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War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) | Ape-ocalypse Now! Adventure and spectacle never looked so awesome

War of the Planet of the Apes

Imagine if Cecil B De Mille and Irwin Allen created a Planet of Apes sequel and decided to fuse elements from The Ten Commandments, The Great Escape and Bridge on the River Kwai, while also paying homage to the original Ape movies… boom! You’ve got War for the Planet of the Apes aka Ape-ocalypse Now! – where spectacle and adventure collide on a colossal scale – but with a complex morality fable racing through.

Did I like it? Hell yes! Picking up two after the events of Dawn, Caesar and the surviving ape colony have been hiding out deep in the forest when they come under attack from a band of soldiers, who are quickly subdued. In an act of mercy, Caesar spares the lives of the survivors, but their leader, Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson), launches a devastating counter-attack.

With knowledge that forces from the North are heading their way, Caesar plans to send the colony out of the forest to a safe haven in the desert – but there’s a little matter of revenge against the ape-hating McCullough to sort out first…

War of the Planet of the Apes

[WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD]
What follows is Caesar undergoing an existential crisis as he struggles between becoming like his nemesis Koba whom he defeated in Dawn (but who still haunts Caesar) by getting violent revenge on the humans, and also dealing with the challenge of leading his tribe (just like Moses) to a Promised Land.

Of course he can’t do it without some help: so we have the ever-reliable Rocket (the brawn) and Maurice (the brains and Caesar’s conscience) accompanying him, along with Steve Zahn’s former zoo inmate, Bad Ape (who supplies the film’s only comic relief) and an orphaned girl (Amiah Miller) who Maurice takes under his protection – giving her the name Nova (could she be Chuck Heston’s rescued damsel from Planet of the Apes?).

 

The fact that little Nova can’t speak is another link to POTA where all of the humans were mute. Seems that pesky virus from Rise has had far-reaching effects. It could also provide a clue as to where this reboot franchise could be heading if War does just as well at the box office as the first two.

War of the Planet of the Apes

Caesar is soon into Heart of Darkness territory when Harrelson’s shaven-headed Kurtz-like Colonel captures the apes – including Caesar’s young son Cornelius – and forces them to work as slaves. Now, its time for Caesar to put on Dickie Attenborough’s officier’s hat and devise a Great Escape with the help of his sidekicks…

Like I said before, I loved War and those movie riffs, especially to the original Ape movies of which I’m a huge lifelong fan were a treat. The one that really tickled me was when Caesar is seen in silhouette as fires burn around him, which recalls the closing shot in Conquest of the Planet of Apes when Roddy McDowall’s Caesar delivers his ‘birth of the Planet of the Apes’ speech after defeating his captors. And those scary crucifixes seen in the first two movies also feature.

War of the Planet of the Apes

But while some may think it lazy film-making creating a movie based on the best scenes from classic big screen adventures, what makes this adventure so enthralling is the epic cinematography and the genuinely touching performances of all the motion-capture ape characters – with Andy Serkis providing some richly deep commanding vocal talent to his slightly greying and grizzled Caesar and Karin Konoval returning as my favourite – the marvellous Maurice. Then there’s the solid screenplay which brings brings lots of light and shadow and complexity to what could be seen as another ‘Apes good, Man bad’ scenario.

This is what summer blockbusters should be all about – adventure and spectacle on an awesome scale – but with a bit of heart and soul and moral complexity.

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Saturday Island (1952) | When Tab Hunter met The Virgin Mary and a Mysteron at Guantánamo Bay

Saturday Island (1952)A South-Seas Shangri-La of romance and adventure beyond your wildest dreams!
OK! So if I was ever stranded on a tropical island, I could think of no one better than having Tab Hunter’s 20-year-old marine corporal as my companion.

His Michael ‘Chicken’ Dugan is a natural survivalist. He can make tools, fish, build a weatherproof hut, knows which fruits are edible or not, and can even turn calico into weaveable fabric.

Too bad Linda Darnell’s educated and older nurse Elizabeth Smythe can’t see just how wonderful this youngster is – or how sexy (Tab’s tanned and shirtless throughout).

And it’s this internal drama that drives this colourful adventure set during World War Two, in which the couple make their way to a deserted island on a raft after the sinking of a US military hospital ship.

This was Tab’s first big-screen role, and he exudes such wholesome boyish innocence that you can’t help but feel for his character when Donald Gray’s clipped British pilot Bill Peck crashes his plane on the island and is brought back to health (minus an arm) by an infatuated Darnell.

Saturday Island (1952)

The taglines for the film – which was released in the US with the racier title, Island of Desire – promised: ‘Excitement — Throbbing love under a tropic moon — then the typhoon hits with sudden savagery!’ Well, not quite, but it does make for a great love story-cum-adventure – made more so by the gorgeous scenery (including Ocho Rios in Jamaica, where Dr No was filmed, and Guantanamo Bay US Naval base, when it was still a major transportation facility) and by the novelty of seeing Donald Gray in the flesh. Genre fans will, of course, remember him as the voice of Captain Black, Colonel White and the Mysterons in TV’s Captain Scarlet. Darnell, meanwhile, was a big Hollywood studio star best known for classic fare like 1950’s No Way Out and 1947’s Forever Amber, but I will always associate her with playing the Virgin Mary in 1943’s The Story of Bernadette.

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Network’s new DVD release of Saturday Island includes a brand-new transfer from the original colour film elements, in it’s as-exhibited theatrical 1.37:1 aspect ratio.

Special features

• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Press release PDF

Saturday Island is released on DVD in the UK from Network Distributing

 

Shark Killer (2015) | It’s a bargain bin Romancing the Stone with fins

Shark Killer (2015)

Shark Killer opens with a cool graphic novel animated opening credit sequence and a comical Jaws II meets Piranha scene in which a bunch of American teens become shark food, before our square-jawed hero Chase Walker (Derek Theler) saves – then shags – the girl (think Bond as a muscled jock).

Shark Killer (2015)

It certainly sets the scene for a tongue-in-cheek adventure in which Chase jets off to Cape Town in South Africa where he’s coerced by his obnoxious adopted (and therefore less attractive) brother Jake (Paul du Toit) into retrieving a priceless diamond swallowed by a Great White. And helping Chase in his quest is local beauty Jasmine (A Town Called Eureka‘s Erica Cerra), who looks like a cross between Jessica Alba and Courtney Cox, but sounds like she’s swallowed a frog.

Shark Killer (2015)

Next stop, a bargain bin Romancing the Stone meets buddy comedy where gags like ‘This isn’t flipper we’re talking about’ fall flat at every turn, there’s little in the way of action (apart from a couple of well-choreographed fight scenes that show off Theler action man skills) and practically nil shark carnage (which is what we came for).

Shark Killer (2015)

Instead we have just three CGI shark attacks (one on a fluffy white terrier) amid lots of flirty talk between Theler and Cerra. Now, they’re certainly a fit-looking couple, but they’re no Michael Douglas or Kathleen Turner – and du Toit is no Danny De Vito either.

Shark Killer (2015)

Doing his best Bond-style villain, Arnold Vosloo is pretty cool, especially when his drug-dealing diamond collector takes his final revenge after being almost been burned to a crisp in an explosion. But, ultimately, even he can’t save this sinker.

Shark Killer dives onto DVD in the UK on 20 July from Image Entertainment

The Thief of Bagdad (1940) | The dazzling fantasy classic takes a magical carpet ride onto Blu-ray

 

Thief of Bagdad Blu-ray

Three brave hearts, adventuring in a wonder world!
Imprisoned by the wicked Grand Vizier Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), Ahmad (John Justin), the rightful king of Bagdad, befriends a young thief called Abu (Sabu). When Ahmad falls for a beautiful princess (June Duprez) and is magically blinded by Jaffar, who wants the princess for his bride, the intrepid duo embark on a series of adventures in a bid to undo the spell and save the princess.

Thief of Bagdad (1940)

GIGANTIC! The Wonder Picture of All Time!
A triumph of filmmaking in its day and one of Alexander Korda‘s best-loved films, this Oscar-winning Arabian fantasy is a magical, atmospheric carpet ride that still dazzles thanks to its sensational sets and flamboyant art direction. John Justin turns on the matinee idol charm as the messiah-like Ahmad, while Sabu has boundless energy as the pocket-sized action man. But it’s Conrad Veidt’s briliiant, dastardly Jaffar who set the benchmark for the ultimate panto villain. The special effects may look dated now, but they were sensational back in 1940. Six directors ended up working on the film, including Michael Powell (Peeping Tom) and William Cameron Menzies (Invaders from Mars).

Thief of Bagdad (1940)

DID YOU KNOW?
Alexander Korda had to finish the movie in Hollywood when war broke out in Europe following director Tim Whelan’s location shooting at Tenby Harbour and Freshwater Beach in Pembrokeshire. This was where the iconic scene of Rex Ingram’s giant Djinn coming out of his magic bottle was filmed.

Thief of Bagdad (1940)

THE UK BLU-RAY RELEASE
Released as part of Network’s The British Film collection, The Thief of Bagdad is presented in a HD transfer from original film elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an unrestored theatrical trailer and image galleries.

thief of bagdad 1924ALSO AVAILABLE
The original 1924 version of The Thief of Bagdad, which was produced and starred Douglas Fairbanks, was one of the costliest films made in Hollywood during the silent era. This vintage classic is also available in a restored version on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Eureka! Entertainment. Part of their The Masters of Cinema Series, the release (which came out in November 2014) includes a new score by Carl Davies, audio commentary by Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance, and a 40-page collectors booklet.

• A German Blu-ray of the 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad was released back in November 2012 by Anolis Entertainment, which included audio commentary and a documentary on Sabu. There’s also an Italian-released version from 4k Studio. Criterion’s DVD release, which came out in 2008, features a host of extras, including a commentary with Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.

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