Warcraft (2016)

The world of Warcraft is a massive franchise created by Blizzard Entertainment back in 1994. I say world, but maybe I should say universe because world simply seems too small for this sprawling product. Warcraft is mainly made up of five core videogames for PC’s which revolve around; online multiplayer role-play, strategies and digital card collecting. But it doesn’t end there, the franchise also includes novels, comics, manga, tabletop games, collectible cards etc…Now some may recognise a similarity to Games Worskshop’s Warhammer franchise, and I don’t blame you. Legend has it Blizzard originally wanted to make Warcraft a game set in the Warhammer universe, but things just didn’t work out. And as they say, the rest is history.

So onto the movie and trying to condense this ginormous Tolkien-esque universe into a reasonable length runtime. Basically what we have here is a story from two perspectives, one from the human side and one from the orc side. On the orc side of things, Draenor, the orc homeworld is being destroyed by a power called fel magic. So the all powerful (and nasty) orc warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) opens a portal to the realm of Azeroth (where humans live). Obviously their aim is to conquer this new realm/world, and make it their own. On the flip side the humans that dwell within this realm are none too happy about this, so they take up arms against the orcs. On the orc side we follow Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and a generally level-headed orc. Durotan isn’t too sure about Gul’dan’s evil plans. And on the human side…well we follow many characters, Kings, knights, mages etc…

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Dare I mention an amusingly unfortunate parallel? You know, masses of invaders swarming across a foreign land occupied by a predominantly white people (clearly of medieval European influence). Obviously this is a large coincidence, but the minute it dawned on me I had to laugh.

The huge worry with this movie (for me) was whether or not I would be able to become engaged in the story not knowing that much about the Warcraft franchise. I know of the franchise, the basics, but I’ve never played the games or read the books etc…I’m pretty sure this would be the general worry for all, how could they squeeze all this information into one opening movie without overwhelming people. What about people who are newbies to the franchise. Well in all honesty they don’t really address this problem too well in my opinion as questins are raised almost immediately.

OK so fel magic is destroying the orc world, right…what’s fel magic then? Unless I missed it (which is entirely possible) they don’t actually explain what this mysterious force is. What happens to the orc world of Draenor? Does it end up being completely uninhabitable? How does Gul’dan know of Azeroth? I realise he’s a powerful sorcerer but are these different realms/worlds common knowledge to orcs? Did Gul’dan know that humans lived there? Again I realise Gul’dan is a bad guy but maybe they could of entered Azeroth and used diplomacy? Or maybe he could of found a realm/world that didn’t have lifeforms living in it? I know some of these points would negate the whole point of the movie but I’m just throwing them out there ya know.

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There were also other small plot devices that just didn’t seem too well explained to me. Fel magic seems to be the bane of the orcs, seeing as its destroying their homeworld, yet they also rely on it quite a lot. Gul’dan appears to use it all the time, in fact his powers seem to revolve around fel magic. He uses it to harvest souls from captives (the Draenei, another species on Draenor) in order to power the portal through to Azeroth. He also uses it to save Durotan’s baby when it is stillborn. So it does appear that fel magic can be used for many things, good or bad depending how you look at it. But again later on in the movie, Medivh the guardian of Tirisfal (Ben Foster, a goodie), somehow becomes infected with fel magic and it consumes him, turning him into a powerful demon. But why a demon? How does this magic work exactly? Are there any limitations? Does the magic have a natural leaning towards good or evil, or does it depend on who uses it?

Leaving fel magic aside, what about the rest, the visuals? Well I have to say I really enjoyed what I saw, much to my amazement. The orcs do actually look really good in a comicbook kinda way. Let me explain, basically Warcraft has a lot in common with Games Workshop’s Warhammer; and Warhammer fantasy has a very comicbook-esque/graphic novel-like vibe about it, I think. By that I mean its very lively, bold, stylised, highly detailed and outlandish. Its all very different to the darker and more serious tone in Tolkien’s work. The orcs in this movie have that highly stylised, highly detailed look about them which is both over the top and genuinely fun to look at. I loved how each orc had his own unique armour, some adorned with trophies; weapons, haircuts, horns, facial features, skin colour, battle or clan standards etc…Orc chieftain Blackhand (Clancy Brown) was a good example with his matching trophies of some creatures skull and spinal column upon each shoulder.

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The CGI was really solid for the orcs I felt, they really had a lot of weight to them and they genuinely looked intimidating. In turn this did make the battles against the humans kinda daft because I really couldn’t help but feel the orcs would/should be squatting the humans like flies. Sure the orcs are slower but the human knights were encased in heavy armour so they would be slow too. Surely the orcs would just sweep through the human ranks no sweat, hell even a horse was no match for a regular orc. I must also give kudos for the design work on the knights of Stormwind, along with all the other characters magical or otherwise. I really liked the costume designs, colours, patterns, armour, weapons etc…It all looked really great, very colourful and again very comicbook-esque. I honesty loved how the knights looked, really brought back memories of The Empire from Warhammer.

I think the only thing that did look completely off in the movie was the character of Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton), half-orc half-draenei (but spoke English?). This character was not CGI but the actress under heavy makeup, or so you would think. Unfortunately this makeup looked very hokey with the silly fangs sticking out of her mouth; it literally looked like they just sprayed her up with green body paint. Mind you the all CGI dwarfs looked a tad iffy too, as did the elves with their long thin ears and glowing eyes. But still despite the amount of CGI in this movie I can’t believe I’m reporting that most of it was actually pretty fine. Much was obviously CGI but nothing terrible, your standard large CGI creatures/animals were all passable if obvious. I did quite like the large wolves the orcs rode, again harking back to my Warhammer days here.

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I’m not gonna lie and say this movie was plain sailing, far from it. There are a shit load of peculiar names, magical terms, species/race names, location names etc…that will confuse and disorient you. Many of the characters will refer to places, events and characters that will mean nothing. Much of the time you will forget who’s called what, or who or what they’re talking about (unless you’re a fanboy of course). There is a large cast here and their characters all have generally odd names. Some of the cast don’t really work, some surprisingly do, but overall the choice to use mostly unknown or little known actors was a very good decision, voice work and live action.

Whether or not the hardcore fanbase was pleased with this I don’t really know. Would a newbie to this world be engaged? I think so yes. I firmly believe this fantasy does tick all the boxes most fans of the genre would expect to see, on a satisfactory level. Durotan is a likeable…umm…greenish monster, a solid late in the day hero. Gul’dan is your typically evil pantomime-esque villain with a deep gravely voice (also covered in lots of bone trophies and horns). Garona does the divided loyalties bit with aplomb. Ben Foster’s wizard Medivh spouts enough mystical mumbo jumbo to please any avid Dungeons & Dragons fanboy. You’ve also got a stoic King and Queen, and of course the main handsome hero (and poor mans Aragorn) Anduin Lothar, played by Travis Fimmel.

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The movie isn’t as wide in scope as the Tolkien universe, it does feel a bit confined to a few locations, mainly some interiors and battlegrounds. You can see a lot in the visually pleasing backgrounds, but that’s all you get, pretty backgrounds. You never really feel like this world is explored much. The action is brutal and fun, but not bloody or gory which was a bit disappointing with all the mega sized orc weapons. The heavy CGI is excellent in places but somewhat insubstantial in others (there is of course a tonne of flashing, glowing magical effects and greenscreen). And lastly the main problem is the array of human characters that are generally generic and lifeless, in short you don’t really care about them.

Yet despite the numerous faults with this huge huge fantasy franchise undertaking, I liked what I saw. Yes as strange as it may seem, I did like and enjoy this movie…and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Probably the combination of the visuals, various details and some lovely bits of stylistic flair from director Duncan Jones. Wrap all that in a nice warm blanket of nostalgia from my old table top Warhammer gaming days; and I actually find myself liking this bloated CGI stuffed Hollywood blockbuster.

7/10

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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Ah a freshly rebooted monsterverse, no not that dark monsterverse…that’s some other rebooted franchise wannabe. This is a different rebooted monsterverse from Legendary Entertainment, not to be confused with the multitude of other cinematic universe franchises, failing or otherwise (ugh!).

As this is yet another reboot attempt Legendary and its director decided to go a slightly different route for this monster mash. That slightly different route was setting this movie in 1973 towards the end of the Vietnam War. Basically everything you’d expect to happen in a Kong movie happens here (bunch of military and scientist types go to explore mystery island, find monsters, double cross, fight for survival etc…), but its in 1973 during Nam. Now I initially thought this was quite a neat idea because it was different, and because they did a really good job for the first half of the movie making it look like a Nam war flick (loved seeing all the retro gear).

But dare I say that maybe, just maybe, they went a tad too far in trying to make this Nam element look as authentic as possible. As I’ve already said the movie does look great, they have recaptured the mood of many Nam flicks perfectly with the grubby visuals, presumably using a specific type of film to get that retro look or just fiddling with it in the edit. You could easily be mistaken for thinking you were watching a Nam flick from the 80’s. All the regular Nam cliches and stereotypes are all present and correct with the soldiers and their goofing around, their personally modified military attire, their language, the sweeping camera moves to capture helicopters in flight, the way the soldiers ride their vehicles etc…It all looks really really good.

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Thing is I couldn’t help but think to myself, this is a King Kong movie, not a Nam war movie. Are you trying to make a monster mash movie here or just recreate the Vietnam war era? This leads me to another little peeve of mine, the soundtrack. Again, I realise the movie was set during Nam, I realise the director and co were going for an authentic vibe, but Jesus Christ the constant music playing became annoying. Yes we get it, this is during the Vietnam war, you really [b]really[/b] didn’t have to have the soldiers playing music for the start of every new scene. Overall I just thought they were trying a bit too hard with this section of the movie.

Anyway, the Nam section comes to an end and we enter the meat of the movie. We reach the mysterious Skull Island that is shrouded by a massive swirling storm, keeping it hidden. OK so the storm has kept the island hidden from sight but you’re telling me no one had ever seen this massive storm before? No one has ever ventured into it out of scientific curiosity? And how does this perpetual storm remain in place?

Skull Island itself is a lush Jurassic Park type affair that is infested with all manner of giant beasties. From huge spider-like insectoids with legs that look like bamboo. Another giant bug-like insect that can camouflages itself as a felled log. A giant squid living in the island waters apparently. Mega sized…errr…ox? And of course the main beastie baddies which look like large reptilian creatures with an exoskeleton covering their faces (Skullcrawlers). The creatures were imaginative and well designed but more importantly believable. Although, you still have the issue of when these creatures battle each other there doesn’t often appear to be consequences, initially. When Kong fights the large reptilian Skullcrawlers (or anything) he’s throwing them around, beating them with tree trunks, stomping on them etc…but they just keep getting back up apparently unharmed. The old tactic of throwing the opponent happens often in these movies, we see this in superhero flicks too. Of course Kong eventually kills his opponent but they like to drag these things out.

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The same can be said for the human characters that whip out their guns and barrage these creatures in a hail of bullets. Yet nearly every time these creatures don’t appear to be affected by the gunfire (which I don’t understand). No matter how big or powerful the gun, they never seem to do anything against these monsters, yet the humans keep relying on their guns. Its like…don’t they see the guns are having no effect? I realise that’s all they’ve got but dude come on, stop firing and get the hell outta there. That’s not to say it isn’t exciting to watch, its just dumb at the same time. Its kinda like the numerous times that Kong appears out of nowhere and surprises a human character. How in the hell does an ape of that size manage to casually walk around and not draw attention to himself? At the same time how could anyone not know this mega sized, 100 foot tall, bipedal ape was coming in their general direction??

As for the human characters, well they’re all a predictable, dull, hollow bunch really. Samuel L. Jackson plays the patriotic military leader who’s basically gone a bit off the rails seeing his men killed by Kong, thusly he is obsessed with killing Kong. Yep despite all the odds this guy simply doesn’t take no for an answer, he’s gonna take down Kong and that’s that. Tom Hiddleston plays the good looking, heroic, macho adventurer in a tight t-shirt that can do no wrong and saves the day. Brie Larson is merely the attractive female that still manages to tame Kong even in this movie.

Something that felt completely outta place and crowbarred in. John C. Reilly is your standard marooned bearded bloke who’s gone a bit loopy (kinda like Alan Parrish outta ‘Jumanji’). And John Goodman plays the devious Monarch official who lies to everyone about going to Skull Island (he’s basically Burke outta ‘Aliens’). Then throw in some random diversity box ticking for some other background characters who literally didn’t need to be in the movie.

We do see the native people of Skull Island and their home but unfortunately that is not explored in any real way. We get hints at their lifestyle, how they somehow survive, their culture etc…but nothing more. They are just there to help the plot along. Most of the US troops are faceless expendable monster fodder bar one or two, but you don’t really care about any of them. One soldier decides to kill (or sacrifice) himself towards the end, no clue why he does this, he just does presumably because the director thought it would be cool? I dunno. Then in the climatic battle between Kong and the mega (Queen?) Skullcrawler, I noticed Kong somehow manages to rip out the creatures innards with the same hand he’s holding Brie Larson in. Or so it seemed to me.

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I haven’t mentioned the visuals simply because you should all know by now they will be good, very good. Kong looks incredible, the other creatures look incredible, the island looks beautiful and the action is extremely agreeable. There is also a reasonable amount of blood and gore here too which was a nice surprise, certainly not for the family this one. Overall you don’t actually get much Kong for your buck (much like ‘Godzilla’) so there’s that. Although the finale throwdown is highly gratifying (lots of throwing being key here). You obviously spend much more screen time with the human characters, but alas they are all pretty throwaway in my opinion. There are too many characters, we don’t get to know them and in the end you simply don’t care about them. The off-kilter humour at times also did not help.

If I can say this, the 2014 ‘Godzilla’ movie felt like a slightly more sensible affair, a touch more of a monster action thriller vibe about it. This movie has more of a comicbook vibe about it if you ask me. It felt a bit more silly and leaned more towards something like 1995’s ‘Congo’, mixed with bits of ‘Apocalypse Now’ or any number of Nam war flicks. And of course we have the usual issue of this movie coming across more as filler for a bigger better movie later on down the line that features a famous giant reptilian monster. That’s not to say this was a bad movie, its not, its essentially about King Kong punching and destroying stuff, how is that bad? Well its not, its fun and it looks cool. Unfortunately that’s about it, overall its very shallow, tonally mixed and is clearly riding Marvel’s coattails…but I did enjoy it.

7/10

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The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (aka Vynález Zkázy, CZ, 1958)

This black and white film is based on several books by Jules Verne but primarily his 1896 book Facing the Flag. The basic hook of this film being the unique approach to the special effects by director Karel Zeman.

The plot sees a gang of pirates kidnapping a professor so they can get their hands on his new invention. Said invention being a powerful new weapon combined with special liquid which they want to use for their piracy. The pirates manage to kidnap the professor and one of his assistants and take them to their hidden base (inside a large remote hollow island). There the pirates provide everything the professor needs to build his weapon. In the meantime the assistant manages to get word to the outside world eventually leading to a British fleet arriving to deal with the pirates.

The combination of live action and various forms of animation and effects were the way Zeman created his vision. Although this was not the first time he had taken this approach for his work. Zeman’s 1955 film ‘Journey to the Beginning of Time’ also used a combination of live action, animation and hand drawn elements. The animation and effects in question for this film were stop motion animation, matte painting, miniatures, three-dimensional props and texture superimposition.

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Indeed the visuals in this film are quite astounding to say the least. I reckon most would be amazed to know this film was made back in 1958 as it could easily be a modern movie. Its not too hard to imagine Tim Burton being the director behind this feature with its steampunk imagery. Yes that’s right I did say steampunk, this film could well be the first introduction of the popular Victorian steampunk/gothic subgenre (inspired by 19th century industrialism). If you take the visuals from Disney’s 1954 movie ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, put them in black and white, and then add the artistic style of using parallel lines (almost like cross-hatching with ink) across all props and sets, you have an idea if what to expect here.

The stark parallel line imagery was in fact Zeman’s attempt at recreating the old Victorian line engravings that were featured in the original Verne novels. This style actually works wonders in giving everything a very detailed and used appearance. The whole world we see in the film looks worn and weather beaten, as opposed to looking shiny and new. A technique we all know has been used effectively by a few directors and their movies in years since. The technique also gives the imagery depth and a grand old fashioned vibe which admittedly predominantly comes from when the film was made. Altogether it makes the whole affair look like a living comicbook or moving picture book.

To be honest the film does come across as more of a living comicbook than a movie really. All you get is basically one scene after another showcasing a piece of machinery, or a vehicle, or a landscape etc…Its literally like watching panels in a comicbook one after another. There is very little dialog, sometimes narration, and sometimes nothing other than the moving imagery and the noise it makes. At times its almost like a silent picture but with fantastic visuals. I really can’t stress enough how stunning this film looks at times. Sure some of the shots look a bit shaky, some look almost too much like an illustration, and in some the stop motion is pretty jerky. On the flip side some shots with live action elements are remarkable because you can’t see the joins! The blend of the actors against moving three-dimensional props and background/foreground mattes, or drawings, is flawless. Overall considering the age of this movie what they achieved is incredible.

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Of course being a film based on Jules Verne you can’t not have underwater sequences with the inevitable attacking giant squid. Its these sequences which mainly make up the most impressive and fantastical visual elements of the film. The imagination shown in these sequences is spectacular and have clearly helped inspire other filmmakers. Watching the various oddly shaped submarines (some with flipper-like paddles) and personal underwater pedal bike things, which the deep sea divers use, is glorious. I could feel my mind being cracked open…letting my imagination escape and run free. Apart from the slightly dated stop motion animation these sequences also highlighted some little errors which were amusing. Such as the divers moving perfectly normally underwater using their weapons normally. Also one sequence where a sub manages to find and pick up the hero from the seabed seemed a bit fortuitous and ludicrous. All in all its still impressive how they managed to convey the deep sea with mere sets, hand drawn props and a slightly wavy blur effect across the whole image.

With a story based around pirates, mysterious islands, nautical swashbuckling, Nemo-like machinery and dashing Victorians in uniform, what more could anyone want? Beautifully lavish visuals that have clearly been given tonnes of attention; Zeman seems to have been a perfectionist for sure. The final results are clear to see. The plot may be thin on the ground but for anyone who appreciates the art form of stop motion animation along with ingenious high fantasy imagery, then this is for you.

9/10

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The Ice Pirates (1984)

Oh George Lucas, what did you bring upon us with your earth-shattering movie of 1977. The answer to that is of course an absolute multitude of knock-off’s, clones, wannabes and homages. This long forgotten oddity is what you might call a very light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek Star Wars knock-off.

The plot takes place in the distant future, presumably in a galaxy far far away, where water has become an extremely scarce and valuable resource (not too original eh). In fact H20 is so valuable that its actually used as a form of currency in ice cube form. Naturally only one planet is not affected by this, Mithra, home of the evil Templars. And of course they want to keep it this way ensuring their dominance over the galaxy. But as expected there are space pirates that battle the Templars for their control of the water. One such band of pirates (led by Jason, Robert Urich) stumble across a Princess whilst trying to pinch the watery cargo from one Templar ship. In turn they also discover that this Princesses father is thought to have discovered a planet with water, thing is he has also disappeared. So the Princess hires the pirates to find her father and hopefully the watery planet. On their tail are the Templars who do not want this secret being discovered.

OK so the first thing I have to point out is, this is quite literally a film about pirates in space. The movies title isn’t just there to look and sound cool. The heroes literally steal ice, and they are all literally pirates complete with cutlasses, wide belts with big fat belt buckles, cavalier type boots, and poet shirts with lacing down the front. This whole pirate look is blended in with the more typically cliched futuristic sci-fi look. On one hand a shabby, used and weather beaten universe. On the other hand shiny uniforms and ships (basically Mad Max and Star Wars). Interestingly they also throw in some medieval fashions in there too. Yep the Templar foot soldiers (on-board ships) appear to wear medieval knight attire such as full body chain mail etc…

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Now despite how the movie may come across with its obvious similarities to other space set fantasies in its poster and trailer, this movie isn’t really for kids. OK sure there are lots of childish elements like the various silly robots, the slapstick etc…But this movie does have some moments of violence, gore, sex and umm…castration. Let me be clear, this isn’t an R/18 rated type movie, but it has fun bits for the adults. There is a very wet and somewhat in depth softcore sex scene.There are a few scenes of people losing limbs complete with blood. One of the pirates (Zeno, Ron Perlman) loses his hand early on. In one of the more shocking sequences the sexy female pirate (Maida, Anjelica Houston) gets into a sword fight with some bounty hunter fellow and cuts his head off! Its actually quite unexpected and there are no cuts, you see it come right off. And yes in one sequence it is shown that the Templars turn prisoners into slaves by cutting of their balls with a set of robotic steel jaws.

I didn’t really get the whole eunuch slave thing. They go through the process of having their balls cut off (and a lobotomy as well apparently), and come out afterwards with white hair and eyebrows? I guess the shock of having your balls bitten off by a steel trap could be the reason why your hair turns white; but when they are all lined up to be inspected (in white lycra catsuits) its quite clear that these eunuchs still have a lunchbox. One potential buyer even comments on a slaves lunchbox, but surely they shouldn’t have lunchboxes?

Anyway what space fantasy is complete without a generic desert planet or desert scene. Well don’t fret because of course this movie has one of those. Its actually one of the more interesting looking locations, just a shame we don’t spend much time there. For some reason desert terrain always looks good on camera, it always looks authentic and suits fantasy films perfectly. I always liked this part when I was a kid, I think it was that [i]Mad Max[/i]-esque battering ram with huge wheels. This little action sequence is probably the best in the movie despite being very brief. Some nice explosions, a few stunts, a bad guy getting run over and crushed under one of the huge wheels, cool stuff.

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Anyway what space fantasy is complete without generic scantily clad, female amazonian warriors. Well don’t fret because of course this movie has some of them too. They are all highly sexy, they are all very scantily clad, they are all seemingly submissive to their male leader (phew!), and they all seemingly hate outsiders…men and women (indeed). Yes you guessed it, it isn’t long before our hero gets restrained in a very hot and steamy situation after the amazonians wrestle him to ground. Oh no! please don’t straddle me and wrap your legs around my face, scantily clad sexy ladies! This movie seems to have an obsession with body parts too because the male character we meet in this location (Wendon, Bruce Vilanch) appears to be just a head. Presumably another robot but I’m not actually sure, but its another opportunity for a head to roll around.

Anyway what space fantasy is complete without a sequence set in a smokey, scummy space bar complete with aliens, space mercs, bounty hunters, space wh*res, ruffians…you get the idea.

The movie is a bit jumbled overall in hindsight, there are many many ideas being thrown around from many sources. Its like the director was overwhelmed and couldn’t decide which ideas to rip-off, so he did them all. Hell there’s even an ‘Alien’ rip-off (homage?) subplot with this little worm thing that hatches out of an egg and slithers amok on the ship. At one point this thing bursts out of the crews turkey dinner. Turns out its space herpes, which I’m guessing was suppose to be a crude joke at the time, but now falls totally flat. This subplot simply goes nowhere despite it running for most of the movie. Its just there as a joke.

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The effects are also a very mixed bag. There are one or two matte painting shots with live action foregrounds that look really good (and familiar). Some of the sets and props are well designed and built; some look reasonably authentic as if they could actually work. The spaceship/space effects are pretty poor though, considering this came along way after ‘Star Wars’ its a bit shameful really. Then you have the various robots which include actual real robots of the era that do fit in quite well, but were limited in movement. The bulk of the robots are men in suits and very hokey. Rudimentary robotic movements, you can see the suits bending and creasing, plus the God awful slapstick and fights they get into are extremely stupid and infantile. I complain but I don’t really think the effects were ever meant to be taken seriously. Sure they tried but its clear to see this feature was more of a cheeky comedy, hence the effects were never supposed to be groundbreaking (think ‘Spaceballs’).

When I was a kid I loved this movie because I obviously enjoyed it, and it felt like I was watching a movie for adults. It felt like I was being a bit naughty, I felt like I was more grown up…even though my folks were fine with me watching it. Looking back this movie has faded somewhat and lost its excitement factor for me. Robert Urich is certainly an underrated hero with his looks and might have been a better Lone Starr than Bill Pullman, who knows. The rest of the cast is definitely a curiosity and quite star studded these days but none of them really added much to the proceedings. It just doesn’t really feel like a movie, more like a made for TV movie, the style of the end credits kinda reinforce that vibe. A product of its time for sure.

5.5/10

Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)

So when this movie starts we get the standard introduction for a watery monster flick, a live action shot of the ocean rolling and crashing against the rocks. Over said standard introduction we of course get the opening credits which lists our main players. The interesting thing was, once the credits had finished we get some narration. This narration informs us of where and how this movie was shot. I’ve never come across that before, it was odd to say the least, kinda took you out of the movie…for a moment.

The plot to this deep sea tale is a very basic affair, let me explain in the simplest of terms. Julie, a beautiful young woman (Anne Kimbell) goes on vacation in Mexico. Whilst there she meets young handsome marine biologist Dr. Baldwin (Dick Pinner) and they slowly fall in love. The end…nah only joking.

After Julie hears a mysterious story about the death of a diver she becomes curious and decides to do some digging. Naturally Dr. Baldwin is skeptical but because he loves her so much he goes along with the investigation. After much deliberating, various tests and chats with the locals, the duo eventually discover that there is indeed a large monster on the rampage in this sleepy Mexican coastal region.

So what is the monster you ask? Well its obviously not gonna be a shark, crab or giant eel or whatever because that’s too boring. At first I thought it might be a giant octopus, which we are presented with at one point. Luckily its not that either. During the brave duos investigation they actually discover (by accident) a strange piece of gloop. Now because Dr. Baldwin is of course a scientist he knows exactly what to do, stick it under his trusty microscope. After much important scientific type spiel which I’m sure nobody would really listen too intently, they come to the conclusion its a piece of mutated amoeba. Its right at that moment that you the viewer realises that the large roaming monster is in fact a large mutated amoeba. A result of atomic testing? Actually this time I don’t think so.

Yes the big beastie is actually a large, umm…octopus looking amoeba with one huge comical eye that glows. It looks more like a space alien really. The creature in question looks to be a puppet on strings against an underwater set of varying quality. The creatures large glowing eye is actually pretty cool I thought, definitely brought it to life and gave it some character. Alas it also made it look like a Scooby-Doo monster from the cartoons.

Next to that you of course have a lot of stock footage of various sea creatures and a reasonable amount of underwater sequences shot with real divers. There does in fact appear to be a real sequence where a diver fights off a real shark with a knife, and the production does seem to have and utilise a real minisub. Its also worthy to note that this movie does appear to have a score that closely resembles a certain Steven Spielberg movie. Believe it or not but that famous/infamous musical tune does actually appear in this movie. Not the exact same score of course but its damn close. Hmmm I wonder Mr. Spielberg.

Other than that its all business as usual really. The Mexican locals are all your bog standard, obligatory stereotypes. Horrendous accents, the men have huge moustaches and the women are all old and covered in veils (although the director, Wyott Ordung, is actually the main stereotypical Mexican local). Dr. Baldwin and all the other scientist blokes generally act like male chauvinists, patronising Julie all the time. Julie often speaks sense, is hard working and is willing to go the extra mile to get to the bottom of the mystery. On the other hand Dr. Baldwin merely thinks this is adorable and treats her like a puppy.

Heck there’s even a sequence where Dr. Baldwin serenades Julie on the rocks by the ocean in a highly cringeworthy scene that feels somewhat out of place. Not that it matters because the movie was lost way before this. The reason being its just too boring, nothing really happens…like ever! We only see some monster action right at the very end and even then its woefully brisk. We don’t see any other creatures or people getting eaten, no carcasses, no tension, no thrills, just lots of talk, some romance and underwater jiggery-pokery. Yeah the giant amoeba is kinda fun to look at but there needed to be way way more of it.

3/10

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Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

There have been many tales of the infamous 1789 incident at sea. The 1984 movie with Mel Gibson was by far the most realistic, but I have not seen the 1935 Clarke Gable movie. And then we have this 1962 movie with the one and only Marlon brando. Another American vision of the events but this time a highly fictionalised vision.

So as we all know by now, the story of the HMS Bounty briefly goes like this. The mission of the Bounty and her crew was to reach Tahiti, pick up a cargo of breadfruit and take it to the Caribbean (amongst other things). Upon reaching Tahiti and whilst carrying out their mission, the crew slowly become infatuated with the tropical lifestyle. The prospect of many more months at sea and going back to the cold island of the United Kingdom seemed bleak (can’t blame them). Once the crew do set sail once again months later, tensions are running high and eventually boil over with half the crew backing 1st Lt. Fletcher Christian. They cast Captain Bligh and his loyal men adrift and head back to Tahiti. Arriving back at Tahiti they aren’t welcomed as much as they were before by the natives. Christian and his crew realise that the British Navy will come for them and Tahiti will be their first port of call. So once again the mutineers set sail and eventually end up on Pitcairn Island, their new home for the rest of their lives.

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So that’s pretty much how things went officially (I believe), but that’s not how this movie went, oh no. Lets cut straight to the chase here, apparently Marlon Brando took the reigns on this film without telling anyone, including the original director Carol Reed. He just assumed control and caused a bit of a shitstorm. I won’t go into the complete ups and downs of the situation behind the camera but I believe this heavily fictionalised version of the story was down in part to Brando. Mainly Brando changing his mind on what he wanted to see, his lines, the script as a whole etc…Just the entire shoot in general.

The fact that Brando wasn’t even a good match for the young Christian kinda makes it even worse really. Fletcher Christian was a young, fresh faced man with thick dark curly/wavy hair and pale skin, a typical Brit essentially. Brando had blonde straight hair, was very tanned and was shorter than Christian. Brando clearly had problems with the accent which is cringeworthy to listen to these days and he portrayed Christian as a bit of a dandy. Sure he was dashing and admittedly an actor doesn’t have to be a clone copy of a historical figure for sure, but come on guys.

What’s really terrible is the fact that you can spot the sequences in the film which are fiction (if you know the story that is). For starters, there is absolutely nothing in this film that shows us the relationship between Fletcher Christian (Brando) and the native girl he fell for. One of the main reasons Christian is thought to have mutinied was for the love of a native girl on Tahiti, along with the lifestyle. But this is absent here, Christian seems to just mutiny because he doesn’t like Captain Bligh (Trevor Howard) and how he runs the ship, which was part of the issue but not all of it.

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This leads into Captain Bligh’s relationship with Christian as a whole. There is no relationship here, its ignored and Bligh is shown to be a vicious cruel man. Once again this is far from the truth. Bligh and Christian were known to be friends before this mission and carried on being friends throughout. Bligh was not an evil dictator who had men beaten for little reason. He may have been strict and ran a tight ship but this was very common. But in this movie Bligh is portrayed as a merciless madman, its not that long into the voyage that Bligh has one of the men lashed. Don’t get me wrong, Trevor Howard is wonderful as Bligh, his harsh, cocky, elitist persona is practically infuriating as he struts around having men keelhauled and lashed left right and centre. Its just unfortunate that this portrayal is completely wrong and almost on a superhero level of wickedness.

Keelhauled by the way was a punishment at sea where a man was restrained in rope and via a manpower pulley system, dragged along the underneath of a ships hull. Mainly port to starboard or vice versa. Once again I don’t believe this actually happened on the Bounty. Much like Bligh’s other punishments of restricting water and food rations, may have happened but I haven’t read about it.

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Some of the other evil scenes from Bligh are comical they really are. He deliberately packs the ship with twice the amount of breadfruit to look good to his superiors. But in order to accommodate this he reduces the water storage on-board. To punish the men for drinking too much water he has the drinking ladle hung from main sail rigging, so if anyone wanted a drink they’d have to climb the rigging to get the ladle. There is also a scene where Bligh is stabbed! And punched by Christian (giving Brando a conveniently butch heroic moment to revel in).

I have to mention the films finale because its literally a complete joke. According to this movie adaptation Christian and his mutineer crew do indeed reach Pitcairn Island to set up shop so to speak. But then Christian decides he and his mates should return to old blighty to face the consequences and testify against Bligh and his evil actions. The other mutineers are naturally shocked by this and decide to take matters into their own hands, they go about setting the Bounty on fire. Christian and a few others try to save the vessel but fail. Christian is mortally wounded in the process which conveniently gave Brando a juicy death sequence to revel in. This ending literally shocked me, my mouth was wide open in horror at the utter disrespect and sheer amount of pure bullshit.

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Visually the movie is incredible looking, partially shot on location in the South Pacific. The scenery, the bold colours…the lush greens and blue skies, the landscapes etc…You can’t deny these old movies could look utterly sumptuous despite being nonsensical. The Bounty was also recreated for the movie and it too looks fantastic set against the rolling blue Pacific ocean. Some shots, like the 84 movie, are so beautiful, they could be framed and on your wall. It was also very cool to see a sequence/shot that replicates the famous 1790 painting (by Robert Dodd) of Bligh and co set adrift whilst the mutineers toss breadfruit overboard.

Whilst I have to admit I did enjoy this movie, mainly down to the visuals and classic story, it is horrendously flawed as I’ve explained. All the acting is reaching an epic level as you would expect for an old silver screen classic such as this, despite all the fictional claptrap. The extra scenes set against bluescreens is unfortunately very obvious though, as are the wigs the actors are wearing because they had all had their haircut since wrapping (kinda amusing actually). In short, the scale of this production is epic, it looks epic, the cast are epic and the acting is just about reaching epic levels. Alas they butchered the story turning it from a potentially historically accurate epic, into a corny Hollywood epic. But if you love these golden oldies (as I do) then this will satisfy you I guarantee. My score reflects the loss of historical accuracy which I can’t overlook.

6.5/10

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The Neptune Factor (1973)

OK let me just start by saying, this films opening credits sequence looks so cool. The way they have rendered the movies title, text and colour wise, is super sweet. I realise this is a minor thing but I notice these little things and this just looked nice to me, kudos.

Anyway so what the heck is this all about? The title could be mistaken for a hardcore fantasy flick or a hardcore space set sci-fi flick. It is in fact a sci-fi movie all about deep sea exploration and research, dare I say a kind of very early version of ‘The Abyss’…kinda. But don’t get too excited because this movie isn’t that awesome. The plot is set deep deep beneath the ocean waves (Off Nova Scotia, north Atlantic) where a small team of scientists research undersea earthquakes. Ironically the undersea lab they are all living in gets hits by an earthquake which sends the lab tumbling down a deep ocean trench. Luckily just before this happened a few team members were leaving the lab for their leave, so now they must go back down to try and save the remaining stranded team members. Time is of the essence.

So this is an early 70’s movie and boy can you tell. All the blokes look like amateur porn stars and their hair is…lets just say dated. Its really quite amusing to see all these blokes clearly with receding hairlines but trying their best to pretend otherwise. But the women don’t get off that easy either, its quite hilarious to watch Yvette Mimieux’s hair change from scene to scene. She clearly has curly/wavy hair and has it straightened here, so in one scene you can see its been straightened (with the usual static electricity side effects). Then in the same scene but seconds later it might be all over the place as if someone just ruffed it all up.

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The technology is also fun to observe, indeed its incredible to think we could do such things back then with such outrageously dated equipment (same with the moon landing). The small submarine the team use looks quite agreeable, in other words it looks like what you’d expect a small deep sea sub to look like these days, but chunkier. Its all the internal controls which makes you smile, the array of big coloured buttons, huge metal gear-like controls and levers, massively dated VHS looking recording equipment and monitors etc…Its all so corny looking but also so heartwarming. Of course much of it may be pure fantasy and artistic license, I don’t know what the cockpit of a deep sea sub would look like so….

But here’s the thing, from the start of this movie you kinda assume its gonna be a realistic take on deep sea research. Apparently producer Sanford Howard did a lot of research himself to try and show a highly realistic vision of oceanographic research, aquanauts and the danger they encounter. For the most part this all goes well…right up to the point when they go down the deep sea trench and discover gigantic monster sized fish, anemones, crustaceans etc…All of a sudden we go from a pretty technical looking flick with real threats and real science, to an all out fantasy flick with giant crabs. Worth mentioning the fish are actually tropical yet the ocean is the Atlantic, hmmm. The crew do mention the bottom of the trench being warmed by undersea volcanoes though, but still, hmmm.

Truth be told this was a lifeline for the movie because up until that point everything had been going pretty slowly. But do the various giant sea entities help matters? Well again not really because nothing actually happens. They go down the trench, they encounter giant creatures, watch them through their viewport and that’s it. The giant fish merely swim past or have a nose, the crabs and lobster merely walk around, sea anemones react as they do and that’s it. One crab does try to push the sub around a bit, as does a fish, and apart from losing power for a short time that’s about the height of the excitement you get folks. Don’t get me wrong its still kinda fun in a cheesy, Doug McClure kinda way, but its also underwhelming. Really wanted someone to venture outside and get eaten.

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Effects wise its a mixed bag. All the internal sub sets and gear looks really good, very authentic. The equipment the crew use, their outfits, terminology, the oceanlab, ships on the surface etc…its all spot for the time. They do in fact use real minisubs, ships, cranes, undersea labs etc…its all real footage and at the start they clearly shot underwater for a time (using stunt doubles). As the movie proceeds underwater for the exploration things continue to look good within the minisub, I have no complaints here. Apart from the obviously dated equipment it all looks really neat and nicely claustrophobic. The problems start when the crew discover the giant sea creatures, which are actually real creatures not made up monsters (alas). All they have done here is shoot real footage of real creatures and fish, then blown up that footage and used rear projection against the actors to give the impression the fish are huge. At the same time they also used small models of the minisub against real sized fish which looked so flippin’ cute. Remember when you’d put little toys into your goldfish tank…there you go.

Another major issue I had with the movie is how the oceanlab got to its final resting place in the deep sea trench. There was an earthquake and we see the lab topple down the side of the trench, OK. So the lab will presumably just go straight down and crash at the bottom, supposedly implode too it was mentioned but that never happens for some reason. When the minisub ventures down into the trench the crew discover an undersea world, they’re travelling for quite some distance along this trench floor apparently. When they eventually find the lab it feels like they’ve being searching for miles and miles, so how did the lab somehow go all this way? Also when they find the lab the survivors are outside fighting giant eels…but but the pressure??

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The movies poster is epic, it drew me in, I knew I had to see this. Alas the movie doesn’t quite live up to said poster, something I have grown accustomed to with these old movies. But nevertheless the movie is still a fun time it must be said. Part of this is down to the hilarious performances from the cast. Ben Gazzara’s over acting as he tries his very best to be this tough, macho, über cool, smooth talkin’ deep voiced sub Commander. I haven’t seen anyone try to look so cool in front of the camera for some time, loved it. Then of course we’ve got the legendary Ernest Borgnine as one of the oceanlab crew, a chief diver. What can I say? The man is epic, he looks his usual gruff self and what’s left of his hair literally goes everywhere when its wet, brilliant stuff. I just adore how bad hair was back in the 70’s. Naturally you can’t have an adventure movie without a bit of young totty to show off, hence Yvette Mimieux and her flowing locks.

If you like classics like ‘Fantastic Voyage’ then this movie will be right up your particular alley of enjoyment. Yes it might be hokey as hell, kinda lethargic and the threats aren’t really that threatening. Yes you aren’t gonna feel that much tension or excitement with this movie, but its still a good old fashioned romp.

6.5/10

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