Archive for the Apes! Category

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Has An Appointment with the DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1960s Horror, 2013, Action Movies, Apes!, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Bizarro Movies, Campy Movies, Mad Doctors!, Mexican Wrestlers, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This week’s feature presentation:

DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963)

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Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

K. Gordon Murray strikes again!  The infamous importer of Mexican kiddie matinees has delivered another badly dubbed (at Soundlab!  In Coral Gables, Florida!) arrow to my heart with a film I love beyond any reasonable credulity.  It’s truly awful, but in all the right ways.  I should turn away in horror at this vivisection of artistic film, this shadow of celluloid, but I can’t take my eyes off the terrible thing.  It goes beyond bad cinema to become one of the most entertaining stinkers of all time.  Yes, I’m talking about that “gorgeous ladies of wrestling versus the mad scientist south of the border” opus, DOCTOR OF DOOM (1963), aka ROCK ‘N ROLL WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC APE, aka THE SEX MONSTER!

The amazing movie begins with a pre-credits attack on a woman by what looks like Captain Caveman, followed by two rather burly gals wrestling in a ring and stock footage of an enthralled, applauding audience.  Gloria Venus, the winner, has a moment with her sister, Alice.  Then we’re suddenly in a mad scientist’s laboratory, where an obviously mad scientist tries to perform a brain transplant on the girl who was kidnapped by the hirsute horror, whose name is Gomar.  The operation is a failure, because the brain they transplanted wasn’t strong enough.  The doc believes this is because they’ve only used women with low IQs, and they need to find an intellectual woman with a stronger brain.  The mad doctor keeps Gomar locked in a basement.  Gomar is a man with a transplanted gorilla’s brain, a perfect half man / half beast, his animal instincts dominating the human in their the symbiotic relationship.  Yes, one day, Gomar will turn into a real gorilla.

How lady wrestlers train.

How lady wrestlers train.

The next morning, the papers proclaim “Mad Scientist Strikes Again!”  Alice works in a scientific laboratory, with a Professor Ruiz who really, really likes her.  Two detectives are on the case of the Mad Scientist Murders, discovering the fourth female with her brain scooped out of her skull.  The short one  is intended to provide the dubious comic relief.  Really, the flick is funny enough without his shenanigans.

Next, we are in a room where two men wear strange white masks that resemble KKK hoods.  One of them, the mad scientist, instructs a room full of crooks to go with Gomar and his nifty new bullet-proof mask and shirt, and kidnap a smart woman….and it’s ALICE!  Sure enough, she’s easily hijacked, shoved in a cab, and Gomar has a long fight with patrolling officers before escaping.

Back in the lab, the masked surgeons operate on Alice and, even though she’s an intelligent woman, she also dies on the slab.  “Isn’t there any human being who can survive the shock?” the mad doctor asks.  His partner suggests an athlete, a powerful woman . . . like a lady wrestler?

The taller detective goes to the lady wrestler training gym.  He asks Gloria Venus (who is in training) to accompany him.

“It’s your sister,” he says.

“Is she sick?” she asks.

“She’s suffered a very bad accident.”

“Alice is hurt?”

“Would you accompany me?”

“To the doctor’s?”

“To identify her.”

“OH!”

Yes, the dialogue is certainly on par with that of Robert Altman.

Alice’s boss, the scientist (a scientist . . . hmm. . . ) mourns the girl, offering his services if the police need any help.  Gloria Venus is understandably upset, but the detective tells her, “You must trust in the local police.  Although, we haven’t got a single clue.”  Yeah, I’d trust them with that kind of confident revelation.

Back in the training gym, Gloria Venus gets a new partner, Golden Rubi, when a fight breaks out amongst the lady wrestlers.  Both women have that glamorous 1960s look, and they look nothing like any real female wrestlers.  Gloria Venus is a dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor and Rubi resembles a ponytailed Marie Windsor.  They decide to shack up in an apartment together (now that’s more like the lady wrestler’s I’ve seen in the past) and they win their first tag team match together soon afterwards.  The detectives are in the audience to watch the match, falling for the two women in the process.  This match goes on for a good five minutes, and the choreography is pretty good, actually.  It ends happily, with dinner and dancing between the foursome!

And in this corner..Golden Rubi and Gloria Venus in DOCTOR OF DOOM.

And in this corner..Golden Rubi and Gloria Venus in DOCTOR OF DOOM.

Later that night, the girls awaken to discover several kidnappers climbing in their apartment window, and they proceed to beat the hell out of them!  This disappoints the hooded mad scientist.  The cops recommend they allow themselves to be kidnapped if these men try it again (What?  What?  What?).  The cops will follow them and arrest the bad guys.

Later, after the women work out, Gomar stalks the two girls in his bullet-proof duds, and he easily overcomes them and places them in the crooks’ car.  The detectives follow, but they set off ‘the danger signal’ at the lab.  They are assaulted by the criminals, but they fight back.  Gloria Venus awakens on the slab, and she gets Rubi and they join in the fighting.  They unmask one of the white hooded scientists and discover it is Boris, the assistant to Alice’s boss, the professor.  Boris demands police protection.  They want to know who the main mad doctor is.  He stand, says, “The mad doctor is… is… argh!”  He has a heart attack! During the autopsy, they find a needle in his skin covered in poison.  It was murder, and it was the killer was someone in the policeman’s office at the time!

The chief mad doctor (still at large and still disguised under a hood) orders his number one crook to find three or four other bad guys and kill those two detectives.  The guys give the wrestling gals watches that have transmitters and locators in them.  Within twenty four hours, the two detectives are kidnapped, and the girls are going to have to locate and rescue them!  Feminism thrives in low-budget Mexican horror films!

The boys are taken “to the death chamber,” locked in a room near Gomar.  Suddenly, the walls grow spikes and start contracting towards each other.  Soon, they’ll be speared and squished, but they turn on their transmitters, and the gals drive the streets of Mexico City until they find them at the same warehouse/laboratory where they were nearly brain-transplanted.  They break in and are immediately attacked by teams of bad guys in black, wearing black hoods.  Let the brawling begin!  They save the day just in time.

The detectives chase after the mad doctor while the girls attack his new assistant, splashing acid all over his hooded face and setting the place on fire.  They leave the mad doctor to burn to death (not very sportsmanlike, but, hey, he tried to take out their brains), but Gomar breaks loose and saves his creator from the inferno.

Later, the girls find out one of their fellow lady wrestlers has been missing for several days, taken by the professor, Alice’s boss, who is the remaining mad doctor.  Well, duh, who else could it have been?.  Sure enough, she’s been kidnapped by the crazed quack, and he has transplanted Gomar’s brain into the woman’s head.  “She’s alive!  She made it!”  He names her Vendetta, and he commands her to destroy Gloria Venus and Golden Rubi in the wrestling ring in front of thousands of spectators, wearing a nifty cape, Spandex leotards, and a cool lightning mask. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Who will win the match?  Will Alice’s death be avenged?  Well, this is a family film.  What do you think?

The movie is capably directed by that Mexican auteur Rene Cardona, who supplied the world with Taco-Trash flicks for decades.  He made such inspired exploitation films as SANTA CLAUS (1959), NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES (1969), the soccer players-turned-cannibal epic SURVIVE! (1976), and numerous Santo masked wrestler flicks.  Interestingly, his son Rene Cardona Jr. has continued the exploitation tradition, upholding his family name with such hits as GUYANA, CULT OF THE DAMNED (1979), TINTORERA: KILLER SHARK (1977), BEAKS:THE MOVIE (as opposed to BEAKS: THE STAGE MUSICAL? 1987), and the ultra-trashy CYCLONE (1978).  Ah, the grindhouse family tradition continues.  It almost brings a tear to one’s eyes.

Apeman Gomar models his new bullet-proof duds.

Apeman Gomar models his new bullet-proof duds.

The wrestling women are quite beautiful.  Gloria Venus is played by Lorena Velazquez, who is still working today in Mexican soap operas.  She’s much better than the material here, although the dubbing makes nearly everything she says amusing.  She can also be seen in PLANET OF THE FEMALE INVADERS (1967), SANTO VS. THE ZOMBIES (1962), and the great SHIP OF MONSTERS (1960).   Golden Rubi is played by American Elizabeth Campbell, who co-starred with Velazquez in several Luchadoras (female wrestler) movies in Mexico before dropping out of sight and returning to America.

DOCTOR OF DOOM is an insane movie, full of campy dialogue and wrestling women thrashing the crap out of each other.  It has bumbling cops and robbers, brain transplants, pretty women in short nightgowns, great jazzy bongo-filled music, tacky comic relief, a finale atop a water tower with police shooting at Vendetta, and Gomar the ape-man.  Honestly, what else do you need in a cheap movie? A lot happens in only 80 minutes, so there’s never a boring second.

Plus, there’s a sequel, THE WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964)!

I give DOCTOR OF DOOM three half-nelsons out of four.

© Copyright 2013 by William D. Carl

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Quick Cuts: What’s Your Favorite Science Fiction Movie?

Posted in 1950s Movies, 1970s Movies, 2012, Aliens, Apes!, Apocalyptic Films, Classic Films, Dystopian Futures, Quick Cuts, ROBOTS!, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS-  Favorite Science Fiction Movie
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Mark Onspaugh and Garrett Cook

 

With the recent release of PROMETHEUS (2012), audiences got to watch a big release science fiction movie—the first in a while.

Today our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters is asked:  What’s your favorite science fiction movie of all-time?

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA:

Several films jump out at me right away.  Three of my all-time favorite science fiction movies are from the 1950s:  THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), and THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), with THE THING probably my favorite of the three.

From the 1960s it’s PLANET OF THE APES (1968), from the 70s it’s ALIEN (1979), and that’s about it.  I realize these are pretty standard picks, but they happen to be the ones I like the most.

My favorite of all time?  I’d probably go with PLANET OF THE APES.  I actually saw it at the movies when I was four years old!  So, it’s been in my consciousness for a long, long time!”

 *****

GARRETT COOK:

My favorite sci-fi movie of all time is FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956). It retells Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in the space age, and deals with the destructive power of repression and anger. Anne Francis is stunning, Walter Pidgeon is anguished and Leslie Nielsen is a surprisingly effective space hero.

Great monster too.

*****

NICK CATO:

This was VERY hard, but I think I’ve got it!

While not a special effects extravaganza or action-packed offering, FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966), a UK-lensed adaptation of the classic 1953 Ray Bradbury novel, has haunted me since the first time I saw it as a young teenager.

I was captivated with “Fireman” Guy Montag’s struggle to not burn books (as per his totalitarian government’s orders) and his eventual decision to join the rebels who are secretly committing books to memory. The film’s themes of censorship and freedom are timeless, and few sci-fi films offer as much food for thought. The ending has also stuck with me almost as intensely as the conclusion to the original PLANET OF THE APES (1968), despite it not being as shocking.

 

*****

MARK ONSPAUGH:

I have several:

Best All-Around SF: BLADE RUNNER (1982)—Where do I start. It’s  just wonderful.


Best Old School SF: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) —Robbie the Robot, Anne
Francis, the Krell and a Monster from the ID! That’s SF, baby!

Best SF Comedy: BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) —So funny, such a perfect script,
and everyone gives such a great performance—Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover—never better.

Best SF Horror: ALIEN (1979), ALIENS  (1986) and THE THING (1982, the John Carpenter version with special effect by Rob Bottin)
Runners-up: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (’56 and ’78) and THE FLY
(1986, the Cronenberg version)

Best SF Romance: SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980) —So great, from the story by
Richard Freaking Matheson to Chris Reeve and Jane Seymour as time-crossed lovers.

*****

L.L. SOARES:

This one is actually kind of easy. My favorite science fiction movie, and my favorite movie, are one in the same. A little flick called A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) by director Stanley Kubrick. Watching it for the first time, I sat there convinced that I had seen the closest I would ever find to cinematic perfection. The acting, the storyline, the visuals, the music, it all clicked with me. Plus some of it is downright disturbing.

For those who don’t know, it’s the tale of Alex (Malcolm McDowell in an amazing performance), a teenager in a not-so-distant future London where teen gangs dress up in costumes and go around perpetrating the most horrific crimes, seemingly without repercussionsthat is, until Alex is arrested and sent to prison, where he volunteers for a new kind of “therapy” that tries to implant within him a severe aversion to violence. Does the process work? See the movie and find out. (Based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, which also deserves some attention)

Needless to say, Kubrick made another science fiction masterpiece, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), which has its own list of merits to recommend it, but A CLOCKWORK ORANGE always seemed more human to me. More visceral.

Another big favorite of mine is A BOY AND HIS DOG (1975), directed by L.Q. Jones and based on the classic novella by Harlan Ellison. This time we’re brought to another future where the world has been rocked by nuclear war, and for some reason more teenage gangs survive the big drumroll. A young Don Johnson plays Vic, who survives on his wits, and the help of his telepathic dog, Blood.

RUNNERS UP would include: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968, which I already mentioned above), BLADE RUNNER (1982, probably the best Philip K. Dick adaptation to date),  the original ALIEN (1979 – no matter how much I enjoyed PROMETHEUS, it didn’t even come close to Ridely Scott’s ALIEN), and of course 1968’s PLANET OF THE APES, which is just brilliant.

 

—END—

 

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Posted in 2011, Animals Attack, Apes!, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Science Fiction with tags , , , on August 8, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

 

(THE SCENE: A large enclosed ape preserve. There are apes everywhere— chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans— all of them screeching and jumping up and down. In this middle of this clamor, stand L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA.)

L.L. SOARES: Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Not really. Watch! (Snaps fingers, and apes suddenly fall quiet.)

(The lead CHIMPANZEE suddenly rises, places a top hat on his head, and breaks into song, with the rest of the apes providing the chorus and background dancing. They’re performing “The Theme from THE MONKEES”)

LS: What the hell is this?

MA: It looks like a choreographed musical number to me, performed by apes. The one thing that was missing from today’s movie, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

LS: No.

MA: Well, the movie needed something to make it better, why not a musical number?

LS: We don’t do musical numbers here at Cinema Knife Fight. (shouts) Enough! (Apes fall silent, then glare at LS.)

MA: You guys can perform after we’re done with the column, and L.L. here leaves the set, how about that?

(Apes nod in approval.)

MA: On that note— heh, heh— let’s get this column started.

LS: Remember, no singing until I’m gone.

(A banana hits LS in the head.)

MA: I don’t think they like you.

LS: But if you want to skip the singing, there’s free beer back at my place afterwards.

(A banana hits MA in the head.)

MA: Always stealing the attention.

LS: I’m a writer. That’s my job.

MA: Likewise.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a re-imagining of the origin story to the PLANET OF THE APES franchise, which told the story of a world where humans had destroyed themselves, and apes had evolved to become the dominant species here on Earth.

LS: RISE is especially similar to CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972), the fourth film of the original movie series, which also told the story of the rise of the apes as the dominant species on Earth, although CONQUEST was very different, to such a degree that I would not call RISE a remake. In that one, Caesar (Roddy McDowell) is an intelligent ape from the future who leads a revolt of normal apes in our world who are used as servants. It’s actually a very strange premise.

MA:  In RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, these events are set into motion because of a drug.

LS: Which actually makes a lot more sense.

MA: Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco) is working on a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and he’s driven in this quest because his father Charles (John Lithgow) suffers from the disease. Naturally, they test the drugs on chimpanzees first, and one of the tested chimps is pregnant. Rodman and his scientists don’t know this, which I find surprising.

LS: Me, too. How could these scientist types not notice that??

MA: She gives birth to Caesar, a cute little baby chimp who Will takes home with him because once the experiment is deemed a failure, Will’s boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders all the chimps to be put down.

So, Will takes Caesar home where he discovers that because of the drug that was in his mother’s system, Caesar is one incredibly smart chimp. Caesar becomes good friends with Will’s father, Charles, Will becomes good friends (with benefits!) with a beautiful veterinarian, Caroline (Freida Pinto), and all is right with the world until Caesar attacks their pain-in-the-ass neighbor, a man who’d been threatening Charles, and so Caesar had actually done a good thing, but the authorities don’t see it that way and Caesar is taken from Will and placed in an ape preserve run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his son Dodge (Tom Felton).

Dodge Landon is a jerk who likes to mistreat the apes, but Caesar hardly minds, because it is at this time that he befriends his own kind and develops into their leader. He manages to escape from the ape house, break into his old home, and steal some of the drug that gave him his intelligence. This drug is now in canisters that provide a convenient mist, like an old fashioned flea bomb, and Caesar uses this mist to empower his fellow apes with super intelligence.

The apes then break loose, wreaking havoc on San Francisco, as they make their way to what Caesar sees as their new home, the forest of giant red wood trees. The authorities of course try to stop them, and Will tries to save them, and all of this comes to a head on the Golden Gate Bridge in the film’s climactic battle.

LS: Are you done yet? These apes are really thirsty for beer.

(APES wake up from sleeping to applaud)

MA: Funny, but I’m still clocking in at about half the time as one of your exhaustive plot summaries!

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a movie dominated by its ape special effects. The apes here look phenomenal, and they are by far the main reason to see this movie. The rest of the movie? Not so much. I thought the characters were all rather standard and not that exciting, and the story nothing to brag about.

LS: I think the apes look phenomenal some of the time. But it’s a real tight rope act. There are scenes early on when Caesar is a kid monkey and he’s jumping all around and it’s so friggin obvious that it’s a cartoon, that I almost forgot I was watching a live-action drama for a moment. So is the CGI flawless and amazing? No. Is it amazing some of the time? Sure.

As for the characters, I didn’t think the humans were all that exciting, but I do like James Franco a lot and he was fine in the role of Dr. Rodman. The ape characters are the ones that are interesting here and several of them have distinct personalities, and that doesn’t even include Caesar, who is the main attraction here. In the preserve, there is a cool circus orangutan who can communicate with Caesar via sign language named Maurice (a tip of the hat to Maurice Evans, who played Dr. Zaius in the original PLANET OF THE APES movie), a fierce gorilla named Buck, and a muscular chimp who challenges Caesar for dominance when he first comes to the preserve, but who eventually comes to accept Caesar as the Alpha chimp.

MA: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES also takes forever to get started. Unlike COWBOYS & ALIENS, a movie that hooked me with its opening scene, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES starts slowly and really doesn’t hit its stride until half way through the movie, when Caesar begins to ask questions about himself, like “Am I a pet?” as he wonders who and what he is. Caesar is the one character in the movie who is fully developed, and when he leads the apes to freedom, you understand exactly why he’s doing it.

LS: Just a note that for most of the movie, when Caesar “talks,” it is through sign language, which Dr. Rodman has taught him from an early age. However, there is a rather surprising scene later in the film where that changes, and it’s quite powerful.

I thought Caesar was so good that he was able to carry the movie on his simian shoulders, and keep me glued to the screen. I actually found the storyline in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES to be quite compelling and didn’t think it moved slow at all. It wasn’t an action-packed shoot-em-up like COWBOYS & ALIENS, but it wasn’t supposed to be. RISE is a more thoughtful movie. And I thought it worked just fine.

MA: That’s all well and good, except it didn’t give us much to think about.  Those scenes early on with Caesar at home with Will and his dad Charles are tortuously slow.  The only thing I was thinking about during these scenes was how come there wasn’t enough butter on my popcorn?  We all know that the title of this flick wasn’t APES AT HOME, and so at some point Caesar is going to be somewhere else, and it just takes so friggin long for this to happen.  Meanwhile, we’re left thinking about:  does Charles beat his Alzheimer’s?  Does Caroline sleep with Will?  And how about those red woods?  Mighty tall.  I didn’t find this story compelling at all, especially early on.

For me, the best part of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, and the main reason to see this one, are the apes. These are CGI effects, specifically something called “performance-capture,” where an actor performs the role, his motions and expressions are recorded, and then computer animation is digitally placed “on top” of the actor’s performance, creating a CGI character that is far more life-like than anything created by straight animation. Andy Serkis, the actor who “performed” as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s KING KONG remake (2005) is also on hand here performing as Caesar.

LS:  Serkis was also Gollum in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, and he’s really quite good in these kinds of roles. I’m not sure how much of the characters are Serkis and how much are animation, but he’s some kind of master at making these kinds of creatures seem real.

(There is a commotion and the gates open. A chimp in a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses enters the room, followed by reporters snapping pictures. It’s BUBBLES, who was once the pet of Michael Jackson)

BUBBLES: Hey there, babes. I told you I’d be stopping by.

(The rest of the apes cheer)

BUBBLES: Party at the Neverland Ranch later on tonight. I got the Ferris Wheel working and everything. And banana daiquiris for everyone.

LS: Can we come, too?

BUBBLES: Sorry, no humans allowed at this bash, baby. Maybe next time.

(APES cheer again, and BUBBLES leaves, followed by the flashbulbs and reporters)

MA: That was surreal.

LS: That guy’s a rock star in the ape world.

MA: Well, back to our review. The apes look amazing and do not disappoint. Yes, they are more realistic looking than the actors in make-up in the original PLANET OF THE APES series, but having grown up with that series, I still have a soft spot for the tremendous make-up used in those movies. Also, the look of the apes in the original series made perfect sense, since those apes supposedly had evolved into intelligent beings over thousands of years, and so it stood to reason that they might look more human. Here, in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, these apes have not evolved, and so it makes sense that they look more like real apes.

LS: I wonder if we’ll see a sequel that takes place in the future and if the apes will have evolved into more human-like creatures, or if they’ll stay the same. I have a soft spot for the make-up created characters of the original PLANET OF THE APES films too, and I miss those effects here. Sure, the CGI is top-notch here for the most part, but the original APES just seemed more – er – human. And I’ll never forget Roddy McDowall, the king of the original apes, who played both Caesar and Cornelius in the original series. He will always be synonymous with PLANET OF THE APES to me, no matter how good CGI gets.

MA: Yes, McDowall was excellent, and he’s my favorite part of the original APES series as well.

In RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, the apes are great, but the humans are not. The characters in this one are all largely forgettable.

James Franco’s main character, scientist Will Rodman, is rather dull and boring, as is his girlfriend Caroline (Freida Pinto). If the apes weren’t in this movie, you certainly wouldn’t want to pay money to see a story about these two.

LS: I don’t think they’re very dynamic characters, but I found them likable enough, and they were there to move the story forward, especially Rodman. It was clear from his first appearance in the film that this was Caesar’s movie, so the human characters certainly weren’t going to overshadow him.

MA: John Lithgow and Brian Cox are both wasted in small roles that don’t give them a whole lot to do. Lithgow fares better as an Alzheimer’s sufferer, and he’s good in these scenes, but the film isn’t about him and doesn’t spend much time on him, which is too bad because he would have been more interesting to watch than Franco’s Will Rodman. Brian Cox’s role could have been played by Brian Doyle-Murray. There’s nothing to it. I’m surprised Cox took the role.

LS: Hey, I like Brian Doyle-Murray, he was great as Gus on that old Chris Elliot show GET A LIFE (1990 – 1992)!

(The R.E.M. song “Stand” starts playing over the loudspeakers above them)

MA:  I like Brian Doyle-Murray too.  My point is you don’t need Brian Cox playing this role.

LS:  But seriously, Lithgow is fine, and there certainly could have been an alternate movie where Rodman experiments on his father with the Alzheimer’s drug – kind of a riff on the movie CHARLY (1968). As is, this storyline is addressed but isn’t given a lot of screen time, like you said. But it worked for me as an interesting subplot. And I liked Brian Cox, what little we see of him.

MA: Yep, he’s impossible not to watch, as he delivers such compelling lines as “Come on in,” and “It’s time for you to leave.”  Fascinating stuff.  It’s a waste of a role!

Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the HARRY POTTER movies) probably fares the best as the villainous Dodge Landon, but Landon is a jerk, not a villain, and so he’s not really fun to watch. He’s a pain in the ass.

LS: I liked Felton just fine. He played a very good jerk.

MA: The real villain should have been Steven Jacobs (David Oyelow) but he’s really not all that villainous in the movie, and is another wasted character. Sure, he’s the one who gives the order early on to put down the chimps, but the film does a lousy job reminding us of this fact, and during the film’s climactic confrontation on the Golden Gate Bridge, Jacobs is in a helicopter firing at the apes with a machine gun, but since we hardly know this character, we don’t really know why he’s so hell-bent on destroying the apes.

LS: Jacobs isn’t really a villain, he’s just some greedy guy who wants to make as much money as he can from the drug Rodman is working on, and who wants to avoid “problems” like the apes going rogue, at all costs, because it hurts his profit margin.

MA: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is also hampered by its trailers, trailers I enjoyed, by the way. The problem is it’s another example where a trailer completely gives away the movie. There are lots of cool scenes in this movie. Too bad I had already seen them in the trailers! So, if you haven’t seen the trailers, you might like this movie better than I did. The trailers practically show the entire background story and the scenes of the apes on the loose, and so as a movie viewer I hoped that there would still be more of this story to be told, but the sad fact is, the apes don’t escape till the end of this movie, and so there’s not much happening beyond what we’ve seen in the trailers.

LS: I agree with you there. I reviewed the trailer last week in my “Trashing Trailers” column, and I thought it was good, but wasn’t sure what direction the movie would take. The funny thing is, I could have written most of my review of the movie based on the trailer. The story is just about all there. And I agree – I really hate when trailers do that. I want to be surprised! Unfortunately, that’s a very rare occurrence in movies these days.

MA: There are some lines that pay homage to the original APES series, including my favorite line of all time from the series, “It’s a madhouse!!!” (though Charlton Heston still says it better in the original.)

LS: And don’t forget when someone says “Get your hand off me, you damn dirty ape!

(A big purple face peeks out from behind a rock formation)

PURPRLE APE: Grape Ape!

MA: Oh no, it’s that stupid giant gorilla GRAPE APE from that Saturday morning cartoon in the 70s.

LS: I don’t think you should be insulting a gorilla in a preserve full of apes.

PURPLE APE: Grape Ape!

LS: I always wondered about that. Why did Grape Ape constantly say his name over and over? He didn’t sound very smart.

PURPLE APE: Grape Ape!

LS: What a moron! Get out of here!

(GRAPE APE says his name one more time, very sadly, and then leaves)

MA: There are also some interesting names. The character Dodge Landon gets his name from the two astronauts Dodge and Landon who were shipwrecked with fellow astronaut Taylor (Charlton Heston) in the original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) movie. Caesar’s mother is nicknamed “Bright Eyes,” the same nickname given to Taylor by the chimp ZIra in PLANET OF THE APES. As you already pointed out, the orangutan in this one is named Maurice, in honor of Maurice Evans, the actor who played the orangutan Dr. Zaius in PLANET OF THE APES, and the villain’s name here is Steven Jacobs, and the producer of the original APES series was Arthur P. Jacobs.

LS: I kept hoping someone named Lancelot Link would show up, but no such luck. No sign of Bubbles or Bonzo, either!

But there is a scene where someone is watching a Charlton Heston movie on television!

MA:  Really?  I missed that.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a mixed bag, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with this movie. I expected better. There wasn’t much of a story and the human characters are about as exciting as a bunch of bananas. Still, the apes are the reason to see RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. The special effects are top-notch and make this one worth a look, in spite of its shortcomings.

I give it two and a half knives.

LS: I liked this movie a lot more than you did. I think part of it is that I am a huge fan of the original films and was completely horrified by the truly awful remake Tim Burton made of PLANET OF THE APES in 2001. To be honest, I thought Burton’s monstrosity had killed the franchise forever. Luckily, I was wrong. I’m excited that the PLANET OF THE APES series has been given new life and I think that compared to Burton’s film, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is pretty terrific.

MA:  I’m a huge fan of the original series too, and like you, I hated the Tim Burton remake.  And while I agree that RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a much better movie than Burton’s film, it’s no instant classic.  I think it compares favorably to the original APES series as a whole, but it’s nowhere near as good as the original film in the series, PLANET OF THE APES.

 

Last summer, we reviewed PREDATORS, a film I really liked.  That movie not only re-imagined the PREDATOR series, but on its own may have been the best film in the franchise!  RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES falls short of this mark.

LS:  Yeah, but the first PLANET OF THE APES is a much better movie than the first PREDATOR movie.

MA:  Okay, I’ll accept that.

LS:  On its own merits, I liked the storyline, most of the CGI effects, and especially Andy Serkis as Caesar. I don’t think it’s a great film, or even in the same league as those terrific PLANET OF THE APES films of the 1960s and 70s, but it didn’t disappoint me. It was actually as good as I thought it could be. I really enjoyed RISE and found the story of Caesar’s ascension to be quite compelling. And while you compared it negatively against COWBOYS & ALIENS, I actually thought RISE was the better movie, because it was more thoughtful.

MA:  I liked COWBOYS AND ALIENS much better than RISE.  I thought the characters in COWBOYS & ALIENS were much more interesting, and the acting much better.  Daniel Craig’s performance alone was better than anyone in RISE.

LS:  I think it loses its way a bit toward the end, but not enough to ruin the movie for me. And I thought it was a respectful, well-made film, that’s considerate of the legacy of the early films (something Tim Burton seemed to disregard completely when he attempted to remake the series in his own image – badly!).

I give it three and a half knives.

MA: Well, I guess we’re done here. I think it’s feeding time anyway.

LS: Yep.

(The CHIMP in the top hat suddenly stands up and approaches them)

CHIMP: Where are you guys rushing off to? I thought the chubby one here invited us over to his place for beers.

LS: Heh, heh. Did I do that?

MA: Yeah, I’m afraid you did.

LS: I thought you were all going over to Michael Jackson’s ranch for Bubbles’ party.

CHIMP (looks at watch): That’s not for a while yet. We got time to kill. And we want that beer.

(The other APES cheer!)

LS: Well, on second thought, I don’t know if I have enough room or beer for all of you guys.

GORILLA: He lied to us!

BABOON: I knew it! Never trust a human!

ORANGUTAN: Damn dirty humans!

CHIMP: Well, you know what that means.

LS: No!

CHIMP: Yes. Hit it, Corny!

(Music begins and the APES break into a musical number)

MA: You know, these apes really aren’t that bad.  They can really carry a tune!

LS: Yuck. I’m gonna sneak out of the back way.

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES ~ two and a half knives!

 

LL Soares gives RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES ~three and a half knives.