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LawrenceA

Recently Watched SF & Fantasy

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The Mysterious Island (1929) - I really enjoyed this mess of a movie from MGM, based on Jules Verne's book. Lionel Barrymore stars as Count Dakkar (Captain Nemo in the book), a brilliant scientist and inventor with a volcanic island laboratory. The island is part of a larger kingdom known as Hetvia, and Dakkar's research efforts are put on hold when his former friend Falon (Montagu Love) decides to stage a coup. He tortures Dakkar in order to obtain his many scientific secrets, but Dakkar escapes and joins a group of opposing forces in an effort to stop Falon. Also featuring Jacqueline Gadsdon (as Jane Daly), Lloyd Hughes, Harry Gribbon, Gibson Gowland, Dolores Brinkman, and Snitz Edwards.

 

This was a troubled production, taking years to complete. It started out as a silent, but as sound came into vogue, they reshot only parts with full sound, while leaving the majority of the film silent, using title cards, and also adding sound effects and a score. Lucien Hubbard wrote the script and got final screen credit for direction, too, although footage had been shot as far back as 1926 by directors Maurice Tourneur and Benjamin Christensen. The movie is an exciting adventure for the first 2/3 or so, but when the action goes undersea, we head into fun & bizarre territory, with a race of duck-faced dwarven undersea people, a giant octopus, and an alligator with a horn glued on his snout. Being Pre-Code, this has some surprising moments of violence. The disparate pieces of this don't go together smoothly, and the ending seems kind of rushed, but I liked this oddity a lot. Recommended.   8/10

 

Source: TCM by way of YouTube.

 

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Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961) - Ridiculous sword'n'sandal/fantasy/science fiction flick from MGM and director George Pal. Sal "Anthony Hall" Ponti stars as Demetrios, a strapping young Greek fisherman who finds Princess Antillia (Joyce Taylor) lost at sea. She claims to be from an unknown land called Atlantis out "beyond the end of the world." After much cajoling, Demetrios agrees to take Antillia home, only he gets put into chains and made a slave for his efforts. Antillia's fiancee, the dastardly Zaren (John Dall), is determined to make a super-weapon that will allow Atlantis to dominate the world. Sympathetic High Priest Azor (Edward Platt) sees these developments as the prophesied doom of their continent. Also featuring William Smith, Jay Novello, Frank DeKova,  Berry Kroeger, Edgar Stehli, Wolfe Barzell, Charles Horvath, Roy Jenson, I. Stanford Jolley, Nestor Paiva, Gene Roth, and the voice of Paul Frees.

 

The film starts out with a laughable lesson in bad history and anthropology, and things just get "better" from there. From the teen idol look of Hall/Ponti, to the scene where Taylor, already in obvious makeup, decides to put on makeup, this features a lot of groan-out-loud moments. I personally enjoyed Fat Neptune, Fat Gladiator, Kroeger's Dr. Moreau-lite animal people, "Big Bill" Smith and Roy Jenson as guards, the heavy use of stock footage from Quo Vadis (1951), and Jay Novello with a dog nose. On a so-bad-it's-good scale, this gets a 7/10. On a true quality scale, a 3/10. So I'll average it out.   5/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

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Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961) - Ridiculous sword'n'sandal/fantasy/science fiction flick from MGM and director George Pal. Sal "Anthony Hall" Ponti stars as Demetrios, a strapping young Greek fisherman who finds Princess Antillia (Joyce Taylor) lost at sea. She claims to be from an unknown land called Atlantis out "beyond the end of the world." After much cajoling, Demetrios agrees to take Antillia home, only he gets put into chains and made a slave for his efforts. Antillia's fiancee, the dastardly Zaren (John Dall), is determined to make a super-weapon that will allow Atlantis to dominate the world. Sympathetic High Priest Azor (Edward Platt) sees these developments as the prophesied doom of their continent. Also featuring William Smith, Jay Novello, Frank DeKova,  Berry Kroeger, Edgar Stehli, Wolfe Barzell, Charles Horvath, Roy Jenson, I. Stanford Jolley, Nestor Paiva, Gene Roth, and the voice of Paul Frees.

 

The film starts out with a laughable lesson in bad history and anthropology, and things just get "better" from there. From the teen idol look of Hall/Ponti, to the scene where Taylor, already in obvious makeup, decides to put on makeup, this features a lot of groan-out-loud moments. I personally enjoyed Fat Neptune, Fat Gladiator, Kroeger's Dr. Moreau-lite animal people, "Big Bill" Smith and Roy Jenson as guards, the heavy use of stock footage from Quo Vadis (1951), and Jay Novello with a dog nose. On a so-bad-it's-good scale, this gets a 7/10. On a true quality scale, a 3/10. So I'll average it out.   5/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

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I loved this movie when I was a ten which is the right target audience- now is really hard to watch with out laughing-  half the movie seems to be stock footage from "Quo Vadis".  Pal might have been able to work miracles with a low budget but in this case he needed more money and a better script

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Snow Devils (1967) - Italian sci-fi turkey that's the fourth in a series, released by MGM and from director Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony Dawson. Giacomo Rossi Stuart aka Jack Stuart stars as Commander Rod Jackson, a man-of-action in the employ of the United Democracies Space Command, aka Gamma 1. He and his sidekick Captain Frank Pulasky (Freddy Unger) are sent to the Himalayas after HQ loses communication with a Gamma 1 weather station. Fellow Gamma 1 employee Lisa Nielson (Amber Collins) tags along to look for her boyfriend, Lt. Jim Harris (Rene Baldwin), who was the weather station chief. When they finally reach their destination, our heroes discover a race of Yetis, snow-dwelling ape creatures with a sinister secret agenda. Also featuring Wilbert Bradley, Alina Zalewska, and Furio Meniconi.

 

The "Gamma 1" series includes The Wild Wild Planet (1966), The War of the Planets (1966), War Between the Planets [i saw this under the title Planet On the Prowl](1966), this film, and finally The Green Slime (1968). They all have tacky costumes and set design, terrible effects, and laughable plots to go along with the requisite awful dubbing. Stuart and Collins seem to be in a contest for most ridiculous hairstyle, while bad guy Meniconi looks like Zach Galifianakis in bad cosplay. Bradley is also an oddball as a black Himalayan porter and comic relief (I think). There's really nothing good about this, although it frequently crosses over into "so-bad-it's-good" territory.   3/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

affiche-la-mort-vient-de-la-planete-ayti

 

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) - Ambitious, visually sumptuous space opera from STX and Europa Films and director Luc Besson. Hundreds of years in the future, galactic cop Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are assigned a case that leads to a supposedly non-existent alien race, a rare and valuable creature, and a cover-up that could be the end of them all. Most of this transpires in Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets, which is actually the former International Space Station from Earth, long ago sent into deep space, and continuously expanding by new alien races attaching themselves to the city. Also featuring Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Sam Spruell, Kris Wu, Alain Chabet, Sasha Luss, and Rutger Hauer.

It's been 20 years since Besson's last sci-fi epic, The Fifth Element, a quirky, flawed work of near-genius that has continued to grow in esteem since its release. So it's no wonder that Besson would want to return to the genre with this project, which he claims was only possible now, with the current level of special effects wizardry. And on that front the movie works incredibly well. It's a visual feast, with hundreds of alien races, spaceships, cityscapes and planets, all realized with expert craftsmanship, and demanding at least one more watch in the future to catch all of the detail. 

The film falters in two other, essential categories, though: writing and casting. The story, while not awful, doesn't grab the viewer's attention nearly as much as the visuals do, and in the end it doesn't add up to a lot. The dialogue, too, is often trite and out of place, especially the supposedly charming banter between will-they-or-won't-they couple DeHaan and Delevingne. But they both seem miscast anyway, which is part of the problem. I've liked DeHaan in other things; he excels at playing troubled youth. Here, though, he is called on to be the typical sci-fi hero, a swaggering ladies man and two-gun space cowboy, and DeHaan can't sell it physically or emotionally. Delevingne, a successful model who keeps getting cast in high profile roles, seems too young, and I think her big, dark eyebrows do more emoting than the rest of her blandly pretty face. Besson has had odd casting choices in the past, and they've usually worked, but here they don't, and besides the leads, Owen seems wasted in a part that needed someone with more menace, and Rihanna distracts too much with her extended cameo as a shape-shifting alien. One other odd bit: Besson cast several French directors, such as Mathieu Kassovitz, Louis Leterrier, and Olivier Megaton, in small roles.

In the end the minuses slightly outweigh the pluses, and while I would recommend this to any science fiction fan for a least one viewing, it won't make any converts to the genre. 10/10 for the eye candy, but 6/10 for the film overall.

Source: Lionsgate Blu-Ray.

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On 11/21/2017 at 10:50 PM, LawrenceA said:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) - Ambitious, visually sumptuous space opera from STX and Europa Films and director Luc Besson. Hundreds of years in the future, galactic cop Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are assigned a case that leads to a supposedly non-existent alien race, a rare and valuable creature, and a cover-up that could be the end of them all. Most of this transpires in Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets, which is actually the former International Space Station from Earth, long ago sent into deep space, and continuously expanding by new alien races attaching themselves to the city. Also featuring Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Sam Spruell, Kris Wu, Alain Chabet, Sasha Luss, and Rutger Hauer.

It's been 20 years since Besson's last sci-fi epic, The Fifth Element, a quirky, flawed work of near-genius that has continued to grow in esteem since its release. So it's no wonder that Besson would want to return to the genre with this project, which he claims was only possible now, with the current level of special effects wizardry. And on that front the movie works incredibly well. It's a visual feast, with hundreds of alien races, spaceships, cityscapes and planets, all realized with expert craftsmanship, and demanding at least one more watch in the future to catch all of the detail. 

The film falters in two other, essential categories, though: writing and casting. The story, while not awful, doesn't grab the viewer's attention nearly as much as the visuals do, and in the end it doesn't add up to a lot. The dialogue, too, is often trite and out of place, especially the supposedly charming banter between will-they-or-won't-they couple DeHaan and Delevingne. But they both seem miscast anyway, which is part of the problem. I've liked DeHaan in other things; he excels at playing troubled youth. Here, though, he is called on to be the typical sci-fi hero, a swaggering ladies man and two-gun space cowboy, and DeHaan can't sell it physically or emotionally. Delevingne, a successful model who keeps getting cast in high profile roles, seems too young, and I think her big, dark eyebrows do more emoting than the rest of her blandly pretty face. Besson has had odd casting choices in the past, and they've usually worked, but here they don't, and besides the leads, Owen seems wasted in a part that needed someone with more menace, and Rihanna distracts too much with her extended cameo as a shape-shifting alien. One other odd bit: Besson cast several French directors, such as Mathieu Kassovitz, Louis Leterrier, and Olivier Megaton, in small roles.

In the end the minuses slightly outweigh the pluses, and while I would recommend this to any science fiction fan for a least one viewing, it won't make any converts to the genre. 10/10 for the eye candy, but 6/10 for the film overall.

Source: Lionsgate Blu-Ray.

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0717-wi-ffvale-06.jpg?w=780

I saw in the theater in 3-D and it was dazzling-I agree with you they should used an older actor for Valerian

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) - Expensive High Fantasy flop retelling of the Arthurian legends, from Warner Brothers and director Guy Ritchie. After the kindly King Uther (Eric Bana) is betrayed by his brother Vortigern (Jude Law), the king's son Arthur is set adrift in a river to save his life. He is found in the city of Londinium, where he is raised in a brothel. Due to a tough life of constant fighting and poverty, the adult Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is an accomplished fighter and somewhat of a low-level gangster. When his true identity is learned, though, he must use his street-wise skills and the mystical sword Excalibur to end Vortigern's unjust rule. Also featuring Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Aiden Gillen, Djimon Hounsou, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Freddie Fox, Craig McGinlay, Tom Wu, Neil Maskell, Annabelle Wallis, Poppy Delevingne, Bleu Landau, Katie McGrath, and David Beckham.

This proposed start to a new big-budget film franchise landed with a massive thud at the box office earlier this year, and had a troubled production. The original cut was said to have been well over 3 hours, and to be tonally much different, playing up the crime and comedy elements, similar to Ritchie's early triumphs like Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels and Snatch. The released version runs at just over 2 hours (which is including lengthy credits), and while many of the lower-class gangster aesthetics are present, there's also an emphasis on the fantasy elements, with massive creatures, flashy magic spells, and other assorted mystic rituals. Some of this aspect is well done, such as the monstrous mammoth siege engines, or the tentacled sea witches. But other times things turn into a CGI-overload video game sequence.

Hunnam is a handsome, muscled hero, but he doesn't bring much regalness to the role. Law makes for a good villain, and he's shown to have some depth, which is rare in these big budget fantasies. The supporting cast, featuring many capable actors, is underdeveloped, and many of the most recognizable characters from the Arthurian tales are absent (Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad, Gawain, Morgan Le Fay, etc.), no doubt being saved for inclusion in a later movie that, judging by this one's performance, will never happen. One slightly confusing character is the one played by Berges-Frisbey, the ostensible female lead, although her character is never named (she's listed as "The Mage" in the end credits), and her backstory is untold save for her making a throwaway comment about being sent to Arthur by Merlin, who also remains unseen in this outing. I kept waiting for some revelation of her identity, like that she was Morgan Le Fay and destined to be Arthur's arch-foe, or that she was a re-imagined Guinevere, but neither proved true. I don't think this movie was as bad as its harshest critics stated, but it has a lot of problems, and could have been so much better.   (6/10)

Source: Warners Blu-Ray.

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Babes in Toyland (1934) - aka March of the Wooden Soldiers, bizarre family comedy/fantasy/musical from MGM and directors Gus Meins and Charles Rogers. In the fantastical world of Toyland, many fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters live together in a weird community. Widow Peep (Florence Roberts), aka The Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe, takes care of her many children, including eldest daughter Little Bo-Peep (Charlotte Henry). She also rents a room to toymakers Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) and Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy). Bo-Peep is in love with Tom-Tom (Felix Knight), but the dastardly landlord Barnaby (Henry Brandon) wants Bo-Peep for himself, and threatens to evict Widow Peep if Bo-Peep won't marry him. Stannie & Ollie vow to help the Peeps, but they cause even more trouble. Also featuring Virginia Karns, Richard Alexander, William Burress, Russell Coles, Ellen Corby, Jean Darling, Johnny Downs, Marie Wilson, and Angelo Rossitto.

Storybook sets and stylized costumes add to the head-trip visuals of this whacked-out yet entertaining kids flick. I was particularly fond of the weird dwarf-in-a-costume mouse who moves around in an unsettling way, usually running from the equally off-kilter Cat with a Fiddle. The large scale finale, featuring scores of extras as evil "bogeymen" versus man-sized wooden soldiers, is impressively chaotic and occasionally disturbingly violent.  (7/10)

Source: YouTube. The print I watched was colorized.

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On 11/26/2017 at 6:53 PM, LawrenceA said:

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) - Expensive High Fantasy flop retelling of the Arthurian legends, from Warner Brothers and director Guy Ritchie. After the kindly King Uther (Eric Bana) is betrayed by his brother Vortigern (Jude Law), the king's son Arthur is set adrift in a river to save his life. He is found in the city of Londinium, where he is raised in a brothel. Due to a tough life of constant fighting and poverty, the adult Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is an accomplished fighter and somewhat of a low-level gangster. When his true identity is learned, though, he must use his street-wise skills and the mystical sword Excalibur to end Vortigern's unjust rule. Also featuring Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Aiden Gillen, Djimon Hounsou, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Freddie Fox, Craig McGinlay, Tom Wu, Neil Maskell, Annabelle Wallis, Poppy Delevingne, Bleu Landau, Katie McGrath, and David Beckham.

This proposed start to a new big-budget film franchise landed with a massive thud at the box office earlier this year, and had a troubled production. The original cut was said to have been well over 3 hours, and to be tonally much different, playing up the crime and comedy elements, similar to Ritchie's early triumphs like Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels and Snatch. The released version runs at just over 2 hours (which is including lengthy credits), and while many of the lower-class gangster aesthetics are present, there's also an emphasis on the fantasy elements, with massive creatures, flashy magic spells, and other assorted mystic rituals. Some of this aspect is well done, such as the monstrous mammoth siege engines, or the tentacled sea witches. But other times things turn into a CGI-overload video game sequence.

Hunnam is a handsome, muscled hero, but he doesn't bring much regalness to the role. Law makes for a good villain, and he's shown to have some depth, which is rare in these big budget fantasies. The supporting cast, featuring many capable actors, is underdeveloped, and many of the most recognizable characters from the Arthurian tales are absent (Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad, Gawain, Morgan Le Fay, etc.), no doubt being saved for inclusion in a later movie that, judging by this one's performance, will never happen. One slightly confusing character is the one played by Berges-Frisbey, the ostensible female lead, although her character is never named (she's listed as "The Mage" in the end credits), and her backstory is untold save for her making a throwaway comment about being sent to Arthur by Merlin, who also remains unseen in this outing. I kept waiting for some revelation of her identity, like that she was Morgan Le Fay and destined to be Arthur's arch-foe, or that she was a re-imagined Guinevere, but neither proved true. I don't think this movie was as bad as its harshest critics stated, but it has a lot of problems, and could have been so much better.   (6/10)

Source: Warners Blu-Ray.

king-arthur-nine-clips.jpg

Let's just watch " Excalibur" again- Guy Ritchie is a glorified hack

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