Category Archives: planet of the apes

RIP William Windom

This has been a bad weekend for show business. We lost director Tony Scott to an apparent suicide, singer/songwriter Scott McKenzie of “San Francisco” fame, and just today, Phyllis Diller. But for right now, I’m going to talk about Emmy Award winning actor William Windom.

Windom was perhaps one of the best character actors in television, film and stage. He was memorable in “The Farmer’s Daughter,” “Star Trek,” “Night Gallery,” a recurring role on “Murder, She Wrote,” and multiple episodes of “Twilight Zone.” You might also remember him from the films To Kill a Mockingbird, Escape from the Planet of the Apes and The Detective among others.

But the reason I remember William Windom is a short-lived NBC TV series called “My World and Welcome to It.” My big sister Bobbie, for whom I am eternally grateful for teaching me to read at a very young age, insisted I watch the show when I was just a wee one. At the time, I might have thought she put me in front of the TV because it had cartoons in it, but in reality, she was exposing me to a great writer – James Thurber.

The show revolved around a writer and cartoonist based on Thurber and played by Windom, who won an Emmy for his work there. Most of the content of this unique half-hour sitcom was either based on Thurber’s stories, essays and cartoons, or on his own life. The one animated sequence that stands out in my mind is “The Unicorn in the Garden.” Years later I would find the tale in a book and discover one of my favorite authors.

Thank you, Bobbie, for introducing me to James Thurber, and thank you, William Windom, for bringing him to life. Windom passed away on Thursday from congestive heart failure. He was 88, and he will be missed.

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In Time

In Time ~ This is one of those types of science fiction concept flicks that would have been right at home on a double bill with other 1970s era movies like Rollerball, The Omega Man, Logan’s Run, and Planet of the Apes. The concept is the draw point. Here in In Time, the idea is a world where time is currency. Similar to the aforementioned Logan’s Run, one has a limited lifespan, 25 in this case, but more time can be earned or stolen, and some people can live for centuries.

This is a lot more clever than it at first appears to be. Much fun is had in dialogue with time measurements in place of monetary amounts. Many of the characters are named after famous watchmakers. Fun.

Justin Timberlake deftly plays Will Salas, who loses his mother to time limit and also is given over a century by a stranger in the space of a day. The stranger also imparts over a century to him before expiring himself. On the run from perennial baddie Cillian Murphy as a Timekeeper (that’s futurespeak for cop) for the stranger’s murder, Will ends up on the run with Amanda Seyfried as a hostage. She’s the daughter of a rich socialite, played by Vincent Kartheiser, Pete Campbell of “Mad Men.” This is where In Time spins into current day thriller as opposed to retro-sci-fi.

In Time was written by producer and director Andrew Niccol who’s had similar flicks under his belt like Gattaca, The Truman Show, and S1m0ne. It’s as if he’s got one foot in the day after tomorrow scifi vibe. He also wrote the story that The Terminal was based on and produced a handful as well. I’ll be looking for his name in the future based on In Time. There’s more to this flick than seems at first glance, worth a look.

Apollo 18

Apollo 18 ~ Much like my earlier review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this movie pulls at my nostalgic heartstrings. NASA, the Apollo program, the moon landings, Skylab, Tang, all that stuff is a part of my childhood, and monumental to the 1970s. It’s worth noting that even Steve Austin was an astronaut, that’s how tied together this all is. And a movie about a mysterious Apollo 18 mission fits right in with my recent flights of nostalgia.

From the opening moments of Apollo 18 where it portends to be a found footage film, my heart sank. This type of filmmaking rarely works, and if it does, it usually falls apart at the end. Blair Witch and Chronicle are the rare exceptions to the rule. I hoped this would be as well. Just don’t think about how it is you’re watching this film. It’s apparently edited together after the fact, takes advantage of the poor video quality of the missions, and also spotlights bits of film the viewer is supposed to pay attention to. For me, that kind of ruins it. Don’t oversell, and don’t underestimate your audience.

We see lots of the cast, but sadly the film doesn’t give us enough of the astronauts for us to care about them. This probably remains the biggest fault of the film. That said, once into the premise and watching the movie, you can’t take your eyes off it. So settle in, dim the lights, and add some vodka to your Tang, you’re in for an intriguing and startling ride. Not what I expected at all. Relax and enjoy.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes ~ As a kid growing up in the 1970s, Planet of the Apes was very important to me, and probably to most kids of my generation. I remember asking to stay up to watch the movies on CBS, and their creaky continuity. I remember the lame TV show. I remember the girl across the street who got the Mego PotA treehouse for a gift. It’s instilled in my childhood, like the “Brady Bunch,” Marathon bars, and the “Six Million Dollar Man,” PotA was the 1970s.

All that said, you can imagine my disappointment with the Tim Burton remake, and especially that effed up ending swiped from a bad Kevin Smith comic book. When I heard they were making a prequel to it, my heart sank. A prequel to a bad movie is never a good idea, and besides, let’s get real, the original prequels to PotA weren’t that great either.

In truth, prequels rarely work, especially when we already know the story. Viewers might just give a pass to a prequel because it’s not going to tell them anything they didn’t already know. I already know the origins of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, you don’t need to tell me again. In most cases they aren’t even needed, and sometimes even hurt the property. Case in point – Star Wars.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised me though. It hooked me first with an intriguing trailer before throwing the title at me. I wanted to see it before I even knew it was PotA. Finally, I’ve got hold of it on DVD. Let’s see if my instincts were right.

From the start, there are homages , both verbal and visual, to the original series of movies. Much like the preview, the movie itself grabbed me right away. James Franco, in less than annoying mode, is a geneticist searching for a cure to Alzheimer’s, testing on apes, and inadvertently succeeds with a chimp named Caesar that he raises himself. John Lithgow gives a wonderful performance as Franco’s afflicted father as well. Andy Serkis does his usual as does Tom (Draco Malfoy) Felton, so much for typecasting.

If you know the mythos, you can connect the dots, but there is still a strong emotional story here, not just a this-is-how-we-got-here vibe. The CGI effects make for the needed realism of the tale. While the ape masks and make-up of the original PotA were state of the art for the time, sadly now, they are just, well, ape masks and make-up. These apes look real and emote real, it’s very stunning. In fact it’s a tribute to the power of CGI done well that the scenes of Caesar and other apes are so hypnotic.

I really dug this flick. When all hell really breaks loose, and the apes begin their ‘rise,’ I was ten years old again. Yeah, it’s that good.

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Bad Ronald

Bad Ronald ~ In the early to mid-1970s ABC did tons of TV movies, also known as telemovies or movies of the week. The best of these were low-budget yet very memorable horror thrillers. Warner Home Video has finally released some of these lost classics on DVD in their Archives Collection.

One of these was Bad Ronald, based on the book by science fiction writer Jack Vance, and starring Scott Jacoby (Mario from The Little Girl who Lives Down the Lane) in the title role and Kim Hunter (Zira from Planet of the Apes) as his mother.

Social misfit Ronald accidentally kills one of his tormentors and his equally twisted smothering mother hides him away in a secret room in their house. When Mom heads to the hospital and dies, Ronald falls deeper into dementia. When a family moves into the newly vacant house, and one of the daughters begins dating the victim’s older brother – it gets really creepy as he starts drilling peepholes in walls and pillaging their fridge for food.

A wannabe writer, Ronald, in his loneliness, begins to blur the line between reality and his fantasy world of Atranta, envisioning the daughter as his princess and the boyfriend as an evil duke. When the parents go away for the weekend, Ronald comes out to play, and things take a wild turn into horror movie land and the fun begins.

The stranger living in the walls idea is a classic of the genre, almost as notorious as ‘the calls are coming from inside the house,’ and Bad Ronald is a classic in its own right. I’m glad this is finally out on DVD.

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Charlton Heston 1924-2008


Whether you know him from his many brilliant roles in classic Hollywood or his many Biblical epics or his resurgence in 1970s scifi and disaster flicks or his fierce political leanings both liberal and conservative, Charlton Heston is a man who can never be forgotten.

If you’ve ever heard powerful narration, it’s probably him or someone who wishes they were him. Even if you’ve never seen his films, Heston leaves his mark on early television playing such parts as the leads in “Macbeth” and “Wuthering Heights,” and even in contemporary TV on “Saturday Night Live” and “Dynasty.” He always made his mark no matter where he performed.

From the classic Ben-Hur to the original (and the best) Planet of the Apes to The Greatest Show on Earth to El Cid to his own personal favorite Will Penny to the much-parodied Soylent Green to perhaps both his greatest role and the best Biblical epic ever filmed, The Ten Commandments, Heston was a man among men and an actor among actors. He will be missed.