Friday, January 30, 2009

KONGA (1961)

At times I just want to see a big monkey movie. Usually this means I will watch KING KONG (original flavor) because it’s the first and best of this particular genre (Ape Genre? Giant Ape Genre?) but at times I feel the need to see something else. Since I’m one of the few who thinks that Peter Jackson’s recent remake of KONG was terrible this leaves me with the 1978 version, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG or KING KONG vs. GODZILLA. On occasion I’ll want to punish myself with KING KONG LIVES but if I’m in a masochistic mood and want to actually enjoy the pain I’ll throw in KONGA.

One could debate the film’s various merits (or lack thereof) but it would be singularly impossible to ignore the brilliance of Michael Gough’s over the top acting here. Cinematic evil has never been so gleefully mad as we bear witness to his character’s insane quest to chew every bit of scenery on set. Only his performance in THE HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM even comes close to the beauty of the monkey crazed lunatic he portrays in KONGA.

For lovers of bad cinema it is a must see and for fans of giant ape movies it is a good fallback.

They need to make more big monkey movies though. Many more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WATCHMEN short film

I am trying very hard to not get too excited about the upcoming WATCHMEN movie as I'm still not convinced the massive story can be done justice in even a 3 hour long version. But little things like this make it difficult to stay calm.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

DVD wish list

Here are a few movies I wish were available on DVD in uncut pristine condition.





I'm just patiently waiting.......

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Guilty Pleasures - RED SONJA (1985)

I have no defense for liking the film RED SONJA. No reason for rewatching it- no reason for enjoying it- no reason for being very happy to own it on DVD. It is without a doubt a bad film. Terrible in fact. Despite being directed by Richard Fleischer, having a script co-written by George MacDonald Fraser and boasting a fantastic score by Ennio Morricone it is an absolutely awful movie. All the acting is bad, the story is so thin it wouldn't pass for a good comic book tale, the kid character is irritatingly obnoxious and the villain is just silly.

So- why do I love it so? I just don't know.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mann of the west

I just caught up with MAN OF THE WEST (1958) and I just have to say-- DAMN!
Seriously- is there any more rock solid a guarantee of quality than the three word phrase 'Anthony Mann Western'? I mean DAMN! Look at the list of his westerns-


All of them great with BEND being the weakest and it is STILL good. And there are more that I haven't even seen yet. Add to this his brilliant noirs and his fantastic historical epics made in the 60s and Mann may just be one of the greatest directors of all time.

But if you haven't seen MAN OF THE WEST do yourself a favor and spend the 99 minutes. You won't regret it. And don't watch the trailer first- it ruins some of the story in a way that I think stinks.

What a film!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Farewell Number 6

Because I will miss the actor and love the show I mourn the passing of the brilliant Patrick MacGoohan. Here is a neat mash-up of THE PRISONER and THE MATRIX that points out a connection between the two tales that I had missed until now.
He was a free man!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009


THE MONOLITH MONSTERS is one of my favorite ‘monster’ movies from the 1950s. I put monster in quotes because the film doesn’t sport the usual kind of beast or killer expected from a science fiction thriller from the period. Here the menace is a black rock like substance that crashes to earth as a meteorite. At first harmless, once the stuff comes in contact with water it grows out of control crushing or killing everything in its path. In a way its a little like THE BLOB except I really like this film a lot more.

Well produced, well acted and quickly paced the film also has some great miniature special effects. The shots of the black crystal spires rising into the sky only to crack and fall across the landscape are wonderful and look great in the crisp black & white photography. The movie generates some great tension as the deadly moisture draining mass inches closer and closer to the small desert town in its path.

I suspect one of the reasons THE MONOLITH MONSTERS is very little seen is that there are no big names in the cast- not even a John Agar or Richard Carlson. If you’re a fan of good 50s science fiction this is one to try. It’s not nearly as well known as others of the period but it is an effective stand out SF entry.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Classic Monster Art!

I am a major sucker for artwork that focuses on the classic Universal monsters so no one should be surprised that I love this piece. Painted by 24 year old Canadian artist Fiona Staples its a brilliant take on the old 'Dogs Playing Poker' image that has amused me (and fans of absurd art) for decades. Done as the wraparound cover for a book I think this might be just the thing to get me to buy it right off the bookstore shelf.

Friday, January 09, 2009

MAX PAYNE or how I began to doubt Mark Wahlberg's reading skills

I was looking over the movies I watched in 2008 and a few things occurred to me. One was that I need to watch more westerns (as I stated earlier) but the other was that somehow Mark Wahlberg starred in two of the worst movies I saw all year. Plenty of ink has been spilled over how terrible a film THE HAPPENING was but relatively little has been written about how mind bendingly awful Mr. Wahlberg’s other sad offering was- MAX PAYNE. That sucker really stank up theaters around the world and truly deserved its ignominious fast exit from public view. Markie Mark needs to develop a better eye for scripts or his career is is in major trouble.

I know that movies based on video games are not ever a great bet for quality filmmaking but WHOOO! Rarely am I so bored I nearly fall asleep in a theater but I was close to snooze-ville with this thing. It was sad, silly and most of all dull dull dull. Most people I know can’t understand why I paid good money to see this movie in the first place. I have no good defense other than the fact that the trailer looked pretty cool and I am an eternal film optimist. Hell! I gave Stephan Sommers three tries before I crossed him off my list.

Also, when I first saw the trailer I was with an 11 year old boy and we both thought it looked promising. I guess there is still a bit of an 11 year old inside me influencing my outlook on entertainment if the right buttons get pushed. No apologies, though. I like watching movies with both my inner and outer 11 year old. I wonder what will happen when the outer one turns 12 this coming June?

Any way- here's the trailer that cost me a matinee screening of this turkey.

Future viewing

I plan to watch more westerns in 2009. Maybe even this one if I can find it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Some have called Frank Miller’s film version of Will Eisner’s classic comic book character an ‘Epic Fail’ but I can’t go that far. Don’t get me wrong- it is not a success. There are far more things wrong (and wrong headed) about it than things that are right. It is both too large and too small. It’s too large in that it tries to introduce the audience to this person as a larger than life character without ever giving us any actual character to grasp. We are just presented with things in motion and then sketchily presented info in bits and pieces as we barrel along through this big world. And it’s too small in that the story feels just too unimportant to matter. The Octopus is supposed to be trying to become some sort of god but the threat of this happening never seems like anything more than the silly plot of a lunatic. By the time The Spirit is insisting that he’s a threat to the world it just feels as if the matter is being much overstated to the point of silliness.

Another problem is that the Spirit comics were colorful- not shades of black & white with splashes of color. They were in Technicolor, dammit! Why bleed the brightness out of the character’s world? Just because it looked good for SIN CITY doesn’t mean it should be used for THE SPIRIT.

Still…… the film isn’t completely terrible. It could have used a better hand on the tiller and a second (or third) pass through the script phase but it has some interesting stuff amid the rubble. Most of the performances were good in that they were what the movie’s style called for- Samuel Jackson definitely set the volume to 11 and Eva Mendes is suitably sexy and alluring. Even Scarlett Johansson was fun and I usually find her a bit ‘off’ in her work. There are some great images and the action scenes are pretty fun even if the initial fight between The Spirit and The Octopus goes on too long and plays far too much like a Looney Tunes cartoon. Also, as a comic book geek I had a good time spotting all the little references to other comics and their creators. I think my favorite was the prominently featured van stamped with Steve Ditko’s name.

So overall, it’s not a good film but not the utter disaster I feared. It’s never going to be anyone’s favorite movie but it’s not totally awful. Unless you were hoping for a great translation of Eisner’s creation- then you might be screaming at the screen!

You're probably better off reading the classic stuff.

Friday, January 02, 2009

What I watched in December

I got to watch a LOT of movies last month. This is mainly because I had a week off from work to recuperate from having my gall bladder removed requiring that I lay around and watch movies. Or read. Both of which I did for hours! Then I had two weeks off from school for the holidays and was able to relax even more. Thirty one movies in a 31 day period is some kind of record for me but I'm sure I could improve that score if I could stay away from work and school even longer. Ah, well.....

ERIK THE CONQUORER (1961)- 8 (rewatch) (I love this Bava Viking tale)
THE TERMINATOR (1984)- 9 (rewatch)
GONE BABY GONE (2007)- 8 (very good- Ben Affleck needs to stay behind the camera)
RAIN OF FIRE (1977)- 6 (fun trashy OMEN rip-off with the full Kirk)
SPECIAL MISSION LADY CHAPLIN (1966)- 6 (fun EuroSpy stuff)
SPECIAL EFFECTS (1984)- 2 (awful Larry Cohen suck-fest)
PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (2008)- 7 (might be an 8 if we get to see the uncut violence)
A REASON TO LIVE, A REASON TO DIE! (1972)- 6 (solid Spaghetti western with a good cast)
THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960)- 8 (excellent Hammer variation on the classic)
JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962)- 6 (really fun children’s fantasy adventure even if the FX are not too good)
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)- 9 (Fantastic film)
ILYA MUROMETS (1956)- 6 (a.k.a THE SWORD & THE DRAGON) (fun, broad heroic Russian fantasy tale)
THE HAPPENING (2008)- 3 (dull, silly, mannered and a sign that its writer/director should just stop)
THE TRANSPORTER 3 (2008)- 6 (not as fun as the first two- might be time to retire the series)
CANNONBALL (1976)- 5 (mediocre and sloppy- could not seem to decide on a tone)
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)- 7 (surprisingly good)
DEVIL HUNTER (1980)- 3 (awful Franco mess)
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948)- 7 (fact based noir)
DR. RENAULT’S SECRET (1942)- 6 (nice little chiller)
PIECES (1983) – 6 (terrible film but it is hysterical) (rewatch)
DOCTOR STRANGE (2007)- 6 (good animated take on the character)
GREMLINS : THE NEW BATCH (1990)- 8 (fun, funny OTT Joe Dante madness)
LOOK, UP IN THE SKY: THE AMAZING STORY OF SUPERMAN (2006)- 8 (fantastic documentary about the big blue guy)
INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978)- 7 (rewatch)
THE LAST HOUSE IN THE WOODS (2006)- 4 (new Italian horror film has good gore and is solid for a while but falls apart in the last 30 minutes)
THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1964)- 5 (rewatch)
THE SIGNAL (2006)- 6 (not perfect and its tonal shift in the middle section is odd BUT overall a strong film)
ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS (1961)- 6 (actually a Maciste film starring Gordon Mitchell)
FIRST BLOOD (1982)- 8 (caught up with the Blu-Ray)
JUST BEFORE DAWN (1946)- 6 (Crime Doctor mystery)

I also caught episodes of TIME TUNNEL, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (thanks Hudson!) and STAR TREK (original flavor). I don't recommend surgery overall but it does lend to fun times in front of the TV screen.

Now I just need to read the book on which LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was based!