very human anatomy of chimpanzee Alaya, but what I had dismissed as a Ren-Faire style to her dress actually makes quite a bit of sense after watching multiple hours worth of Apes movies.

Anyhow, this can't be a full recommendation as this is only the second issue, but I'm enjoying the series thus far.  Other Apes fans (even non-comic readers) should check it out.  Its a great bit of expansion on the film series and I really like Daryl Gregory's writing.