Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucy (2014) review


In the 90’s, French director Luc Besson was most well-known for his films starring kick-ass female action heroes, which included films like ‘Nikita’, ‘Leon: The Professional’, and ‘The Fifth Element’. But for the most part, Besson hasn’t really done much in terms of directing for most of the 2000’s and early 2010’s. Instead, he’s spent most of his recent time as a producer for a number of films, most notably the ‘Transporter’ and ‘Taken’ franchises. But it’s looking like Besson is on the verge of make a directorial comeback and his newest project, ‘Lucy’, is the latest film of his centered on a female action hero and really, what better choice is there right now for a role like this than Scarlett Johansson, who of course is on a roll right now as Agent Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow in Marvel Studios’ Cinematic Universe after appearing in ‘Iron Man 2’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, and the upcoming ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. And in the end, it truly is because of Johansson’s performance in the title role that ‘Lucy’ manages to be a fun little action thriller. But here’s the thing… don’t go into this film expecting a smart sci-fi action film because you’re really not going to get it here and how much you’ll enjoy this film will more than likely depend on whether or not you’re willing to accept that.

The film begins as Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), an American student currently living in Taipei, Taiwan, is asked by her new boyfriend to deliver a briefcase to his employer, gangster/drug lord Jang (Choi Min-sik). Not wanting to do it, she is tricked into doing the job anyway, which ends up taking a really dark turn at her expense once she meets with Jang. It turns out that the contents of the briefcase are bags of a synthetic drug known as CPH4 which, when used, enhance the user’s brain-function capacity. One of the containers is then implanted into Lucy’s stomach as she is then forced into being a drug mule for the mob so that they can transport the drugs overseas in order to sell them in various European cities. While in captivity, the drugs inadvertently leak into her system, resulting in her acquiring new mental/physical capabilities as her neural capacity begins to expand. She soon realizes, however, that she needs more of the drug in order for her to continue to expand her neural capacity and that she will soon die because of rapid cell growth that is occurring in her system due to the drugs. This leads her on a mission to recover the drugs before Jang and his henchman can get them back.

It’s generally been proven already that the main premise of this film is a ‘fallacy’... in other words the premise for this is really scientifically inaccurate. Basically in this film they’re saying that we only access 10% of our brain’s capacity and while it is sort of true that all the parts of the brain aren’t all active at one given time, this film is implying that we only use 10% of those parts when that is not true; all of the parts of our brains get used at one point or another. But even with that in mind, the film is an enjoyably fun little action thriller that goes by pretty fast at just under 90 minutes so it’s not like the film overstays its welcome or anything. The action scenes are pretty good and well-shot, the film does hold your interest from beginning to end, and there’s also a surprisingly decent amount of humor in this, which mainly stems from ordinary people reacting to the amazing things that Lucy can do once she develops these telekinetic powers (which are pretty cool). But like I said earlier, you really have to get past the fact that, to put it bluntly, this is a very, very stupid action thriller and the ending in particular, which I won’t spoil, is where things get really, really weird.

After proving herself to be a legitimately kick-ass action star in the MCU, Scarlett Johansson steals the show here and is easily the best part of the whole film. She provides the right amount of charm and resilience in the lead role of Lucy, both of these traits being part of what made Black Widow such a great part of the MCU films she was in and the transition she has in this going from the scared student in over her head to the ultimate badass is done pretty well. She’s so good that she basically overshadows anyone else in this movie. In fact, the only other notable actor in this movie that most of you are likely to recognize is Morgan Freeman, who does a fine enough job here in what is quite frankly a fairly insignificant role (which I hate to say is sort of becoming a trend with him recently which is a shame because he’s such a great actor) as a professor whose research Lucy utilizes at one point in the movie. However, the rest of the cast does a good job as well with some solid performances from Choi Min-sik (who film fans are very likely to recognize as the lead from the original ‘Oldboy’ (not the Spike Lee remake)), even though his character is just your typical evil drug-lord, and Amr Waked as a police officer who assists Lucy during her mission.

I’m going to sum up this movie ‘Lucy’ in just two words: dumb fun. If you’re willing to accept the fact that this is an action thriller based around a scientific premise that has been proven false, then I feel that you’ll probably enjoy this movie. But even with that in mind, the science in this is still really dumb and things get quite bizarre by the end of it. However, the film does manage to make up for that by managing to be a fun little action thriller that is well-shot and has some pretty good action sequences. Of course, at the end of the day, this film is highlighted by Scarlett Johansson’s performance in the lead role. She has become a great female action star and hopefully Marvel will give her a ‘Black Widow’ spin-off film sometime soon (I too want to see that happen; I guess you can say I want to see it happen as much as Johansson herself does) because I think that she has proven that she is capable of holding her own in an action movie and this film is a pretty solid example of that. It may not be as good as the MCU films that she was in but overall I’d say it’s at least worth checking out. But again, just make sure you know what you’re getting yourselves into here in regards to the science behind it because it doesn’t help this movie in any way.


Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 5 Star Wars Spin-Off films that I want to See


I really have to hand it to Disney in regards to how they have been handling the ‘Star Wars’ franchise ever since they purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas in October 2012. This is especially in regards to the directors that they’ve picked to helm the next few ‘Star Wars’ films. Back in January 2013, I released a post in which I expressed much excitement over the news that one of my favorite directors working today, J.J. Abrams, was hired to direct the first new Disney-produced ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘Episode VII’. And just a few months ago I did another post where I praised the cast that they’ve picked, one that consisted of both returning members of the franchise and some very promising new additions including the likes of Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega. Now of course, those two posts were mostly based on speculation and we’re still more than a year away from the release of the film. However, it looks like Abrams won’t be returning to direct the rest of the ‘sequel trilogy’ which is sad but at the same time I don’t really blame him because I can understand if he doesn’t want to spend the next few years of his life just working on these ‘Star Wars’ films. And besides, Disney did find a really great director to follow in Abrams’ immediate footsteps. It was recently announced that Rian Johnson (‘Looper’) was hired to direct ‘Episode VIII’ and he will also be writing a treatment for ‘Episode IX’. Of his films, I’ve only seen ‘Looper’ but that is such a great film that I don’t think that I really need any more proof that Johnson is a great choice to direct a ‘Star Wars’ film… that and he also directed the best episode of ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Ozymandias’ so yeah, I’m already convinced.

But those aren’t the only ‘Star Wars’ films that we will be getting in the next few years as it was also revealed, around the time that Abrams was hired to direct ‘Episode VII’, that a couple of spin-off films were in development. These spin-offs, which are expected to be released between the official sequel trilogy films, are not intended to cross-over with the main trilogy but they will still be a part of the ‘Star Wars’ universe. Recently, Disney has revealed two of the directors that they’ve hired to helm their own spin-off films. Gareth Edwards, fresh off of the ‘Godzilla’ reboot, will be helming the first spin-off, currently set for a December 2016 release date. Just a few weeks after this announcement, Josh Trank, director of the excellent found-footage film ‘Chronicle’ was hired for the second spin-off. At this time, it has not been officially confirmed as to what films these two are doing which has led to a lot of speculation in regards to which characters are possibly getting their own spin-offs. I’ve been speculating as well because quite frankly I am really excited at the prospect of seeing a new ‘Star Wars’ film every year. So with that in mind, today I’ll be doing my own list of the Top 5 ‘Star Wars’ spin-off films that I personally want to see. I will be focusing on certain characters and not on any storylines from the Expanded Universe, and on that note this is mostly going to be characters from the films themselves and not really any characters from the Expanded Universe (e.g. books, video-games, comics, etc…). I do apologize in advance for this but for the most part I’m fairly unfamiliar with most of that material. So, without further ado, let’s get started with my Number 5 choice for a possible ‘Star Wars’ spin-off film.

5. OBI-WAN KENOBI


I’ve noted before that I’m not as critical on the prequel films as pretty much everyone else in the world is. Now for the record I do agree that the original films are way better in every sense of the word but at the same time I feel like the prequels, although certainly flawed, aren’t really ‘that bad’. One of the highlights of the prequels was easily Ewan McGregor as young Obi-Wan Kenobi. While most of the prequel cast was either wasted or, more commonly, rather weak in regards to their performances, McGregor was easily the best actor in the entire trilogy managing to get around the silly dialogue, even though the character didn’t really get that much to do (especially in the first film). I’ve seen quite a lot of people give their opinions on how the prequels could’ve been fixed, and one of the ‘solutions’ that they thought up was to have Obi-Wan be the official main character of the trilogy just like Luke Skywalker was in the original trilogy and while I’m not certain how much this would’ve actually helped fix the prequels, I definitely agree that this would’ve certainly been a step in the right direction.

Because of that, shall we say, ‘lost opportunity’, I am pretty interested in seeing a spin-off film from Obi-Wan’s perspective and it could possibly be done in two different ways. One of the ways could focus on his origins. What’s his back-story? How did he meet up with Qui-Gon Jinn and become his Padawan? Or perhaps maybe they can focus on the time he spent on Tatooine after the events of ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and before all that happens in ‘A New Hope’ before he became known as ‘Ben Kenobi’. Not only that, but this scenario could also let us see how much he was affected by the whole situation of his Padawan/Friend Anakin Skywalker turning to the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader. In other words, how will Obi-Wan try and deal with his greatest failure? Now the reason why this is only Number 5 for me is because being that he was one of the main characters of the prequels, I’m not really sure how likely it is that he will be one of the characters that are being considered right now for a spin-off film and if it is made, will Ewan McGregor return to the role? Hopefully he will, but regardless of whether or not that will happen, if they ever did do an Obi-Wan spin-off, I would be interested in seeing it.

4. A MOVIE SET IN THE ‘OLD REPUBLIC’ ERA


Okay, I’m sort of cheating here by focusing more on an era of the Star Wars universe than an actual character, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who wants to see an ‘Old Republic’ movie. Now I just want to note that I actually haven’t played either of the two ‘Knights of the Old Republic’ games or the ‘Old Republic’ MMORPG though I do own the first two games on Steam and I did create an account for the ‘Old Republic’ MMO but I haven’t used it yet. Still, I’m really interested in seeing some of the storylines from this era which, if you’re not familiar with it, takes place about 3,000 years before any of the events of the prequel trilogy. In ‘Episode I: The Phantom Menace’, it is established that the Jedi believe that the Sith have been extinct for a long time which means that there clearly must have been quite a lot of Sith Lords that were around during the ‘Old Republic’ era (again keep in mind this is from the perspective of someone who hasn’t played the games so I’m not too familiar with any of the storylines of that time period) so because of that, I really want to see an ‘Old Republic’ era movie be made sometime in the near future. Make it happen, Disney!

3. EMPEROR PALPATINE


One of the best characters in the entire ‘Star Wars’ franchise has to be Emperor Palpatine. Set up perfectly in the original trilogy, the Emperor was certainly an unforgettable menacing villain in ‘Return of the Jedi’ but also a character that was shrouded in mystery. As for his role in the prequels, it’s safe to say that Ian McDiarmid’s performance in the role was one of the best elements of the prequel trilogy, even though in Episode III he was quite over-the-top at times. It was still entertaining but he did come off as being very hammy once he truly became the Emperor. Still, I’d love to see an ‘Emperor Palpatine’ spin-off film. This is another character whose backstory I’m really interested in seeing. We already know that he was once a senator on Naboo before he became the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic but there’s one major question that has been, for the most part, left unanswered and that is in regards to his fateful turn to the Dark Side and how it happened. Was he always a bad guy? Was he once a good guy who become ‘seduced by the Dark Side’ like Anakin Skywalker was? From the perspective of someone who, again, isn’t familiar with a lot of the ‘Expanded Universe’ material, which I’m guessing explains all of this, this is a story that I’d love to see unfold on the big screen. If this film happens, I’m pretty sure that they’ll probably recast the role but who knows, maybe McDiarmid can make a cameo appearance in it. After all, it was once reported that he was to appear in ‘Episode VII’ even though the character was killed off in ‘Jedi’. Of course, that was later proven false but I’d love to see McDiarmid reprise the role at least one more time in a movie and I’m certain a Palpatine spin-off would be the best place to make that cameo.

2. DARTH MAUL


There’s one very specific reason as to why I chose these next two characters that I feel deserve their own spinoffs and that is because of ‘wasted opportunities’. First off, we have Darth Maul, one of the main villains of ‘Episode I: The Phantom Menace’. It’s safe to say that his role in the film was built up quite a lot (a close-up of his face dominates the upper half of the original poster) and, like the Emperor in ‘Return of the Jedi’, his character’s backstory was pretty much completely shrouded in mystery. Plus, he even ends up killing one of the main characters, Qui-Gon… and then Obi-Wan then proceeds to slice him in half and that’s the last we ever see of him in the prequels. Earlier, I noted that some feel that Obi-Wan should’ve been the main character in the prequel trilogy and there are also some who believe that Darth Maul should’ve been the ‘Darth Vader’ of the prequel trilogy in that he isn’t the main villain of the trilogy but is more of a rival to Obi-Wan, which would make sense seeing how he killed his master. Now I am aware that Darth Maul did appear in the computer-animated ‘Clone Wars’ TV series, which was set after the events of Episode I, and that there was some mentions of his back-story but I didn’t really see any of the episodes that he appeared in so because of that, I think that Darth Maul deserves his own spin-off film. After all, he’s become such a popular character amongst fans and that’s saying a lot considering how the character was kind of screwed over in Episode I… then again, the same scenario also applies to my Number 1 pick as well…

But first, before I get to Number 1, I’m going just throw out two honorable mentions:


My first honorable mention is Lando Calrissian, mostly because he was certainly one of the coolest characters in the original trilogy and I’m interested in seeing his back-story, most specifically his relationship with Han Solo. The second honorable mention I’m going to throw out is Yoda, which could be a difficult one to do seeing how at this point Yoda is obviously going to have to be a CGI character, but at the same time he lived to be about 900 years old, so that means that there is quite a lot of material that can be explored with using this character. Going back to what I just said about Lando and his relationship with Han Solo, I know that there have been rumors about a Han Solo spin-off movie but quite frankly I feel like that one is going to be a really tough one to do, mostly because of casting. It’s clear that if they did that film, the role of Han Solo is likely going to be re-cast and I’m sorry but it’s going to be hard to top Harrison Ford and what he did in the role. Now I’m not saying that it’s impossible but if this film is made, the casting of the role is very, very crucial.


1. BOBA FETT


Yeah, I know this one’s a bit obvious and it has been rumored that this is the spin-off film that Gareth Edwards is doing but in all seriousness, Boba Fett definitely deserves his own spin-off film regardless of whether or not it is currently in production. Like with Darth Maul, this was another character that became very popular amongst fans despite the fact that his role in the films was actually very limited. He first appears in ‘Episode V’ (and yes, I know that he first appeared in the infamous ‘Holiday Special’ but for now I’m focusing on the movies… plus we’ll ignore the scene in ‘A New Hope’ that was added into the Special Edition in which he makes a brief appearance) as this mysterious bounty hunter hired by Darth Vader to track down the Millennium Falcon after it escapes the Empire’s grasp following the Battle of Hoth. Here was yet another character whose back-story was shrouded in mystery which made him even more menacing and at the end of the film, he succeeds in capturing Han Solo, has him frozen in carbonite, and hands him over to Jabba the Hutt. Then, in Episode VI… he’s quickly defeated by Han Solo and is swallowed by the Sarlacc. Once again, a wasted opportunity and I think the character deserves better than that.

In fact, this ties into something that I want to see done in a ‘Star Wars’ film and that is a storyline centered around the galaxy’s bounty hunters. I mean for the most part Boba Fett and his father Jango have been the only major bounty hunters featured in the movies, even though there were some other bounty hunters that appeared briefly in Episode V and I feel that a movie based around that would be really cool. Like I said before back when I did the ‘J.J. Abrams directing Episode VII’ post, one thing that I really want to see done in these ‘Star Wars’ movies is that the filmmakers do a greater job at exploring the ‘Star Wars’ universe and not just copy what had been done before in the previous films. Sure, they can go back to old and familiar locations but I want to see new worlds and new characters and I know that the franchise has done that in other forms of media (e.g. TV shows, video games, etc…) but I’m specifically want to see that happen in the new movies themselves. The way I see it, a movie centered on Boba Fett and the world of the galaxy’s most infamous bounty hunters will open the door to plenty of new opportunities but we’re still quite some time away from seeing these films, so we’ll just have to wait and see.


So those are the Top 5 ‘Star Wars’ spin-off films that I personally want to see, but I’m curious as to what other characters you want to see get their own spin-offs so sound off in the comments with your own picks. Thanks for Reading folks, and may be the force be with you!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Planet of the Apes: Film Series Retrospective


So this past weekend saw the release of ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, the sequel to 2011’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, which itself was a reboot of the original/iconic sci-fi franchise; ‘Planet of the Apes’. It all began in 1968 with the release of a film that was based off of the 1963 book La Planète des singes by Pierre Boulle. The film, ‘Planet of the Apes’, was a major success both critically and commercially which resulted in the spawning of a film franchise that would see four more movies released through the early 70’s, with each sequel coming just a year after its immediate predecessor (excluding the first sequel, which came out two years after the original film). When the original franchise ended in 1973, the first film got a loose ‘remake’ in 2001 that was slated to revive the franchise. However, while it was financially successful at the box office, it didn’t fare as well critically resulting in the series being ‘rebooted’ once again in 2011 with ‘Rise’ and, safe to say, this newer film fared much better. Today, we’ll be looking at all of the films in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise from the original that started it all to the series’ recent reboots. Now there have also been two TV series that were made following the original series; 1974’s live-action series, ‘Planet of the Apes’ and 1975’s animated series, ‘Return to the Planet of the Apes’ but I won’t be covering either of those series today so now let’s get started as we look back on the ‘Planet of the Apes’ film franchise.
(Quick Disclaimer: This is the first time I’m watching the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ films.)

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)


It’s been more than 4 decades since its release, and even with that in mind the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ film holds up quite well as one of the landmark sci-fi films of its time. It’s a film that has quite a lot of social commentary, namely in regards to the debate of civil rights and the belief that ‘some are superior’ to others. In this case, the ‘superior’ race of the mysterious world that the main character, astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston), finds himself in after his space-ship crashes on an unknown planet, isn’t humanity but instead a group of intelligent apes who have evolved to the point where they now possess the ability to speak. The make-up effects for the apes still look pretty good today and while we have definitely moved on since the days of having these apes created through practical makeup (as proven by this series’ recent reboot films), it is still done pretty effectively here. The cast here does a pretty good job; Charlton Heston gets a little over-the-top at times but still does a solid job as does Roddy McDowall as the archeologist ape, Cornelius. If I did have any complaints about this film, it would be that occasionally there are some very corny/over-the-top moments, some of which are attributed to, as I just noted, Heston’s occasional over-acting.

Something that newcomers to this film might not expect going in is that the film actually has a kind of a very pessimistic view on the future of civilization… though in retrospect pretty much all of these films have had that same view. As the ‘protagonist’, Taylor is actually a bit of a jerk to his allies, human or ape, though in the end he’s aware of the consequences that are arising from what mankind is doing to the planet. Of course, this relates to what was going on at the time when this film came out (e.g. civil rights movement and the evolution of technology, among other things). Of course those consequences are truly exemplified in the film’s iconic twist ending in which Taylor learns that the planet he was on just so happened to be Earth the whole time, many years into the future, which he realizes when he comes across the remains of the Statue of Liberty. I will admit that I did know about the twist before seeing the film but it is still an excellent twist and is set up so well because we are effectively led to believe that we’re on a different planet but as the film progresses we slowly discover that this isn’t the case. Unlike the twist of another ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie which I’ll get to later, this is one of the best movie twists ever. The original ‘Planet of the Apes’ is one of the finest sci-fi films ever made as it immerses us in this ape world while also maintaining some strong (even though it is fairly pessimistic) social commentary. It’s a must-see for any sci-fi movie fan.

Rating: 4.5/5

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)


Umm, I really don’t know where to begin with this one because… well, you’ll see why soon enough. Anyway, ‘Beneath of the Planet of the Apes’ starts out okay enough even though it basically just rehashes a lot of the key plot points of the previous film; an astronaut crash-lands on the Ape-inhabited post-apocalyptic Earth, comes across the Ape City, at one point is one of the apes’ prisoners, he escapes, and then ultimately realizes where he truly is when he comes across an old New York landmark. It’s pretty much just exactly what Taylor went through in the last film, although here it doesn’t have the same impact as the previous film did. Plus, no offense to James Franciscus, but he’s no Charlton Heston, who only appears in this for a brief time and it quite frankly feels like he doesn’t really give a crap here (which isn’t that surprising seeing how he didn’t really want to return for this one in the first place. He only did on the condition that his character would be killed off by the end of it). So if one were to go by just this film’s first half, it basically just seems like your average sequel. But then we get to this film’s second half, which is for the record the most interesting part of the movie (it’s certainly much more interesting than what we got from this film’s first half) but it is also where things get really strange.

So in this film, there are a group of telepathic humans that are living underground in the ruins of the New York City Subway and they are worshippers of the atomic bomb… yes folks you read that right… that is the main plot of the film. I will give the film credit in that this really is an interesting idea, but quite frankly it kind of comes out of nowhere. Also, I think that by the time this whole scenario pops up, it feels like the film forgot about what movie franchise it’s a part of because the apes are kind of given the shaft in this half of the movie. Now don’t misinterpret me, because they’re still in it, but the whole ‘telepath’ plot doesn’t really connect with them. This is basically just two storylines in one and they really don’t mesh well together. And then we get to this film’s ending… I’m guessing that the filmmakers looked at the original film’s ending and thought to themselves, ‘Hell, we can go even farther than that!’ And quite frankly they do by literally blowing up the world with the telepath group’s atomic bomb. I know that some people actually like this ending but I’m sorry… this ending kind of sucks. I mean, sure it’s a ballsy ending and it does sort of follow in the footsteps of the previous film’s pessimistic twist ending but I feel like it just doesn’t work as well. In this case it feels more like it was just done for shock value and nothing else. Overall, this film just got really, really weird and in a film with talking apes… that’s saying a hell of a lot, folks. Now I don’t think it’s a bad film as there are some really good things in it (the makeup effects are still really good, especially for the telepaths when they reveal their ‘true forms’) but this is easily one of the weirdest sequels I’ve ever seen and I can’t say that this is a good thing.

Rating: 2.5/5

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)


As you might have guessed, the ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies have generally been known for their fairly dark tones and equally dark endings, so it’s interesting to see that the first half of ‘Escape From the Planet of the Apes’ decides to go for a much more upbeat atmosphere than what we’ve come to expect from these films. In this film, the two main apes from the previous two films, Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall, who had to be replaced by David Watson in ‘Beneath’ due to scheduling conflicts but returns to the role here (which really helps)), along with a friend of theirs, Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo), salvage the spaceship used by George Taylor and his crew that crash landed in the first film, repair it, and then use it to escape the planet before, as seen in the end of ‘Beneath’, it is destroyed by the atomic bomb. They end up getting caught in the shock wave caused by Earth’s destruction and are sent back in time to 1973 Los Angeles. For the first half of the film, after Zira and Cornelius (Milo is killed by a non-speaking gorilla while they are held captive at a zoo) reveal to the world that they can speak and that they come from the future, they basically become celebrities but after Zira finds out that she is pregnant, soon the government starts to turn against them as they fear that this child will soon result in the apes becoming the ‘dominant’ species of the planet. In other words, the events of this film are pretty much setting up what will happen to humanity 2000 years later as we saw in both the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Beneath’.

The first half of this film, which maintains a ‘fish out of water’ theme, is a welcome breath of fresh air after the mindf*** that was the second half of ‘Beneath’ and really the best part about this entire film are its two main characters: Zira and Cornelius. They are such a likable pair (just as they have been in the previous two films) and I really have to give a lot of credit towards Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall for doing terrific jobs in these roles. We really do care about them, which is why the film’s dark ending is so impactful. As expected with this franchise, this film does end on a very somber note as Zira and Cornelius end up getting killed trying to protect their newborn baby. However, we soon find out that they switched babies with an ape in a traveling circus run by Armando (played by the original Khan himself, Ricardo Montalbán) and the film ends with the newborn, named Milo, speaking his first word; ‘Mama’. This is easily one of the best endings out of all of the ‘Apes’ movies. It’s built up very well given the film’s more light-hearted first half as the film does end up going the dark path that this franchise is usually known for taking. But at the same time, it is also legitimately emotionally impactful because we care about Zira and Cornelius, making their deaths very heartbreaking. Many say that this is the best of the original ‘Apes’ sequels… and after seeing this film, I must say that I certainly agree with that statement.

Rating: 4/5

CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)


Some might refer to ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’ as the original ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ as both films have a similar plot; heck, they even have the same main character, Caesar albeit in a different time. He’s played here by the same man who played his father in the original ‘Planet’ and ‘Escape’, Roddy McDowall. What comes of this is, well to put it quite frankly, the craziest entry in the series. I mean, this film is worth it just for the second half, in which Caesar leads an ape revolt against their human tormentors. This has to be one of the most chaotic battles that I’ve ever seen in any film. It’s certainly the most violent out of all of the original ‘Apes’ films, evident by the fact that this is the only ‘PG’ rated entry in the original series, whereas the others were rated ‘G’. The filmmakers even had to change the ending, in which the apes beat the main bad guy, Governor Breck, to death because it was ‘too violent’ though really it’s not that violent because it’s just implied what happens to him and is not actually shown on screen. Still, I actually do prefer the newer ending in which they don’t beat Breck to death, even though the additional speech that Caesar gives is kind of poorly edited (mostly because the filmmakers didn’t have the budget to shoot a new ending). I guess it’s mostly because I do sort of feel that the original ending did come off as a bit ‘too’ dark. I mean, this is the franchise where one film ended by literally destroying the world, but even with all of the chaos that goes on in this finale, it feels like just a bit too much. Plus, the original ending actually doesn’t really gel well with the following film in which humans do have a peaceful relationship with the apes despite the fact that the apes are the ‘dominant’ species.

On that note, one of the main problems with the film is that the abuse directed towards the apes by humans is kind of excessive. It does make us sympathize with Caesar (played very well by McDowall in a role that is arguably more layered than when he played Cornelius though that’s sort of up for debate) and the apes but at the same time it makes the film darker than it really needs to be. Again, this franchise has been known for going dark, but this is just too much in my opinion. Also, the cinematography is a little crappy at times, especially during the final battle. Still, I will give this film credit for, if nothing else, the crazy-as-hell finale which is both awesome and sort of over-the-top extreme at the same time. I can’t say that ‘Conquest’ is the best of the ‘Apes’ films (in fact, I’d actually recommend the ‘remake’ (and I use the term loosely because it really isn’t a remake) ‘Rise’ more than this one because I feel like the story in the newer film was executed much better and had much emotional depth) but it’s still a pretty entertaining entry in the series. It’s certainly the craziest of the films, that’s for sure.

Rating: 3/5

BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)


The original series came to a close with ‘Battle of the Planet of the Apes’ which, like its immediate predecessor, must have inspired part of the plot of one of the recent reboots, in this case the just-released ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’… and while I hate to have to compare these two films, especially considering that one of these films just came out a few days ago, I have to in this case because ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’… is pretty much the weakest of the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ films. Despite focusing on the developing war between the human survivors of the Apes’ takeover and the Apes, the film doesn’t have the same emotional depth as ‘Dawn’ because we don’t really care for any of the characters in this other than Caesar but that’s because we already got to know him in ‘Conquest’ and we don’t get to know anyone else here so we can’t become attached to any of them. Director J. Lee Thompson, who is notably the only director to have ever made more than one ‘Apes’ movies having also directed ‘Conquest’, does his best with the small budget that he has but overall the film comes up short in many aspects, including a finale that’s fairly anti-climactic despite the fact that it revolves around Caesar going after the ape that killed his son. I’m aware that a couple of scenes were cut and that there is an ‘Extended Edition’ of the film that was released as a bootleg but I’m not sure how much that will help this one.

Rating: 1.5/5

PLANET OF THE APES (2001 REMAKE)


After more than a decade of development, which saw directors like James Cameron, Chris Columbus, and Peter Jackson all involved at one point or another, a ‘remake’ of the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ film was released in 2001 directed by Tim Burton. I use the term ‘remake’ loosely because this film involves different characters than the ones from the original film. However, the end result didn’t turn out as well as 20th Century Fox had hoped. It did fare pretty well at the box office, but didn’t fare as well with critics and audiences. This ultimately resulted in Fox decided not to do a sequel to this film and instead reboot the franchise with ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. So with that in mind, it could be argued that out of all of Tim Burton’s films, this is possibly the most hated of his amongst critics and audiences and after seeing the film I can sort of see why. Now for the record, I don’t really hate it as much as others but even with that said, this film definitely has some very noticeable flaws and it’s not just the one thing that everyone loves to talk about (which I will get to in a bit). For one thing, while watching this film, it doesn’t really scream ‘Tim Burton’ to me. Burton of course has been known for his dark macabre style but here it’s pretty much non-existent. Seriously, the studio could’ve lied and said it was directed by someone like Steven Spielberg and I would’ve believed it. That’s because this is pretty much the opposite of what you would expect from a Tim Burton film. It feels more like a ‘studio-made’ film and Burton must have been restricted when it came to utilizing his unique style on the film.

I hate to say it, but this film is actually kind of boring. It kind of drags along and nothing about it really stands out other than the prosthetic makeup for the apes done by Rick Baker, which is easily the main highlight of the film. It does have a really good cast that includes the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Helena Botham Carter, Tim Roth, and Paul Giamatti, but for the most part they’re fairly wasted in this film. I mean, I am a big fan of Wahlberg, but here it does feel like he’s just phoning it in… then again, this whole film kind of feels phoned in. Even most the action sequences are pretty forgettable, hence why this film feels like a chore to get through. Nothing about this film is memorable except for the makeup and its controversial ending. And oh yeah… now let’s talk about that ending (I would say spoilers here, but you’ve probably heard about this ending already so I’m not really going to bother doing so). At the end of the film, Wahlberg’s character Leo and his allies defeat the main bad guy, General Thade (Roth), and Leo, who had crash-landed on the ‘ape planet’ after trying to rescue one of his simian co-workers, resulting in him getting caught in an magnetic storm sending him forward in time, travels back in time using his co-worker’s space pod, and he ends up crash landing in Washington D.C.

However, he soon finds out that this Earth is now inhabited by Apes with the Lincoln Memorial monument replaced by one of Thade. Now I can see that they are trying to follow in the footsteps of the original film when it came to the ‘twist ending’, but this one really doesn’t make much sense. First off, Thade was clearly defeated as he was trapped inside a crashed space-station, so I can’t see how that would’ve changed anything when Leo went back in time and that’s really the main point that I’m stressing here; Leo went ‘back in time’!!! And yet there’s a monument to Thade built in the ape-inhabited Earth even though he technically wasn’t born yet. Is it a different Thade? Did Thade go back in time or something (we do see him coming across Leo’s crashed space-pod at one point but it’s still damaged when he finds it so it doesn’t look like he used it or anything)? Why is this turn of events occurring in the first place? I don’t know and the movie doesn’t do us any favors by explaining why this happened. This is definitely one of the weakest twist endings in movie history and as a result, Burton’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ is a pretty mediocre remake and easily Burton’s weakest film to date… at least from the ones I’ve seen.

Rating: 2/5

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)


So after Fox decided not to make a sequel to Tim Burton’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ (rightfully so after that damn ending), the series was instead rebooted with 2011’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ directed by Rupert Wyatt. This time, instead of using practical make-up effects on the actors portraying the apes, these apes were created via motion capture with the lead ape Caesar being portrayed by the king of motion capture himself, Andy Serkis, who of course became famous for his role as Gollum in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies and he also portrayed the titular King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of the same name. As for the movie itself, it was definitely a pleasant surprise. I mean I’m guessing that not a lot of people were expecting it to be as good as it was but what we got was a smartly written sci-fi film with a script that effectively pays homage to the original movie while also giving us some greatly written characters that we do care about. In the case of this film, the ones that I’m specifically referring to are scientist Will Rodman (James Franco, who gives a very solid performance here), his father Charles (John Lithgow, who’s also great here), and of course, Caesar. The relationships amongst these three provide the excellent emotional resonance of the movie which is probably the film’s greatest strength when not counting the film’s technical strengths (e.g. visuals).

And of course, as everyone’s been saying, Andy Serkis is phenomenal in this movie, as the terrific visual effects (though a little distracting at first though this in reference to an early shot of Caesar’s biological mother and not Caesar himself) as well as Serkis’ performance in the role blend together for a great sympathetic main character. I know this following statement has been brought up to death already (I already mentioned it in my original review for ‘Dawn’) but I’m reiterating it here… why the hell hasn’t this man won an Oscar yet? I know that some argue that it’s more about the visual effects artists when it comes to motion-capture performances, but the work that Serkis does in these kinds of roles is just as important in regards to making them work as well as they do and in fact, I’d argue this is probably his best performance to date (and yes, that means I think he’s even better here than in ‘Lord of the Rings’). Overall, this film’s cast is really solid, but if I did have one complaint about the film, it is that some of the characters in this movie are either underdeveloped or incredibly one-dimensional; the most notable example of the latter is Tom Felton as Dodge Landon, the son of the owner of the primate shelter that Caesar ends up in, who’s basically just Malfoy without the Hogwarts robes. But overall, with some excellent direction from Wyatt, great performances, and top of the line visual effects, ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ is definitely one of the best and smartest sci-fi films of the last few years.

Rating: 4.5/5

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)



‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is one of the rare sequels that not only manages to be as good as its predecessor, but ends up being even better than the previous film. Of course, as it was in ‘Rise’, the writing is superb and the film gives us a good group of characters that we really care about from both sides of this ‘conflict’ between the humans that survived the ALZ-113 virus and the apes who have made a life for themselves away from any human interference. But being that this is a sequel, the film also does what you would normally expect from most sequels in that it ups the scale and scope from the previous film and in this film’s case, it’s done really well. The film immediately immerses you in the post-‘Simian Flu’ world via a 15-minute opening sequence focused entirely on Caesar and his fellow apes and the film itself benefits from great direction from Matt Reeves and top of the line visual effects (which are even better here than they were in the previous film) and action sequences. Andy Serkis is even better here in the role of Caesar and is again backed up a terrific cast that includes the likes of Jason Clarke (I also have to give Clarke and Serkis credit as they work off each other really well in this), Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell. So in short, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is one of the best summer blockbusters of 2014 and overall one of the best sci-fi sequels in recent memory.

Rating: 5/5!

How would I rank these films, you ask? Like this…

8. Battle for the Planet of the Apes

7. Planet of the Apes (2001)

6. Beneath the Planet of the Apes

5. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

4. Escape from the Planet of the Apes

3. Planet of the Apes

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


And for the record yes this list indicates that I do sort of prefer the newer ‘Apes’ films but I don’t want this to look like I’m bashing the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ film because I’m not… it’s still a sci-fi classic.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) review


While I can’t say that 2011 was one of the best movie years in recent memory, I will say that it definitely had its fair share of surprisingly good films, like ‘The Muppets’ and ‘Fast Five’. But perhaps the biggest surprise of 2011 was ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, a reboot of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise most famous for the original 1968 film of the same name starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall and perhaps most infamous for director Tim Burton’s critically maligned 2001 remake, which resulted in 20th Century Fox abandoning their plans for a sequel, resulting in this new film being made. I’m not sure how many of us were actually looking forward to it, but in the end the film turned out to be pretty darn good for a few reasons. Not only was the film well-written, giving us a group of characters that we really cared about, but it also featured a phenomenal, Oscar-worthy performance by Andy Serkis in the lead role of the genetically-enhanced ape Caesar. This year, Caesar returns in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ once again played by Serkis. This time, however, there are a lot of changes in the cast and crew. Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield’) takes over for Rupert Wyatt as director and a new ensemble cast takes over in a film that takes place many years after the events of ‘Rise’. But in the end, ‘Dawn’ manages to be one of the rare sequels that is superior to its predecessor as it is just as well-written, well-acted, and impactful as the film that came before it and quite frankly does those things even better.

At the end of ‘Rise’, the ALZ-113 virus, developed by the biotech company Gen-Sys, began to spread across the world after an airline pilot became infected with it after coming into contact with a Gen-Sys employee that was the first human to truly become exposed to it. As this film begins, it is now 10 years later and the virus (AKA the ‘Simian Flu’) has spread all over the world eliminating most of the human population. While all of this is going on a community of apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), have made a living in the Muir Woods but their peaceful home is soon invaded by a group of humans who are among those who survived the virus and are currently living in a safe-haven in nearby San Francisco. In order to keep the community’s power running as it is soon set to run out in a few weeks, its co-founder, Malcolm (Jason Clarke), leads a small group into the forest to try and find a dam that could provide them the power they need. But the only problem is that it’s located right near where the apes have set up their home, resulting in them having to go through it in order to reach the dam. Malcolm and his group do initially manage to gain the apes’ trust, but soon this peaceful truce comes to a standstill when one of Caesar’s ‘allies’ starts a war against the humans, who themselves have been preparing for war in fear of an attack by the apes.

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ effectively ups the scale and scope of the previous film, as you would normally expect sequels to do. But just like the previous film, the writing is the film’s greatest strength because it gives us characters that we really care about. For the first fifteen minutes or so of the film, the focus is entirely set on Caesar and the apes and because of this we are allowed to become fully immersed in the world of the apes and become attached to them. The visual effects for the apes are even better than they were in the previous film and will completely make you forget that these apes are just computer generated creatures pretty much as soon as the film begins. But of course, we do become invested in the human characters as well, specifically Malcolm, his wife Ellie (Keri Russell), and their son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who take over for the main characters of the previous film, who by this point have been dead for years being that they were at ‘ground zero’ when the Simian Flu first hit. In this film, we get to see how both sides, though different in many ways and generally mistrusting of each other for obvious reasons (the humans blame the apes for the virus (even though it actually isn’t their fault being that it was developed by Gen-Sys) and the apes are fearing about what the humans would do to them given the mistreatment that some of them were given back before the virus first spread), are basically striving for the same thing; they’re both just trying to survive in this post-virus world.

Ever since ‘The Two Towers’ was released, everyone has been asking the following question and after seeing this film, I do feel that I have to bring it up again here; why hasn’t Andy Serkis won an Oscar yet? Once again, he is phenomenal in this and in my opinion, this is the best role of his career; yes, I think he’s even better in these movies than he was in ‘Lord of the Rings’, one of the reasons being that if you really think about it, Caesar is a little more layered of a character than Gollum was. In fact, I think this is the film where Serkis gives his best overall performance to date. A key scene near the end of the film involving Caesar and his son Blue Eyes actually made me kind of emotional and that’s a testament to how truly great of an actor Andy Serkis is. I also have to give both of these recent ‘Apes’ films a lot of credit for getting a really good cast of human characters that aren’t necessarily a group of ‘A-list’ actors. I mean, of this cast, the one that most audiences would recognize would probably be Gary Oldman (who is of course excellent in this in a role that is actually much more complex than you might expect) but overall everyone does a very good job in this. Jason Clarke (who’s definitely one of the most underrated actors working today) comes off as very natural and likable in his role as does Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Clarke and Serkis in particular work off each other really well here, more so than Franco and Serkis in ‘Rise’.

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is one of the rare sequels that actually manages to outshine its predecessor, which was also just as great for similar reasons. The direction by Matt Reeves is fantastic, as is the writing that allows us to sympathize with the key protagonists from both of the ‘sides’ in this movie; the humans and the apes. And after the film’s opening sequence, we are already invested in the characters and are fully immersed in their world. These two groups are both just trying to survive and in the post-‘Simian Flu’ world that they live in, that doesn’t really come so easily. Of course, Andy Serkis steals the show (seriously Academy, give this man an Oscar because he’s been long overdue for one) but is backed up by a terrific cast. All in all, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is one of the best summer blockbusters of this year and also one of the best sequels in recent memory because it does what good sequels do; expand on the universe as well as the overall scale and scope while also maintaining the great writing from the previous film. I know that some people are going to try and compare this film with a certain summer blockbuster that came out a few weeks ago (which I won’t name here but you might already know what film I’m talking about) given the very negative critical reaction towards that film but I’m not going to be one of those people seeing how I was one of those who did like the film and I’m also not one who compares films that often. But for the record, yes I will agree that ‘Dawn’ is the better film.


Rating: 5/5!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pokemon: Indigo League - Strangest Moments


Yesterday, I reviewed the first season of the ‘Pokémon’ anime, more commonly known as ‘Pokémon: Indigo League’ and one thing that I mentioned in the review was that there were quite a lot of odd moments that occurred in some of the episodes. When I say ‘odd moments’, this could mean anything from an strange animation error (which is understandable in this show’s case given how many episodes that have been made and how much hours were probably spent to get them finished on time) or just any instance when a character does something that is really stupid even though they should clearly know better. Now originally I was just going to include this part with my main review of the series itself but then I realized that there were quite a lot of weird moments that happened during this season that I needed another post just to talk about them all. So with that said, here are some of the strangest moments, in my opinion, that occurred during the first season of the ‘Pokémon’ anime.

‘DO THE MACARENA!!’ - CLEFAIRY AND THE MOON STONE

This face says it all...

This has to be one of my favorite moments of the entire season. The episode revolves around the gang coming across a mysterious rock known as the Moon Stone and a group of Clefairy who guard it from thieves. The moment that I’m specifically referring to occurs when Pikachu begins to talk with the Clefairy and of course because every Pokémon that is not Team Rocket’s Meowth only says their name, we can’t understand what they’re saying (although a later episode, which we’ll get to in a bit, fixes this problem). Pikachu then proceeds to try and tell Ash and his friends that one of the things the Clefairy do is that they pray to the Moon Stone and of course because they can’t understand him that well, he tries to have them figure it out via the process of charades but Ash guesses wrong at the end and thinks that the “Clefairy collect all of these stones and… Do the Macarena!” I just love this moment for both the random nature of Ash’s answer as well as Pikachu’s hilarious response to that answer (as shown above).

ASH CATCHES ALL 3 KANTO STARTER POKÉMON IN JUST 3 EPISODES


In the original Pokémon games, Red and Blue, the main character gets to choose one of three Pokémon to be their starter; Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur. In the anime, Ash misses out on getting to start out with one of them and instead starts out with a Pikachu. Well, guess what? Literally in the span of just three straight episodes, Ash catches all three of the starter Pokémon to add to his team. In Episode 10, ‘Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village’, Ash and friends come across a secret village where a girl named Melanie helps sick or abandoned Pokémon with the help of a Bulbasaur, which ends up coming along with Ash. In the next episode, ‘Charmander- The Stray Pokémon’, they come across a Charmander that has been abandoned by its owner so they help it when its life is on the line and Ash ends up becoming its new owner. Finally, in ‘Here Comes the Squirtle Squad’, they come into conflict with a group of mischievous Squirtle pranksters known as the ‘Squirtle Squad’ and by the end of the episode, Ash befriends the lead Squirtle of the group who ends up joining his team, officially completing Ash’s collection of the original 3 Kanto Starter Pokémon. I just find it to be amazing that Ash managed to catch all 3 of the Starter Pokémon in just 3 episodes because having played these games a lot, I know that it isn’t that easy to get all 3 Starter Pokémon in 1 game and Ash manages to do this in just a short amount of time. And for the record this isn’t the only time when Ash catches all 3 of one region’s Starter Pokémon. The same thing happens when the group goes to Johto where Ash ends up catching a Totodile, a Chikorita, and a Cyndaquil. But I’m not looking at that season right now…

SUBTITLED POKÉMON? - ISLAND OF THE GIANT POKÉMON


Remember earlier when I noted how we as the audience can never understand what the Pokémon are saying because all they say is their name? Well, this episode actually fixes that problem in one of the most surreal moments in the series’ history. This episode takes place after an episode where the gang boards the luxury ship, the S.S. Anne, and it ends up sinking. The trio escapes, with the help of Team Rocket, and end up getting marooned on a mysterious island separated from their Pokémon. Because of this, all of their Pokémon end up getting subtitled so that we can actually understand just what they are saying. The main reason why I find this to be a very odd episode is because, to my knowledge, there isn’t any other episode in the anime where the group’s Pokémon are on their own in which they’re subtitled. This is the only instance where this happened and I do question why they didn’t continue doing this but then again, I’m guessing that this is probably not that big of an issue in a series where the main characters are humans. I mean, the episode itself is also rather weird because it is revealed that the group is on an island that is actually a ‘theme park’ full of giant robotic Pokémon that just so happens to be owned by Team Rocket. Again, this was just a really odd episode.

CONTROVERSIAL EPISODE #1- BEAUTY AND THE BEACH


There have been a few infamous episodes of the anime that ended up being banned or removed from the series rotation for various reasons. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is the first of these episodes as a controversial scene in the original Japanese version of the episode had to be cut before it could be aired anywhere else. The episode itself is rather weird because it’s fairly sexualized, more so than one would expect from a show aimed at children, being that it mostly takes place at the beach and revolves around a swimsuit beauty competition… but I’m getting ahead of myself. In this episode, Ash and the gang get into trouble when they end up crashing a boat and damaging a dock, resulting in them volunteering to help the owner of the boat, an old man named Moe (who makes a very odd and creepy remark about how Misty ‘reminds him of his granddaughter’), so that they can pay for the damage that they caused. Ultimately, they decide to have Misty enter a beauty contest in order to win enough money. The main reason why this episode is so controversial is because of a scene in which we see Team Rocket enter the contest as well… and not just Jessie but James as well, the latter of whom wears inflatable breasts… I don’t even know what to say about this, folks. This is just… uh… yeah… and that’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for you, an odd episode that I would’ve never have expected would come from a children’s show like Pokémon  then again this show is full of odd moments so I’m not surprised.

DONUTS? - PRIMEAPE GOES BANANAS


A common food that appears in the anime is a snack known as a rice ball (shown above). For some odd reason early on, the English dub of the anime occasionally referred to them as something else, apparently so that non-Japanese kids could call it something that they were more familiar with. Notably, in this episode, ‘Primeape Goes Bananas’, they are referred to… as donuts. I’m sorry, but do these things even look like donuts? No, not really and yet they’re referred to as such. Heck, in this episode, Ash actually catches a rice ball in a Poke Ball when he’s trying to catch a Primeape. The strange thing about this whole scenario is that in some of the other episodes, these things are properly referred to as rice balls. So in that case, why bother even renaming these things when you’re just going to end up referring to them by their proper name?

THIS… - SPARKS FLY FOR MAGNEMITE


Uhhhh…. No comment.

POSSIBLE CHILD ABUSE? - THE KANGASKHAN KID


First off, I just want to note that I do not condone child abuse in any way and because of that, this episode just rubs me the wrong way. The main plot of the episode revolves around an explorer couple who are looking for their son Tommy, who went missing a few years ago in the Safari Zone. The reason for this… is because of quite frankly one of the stupidest moments ever committed on any TV show, live-action or animated. The father holds the kid out of the window of the helicopter that they are in and accidentally drops him… wow, I’m at a loss for words here at the pure stupidity of this moment and thankfully the mother scolds her husband for being such a frigging idiot. But that’s not all… once Ash and the gang come across Tommy in the Safari Zone the poor kid gets punched by Misty (literally punched, mind you) when he asks her, “You People or Pokémon?” (Don’t even get me started on how this played out in the original Japanese cut… trust me you don’t even want to know). Then, the parents arrive and try to convince Tommy (who now goes by the name ‘Tomo’ by the way after being raised by a group of Kangaskhan) that they’re his real parents. When Tommy still believes that the Kangaskhan are his family, the father then proceeds to bash him on the head to jog his memory. What the f*** is up with this episode??? I feel bad for Tomo and the crap that he goes through in this episode by those who supposedly care about him.

Connection?

CONTROVERSIAL EPISODE #2- THE LEGEND OF DRATINI


Now we come to the second major controversial banned episode of the anime but unlike ‘Beauty and the Beach’, this one never even aired in North America even though there is reportedly an English dub of the episode. In this episode, Ash and friends meet the supervisor of the Safari Zone… who almost immediately aims a gun at them. Yes folks, the main controversy for this episode revolves around the fact that guns are repeatedly used to threaten people… you know, for kids!! This is one instance where I do agree with the censors’ decision here because I don’t even see why this episode needed to have so many moments where the main characters (who are kids, mind you) are threatened with guns. I mean it’s not like these guns are lasers or anything like that… these are real guns. However, I am aware that because this episode was banned, it caused a bit of a plot hole because in this episode, Ash catches 30 Tauros and because of it being banned, American audiences never got to see Ash catch them. Still, this is just yet another odd moment in this odd anime series.

MOST CONTROVERSIAL POKÉMON EPISODE- ELECTRIC SOLDIER PORYGON


‘Electric Soldier Porygon’ will go down in history as the most controversial episode of the Pokémon anime because it literally sent nearly 700 kids to the hospital. Why? Well, you’ll soon see why. In this episode, Ash and friends visit a Pokémon Center that is having problems with its Transfer System that they use in order to transfer Pokémon between Pokémon Centers. In order to fix this, they are actually sent into the system by its inventor, with the help of the digital Pokémon Porygon, to solve the problem, which is revealed to have been caused by Team Rocket. At one point, the group is targeted by an anti-virus program that thinks that they’re a computer virus. It fires some ‘missiles’ at them which Pikachu destroys with a Thunderbolt attack, causing an explosion that then results in a flash of very bright red and blue strobe lights. In real life, this then resulted in approximately 685 Japanese kids having to be taken to the hospital due to epileptic seizures. I’m only showing one of the images of this infamous scene above because I would not dare show the scene in its entirety (though Wikipedia apparently has the balls to show the entire scene on the page listing this episode… what the hell?). I’m not someone who is prone to seizures, but even with that in mind, I can definitely see why this scene would be a problem to anyone who is prone to them because even I have to admit that my eyes got sort of bothered when I ‘tried’ to watch this episode. It’s yet another episode of the show that got banned for a very, very good reason.

YET ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL EPISODE- HOLIDAY HI-JYNX


And we have yet another one of the controversial episodes of the anime, which was originally supposed to air after ‘Electric Soldier Porygon’ but of course after what happened with that episode, this episode got pushed back. It instead was aired after the episode ‘It’s Mr. Mime Time’, which caused some confusion in regards to continuity which I’ll get to in a little bit. As for this episode, this is another one of those weird episodes because it revolves around Team Rocket kidnapping Santa Claus… yes folks, that is the plot of this episode. But the main controversy of this episode revolves around the Pokémon Jynx, who originally had a black face which led to complaints that it was believed to be representing the very racist art of blackface. Now I am aware that it might actually be representing the Japanese fashion styles known as ganguro and yamanba and as I’ve noted before I’m not really one who likes to talk about racist themes, but it’s pretty hard to argue against the ‘blackface’ thing and as a result Jynx’s face was re-colored to purple in all aspects of the franchise (games, trading cards, etc…). Now this actually isn’t the episode that was the most notable for being banned because of Jynx. Instead, it was the episode ‘The Ice Cave’ but ‘Holiday Hi-Jynx’ was also removed from rotation for the same dilemma. But now let’s talk about the continuity problem that this episode caused.

So instead of this episode, along with the following episode ‘Snow Way Out’, airing after ‘Electric Soldier Porygon’ (which of course wasn’t released outside of Japan), they instead aired after ‘It’s Mr. Mime Time’… 26 episodes later. I’m guessing this happened because they are both winter-themed episodes and that by the time the show was brought back after the ‘Porygon’ incident it probably wasn’t the winter season anymore. But still, imagine if you’re an American kid watching this show and it got to these episodes. You’ll probably be left confused as to why in these two episodes, Ash’s Charizard is suddenly back to being a Charmander and Misty still has her Starmie and Horsea, which had been left at the Cerulean City Gym a few episodes earlier. Now we know why… it’s because these episodes were supposed to air at an earlier time and instead got pushed back after the whole ‘kids having to go to the hospital’ situation. It’s a weird chronological continuity error that still stands today. Even Netflix maintains this order of the episodes (for the record, they also don’t have any of the controversial episodes that I’ve previously mentioned so if you want to see these episodes you’re going to have to find them online).

THE GANG DOESN’T RECOGNIZE TEAM ROCKET- MULTIPLE EPISODES


A common running gag in the anime is that Team Rocket occasionally tries to fool Ash and the gang by putting on disguises and while to us it’s usually clearly obvious that it’s them, most of the time their disguises are at least good enough to legitimately fool Ash and his friends. But there have been not one, not two, not three, not even four, but five separate instances where Team Rocket is wearing disguises that fool the gang despite the fact that these disguises are so bad that they should’ve easily recognized who they really were. These instances of stupidity first occurred in the episode ‘Showdown at Dark City’, in which Ash and company come to a town that includes two Pokémon Gyms that are both looking to become officially licensed gyms. However, these gyms are also fierce rivals resulting in multiple street fights between them as both gyms look to eliminate the other. While the gang hides out in a local restaurant, Team Rocket comes in dressed in disguise as bodyguards for one of the gyms. However, their disguises only consist of them wearing robes and having their mouths covered. Their hair (and in Meowth’s case, his face) is sticking out which definitely should have given away who they are but yet Ash and his friends doesn’t recognize them and act surprised when they are revealed to be Team Rocket… even though they should have easily realized that beforehand. I mean by this point they’ve already come across them about 40 times already so they should at least recognize them by their hairstyles by now.

But that’s not the only time when the gang is quite easily fooled by poor disguises. In the episode ‘The Ultimate Test’, Jessie and James disguise themselves as Pokémon trainers who, along with Ash, take an Admissions Exam in the hopes of immediately entering the Pokémon League without having to collect the minimum 8 badges. Now Jessie at least changes her hair so I can see how that would possibly fool Ash but James doesn’t change his hair whatsoever. And then we move ahead to the episode ‘The Purr-fect Hero’ in which Team Rocket disguises themselves as a pair of magicians, again without changing their hair and managing to fool Ash and his friends up until they reveal their true intentions. In the episode ‘Fire and Ice’, they try to fool Ash by pretending to run a Pokémon Center with James making no attempt at hiding his hairdo when he pretends to be one of the nurses. Jessie is at least wearing a Nurse Joy mask. Finally, in the episode, ‘A Friend in Deed’, Team Rocket disguises themselves as ‘Pokémon Inspectors’, with really no effort at all to disguise themselves whatsoever. Now I can understand Ash and the gang being fooled so easily by bad costumes at least once but five times? As I’ve made it clear, the main problem with their disguises is that they don’t change their hairstyles. Seriously, I’m pretty sure that not too many people in the world of Pokémon have the same damn hairstyles as they do. You’d think that by this point in the series, after facing Team Rocket a least a hundred times, Ash and friends would be able to see through some of these poor disguises. But NOPE!!!

UNNECESSARY TOURNAMENT- WHO GETS TO KEEP TOGEPI?


In the episode ‘Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon’, Ash managed to find a Pokémon egg, which in the episode ‘Who Gets to Keep Togepi’ finally ends up hatching into the titular egg Pokémon, Togepi. This results in Ash, Brock, Misty, and even Team Rocket’s Meowth arguing over who should own it. They decide to settle this through a tournament which sort of does feel like they’re over-doing it quite a bit in order to solve something that is simple as just figuring out who gets to have the Togepi. Ash ends up winning the tournament by beating both Misty and Meowth but ultimately doesn’t get to own Togepi; instead, Misty becomes its owner. That is because when Togepi hatched, the first thing that it saw was Misty so that means that it thinks that she’s its mother. Ultimately, this makes the entire tournament (the main plot-point of the episode) that the main characters just had…


Also this episode features a very questionable bit of animation involving Professor Oak and a Muk that’s now become an infamous GIF and… well, I couldn’t resist using it here…


…yeah… moving on…

SURPRISED AT JIGGLYPUFF’S APPEARANCE- BEACH BLANK-OUT BLASTOISE


Another one of the series’ running gags began when the team came across a wild Jigglypuff, a Pokémon with the ability to make anyone (human or Pokémon) fall asleep whenever they hear its song. After Jigglypuff finishes its song, realizing that everyone’s asleep, it gets mad and draws on everyone’s face with a marker that it got from Ash’s backpack which it hides in its microphone. In this episode, Jigglypuff gets stuck in a Blastoise’s water cannon, resulting in the Blastoise falling asleep along with the multiple Squirtles and Wartortles on the island that they all inhabit together. Ash and friends help get Jigglypuff out of the cannon but once it does get unstuck, Ash acts surprised that it’s Jigglypuff… despite the fact that just a few minutes earlier, Brock and Misty realized who it was, said it out loud, and all of this was when Ash was right next to them. And yet once it comes out, Ash acts like he didn’t hear what Brock and Misty just said. I don’t know whether to classify this as either a script error or because Ash was just acting really stupid. In this case, I hope it’s at least the former but then again this is the same character who failed to recognize Team Rocket in cheap disguises at least five damn times so it might just be the latter.

SURPRISING DURABILITY OF THE POKEDEX- THE MISTY MERMAID


In this episode, Ash, Misty, and Brock return to Cerulean City where Misty reunites with her three older sisters. They ask if she could be a part of their new underwater stage show because they are having problems attracting an audience. Misty agrees and the show goes on without a hitch… that is, until Team Rocket comes in attempting to steal the Gym’s Pokémon. This then results in an underwater battle between Team Rocket and the gang. During the fight, Misty’s Sisters’ Seel evolves into a Dewgong. Like he does with every new Pokémon that they come across, Ash identifies with the Pokedex… while he is still underwater. Did you know that the Pokedex was water-proof? Apparently it is according to this episode and to my knowledge it hasn’t been used underwater in any other episode of the anime since. This episode also starts an odd practice in regards to the ‘Who’s That Pokémon’ bit that plays during the commercial break. Usually, this part of the show, in which the audience tries to guess the Pokémon whose silhouette is shown on-screen, uses the Pokémon that is heavily featured in that episode. But starting with this episode, the American dub of the anime decides to use the main Pokémon that is to be featured in the next episode instead, which apparently went until the Johto storyline. For the record, this wasn’t the case with the Japanese version; it was purely an aesthetic choice of the American dub. The reason for this turn of events is unclear. 

JUST HOW MANY BADGES ARE THERE TO EARN, ANYWAY? - BATTLE OF THE BADGE


In the video games and in the anime, the main character has to collect 8 badges from the Gym Leaders in the area they’re in so that they can enter the Pokémon League and it seems like you can only get 8 badges in any given region. Well, this episode, in which Ash heads to Viridian City in order to compete for his eighth and final badge, apparently proves otherwise. In this episode, Ash’s main rival Gary battles the Gym Leader, revealed to be the leader of Team Rocket, Giovanni, before Ash can and brags to him that he already has… 10 badges? Aren’t there only supposed to be eight badges? I know that there are some unofficial gyms located in Kanto, which in the anime is apparently much larger with all of the towns that Ash and the gang visit (most of which, for the record, are not featured in the games), but is it even possible to get more than eight badges? Apparently according to Gary it is. This episode also gives us our first look at the mysterious Pokémon that would play a pivotal role in the anime’s first feature-length movie (more on that momentarily); Mewtwo, though he isn’t referred to by name here.

TITLE CARD ERRORS AND… ABANDONMENT OF A FRIEND?? – IT’S MR. MIME TIME + SHOWDOWN AT THE PO-KÉ CORRAL


‘It’s Mr. Mime Time’ and ‘Showdown at the Po-ké Corral’ both had title cards that had very noticeable spelling errors. ‘It’s Mr. Mime Time’ was incorrectly titled ‘It’s Mr. Mimie Time’ and ‘Showdown at the Po-ké Corral’ was misspelled as ‘Showdown at the Po-ké Corall’. I’m kind of surprised that those in charge of the American dubbing of the show didn’t notice this. But I also want to talk about another odd moment that occurred in the Mr. Mime episode. In this episode, Ash and friends return to Ash’s hometown, Pallet Town, and come across a traveling Pokémon circus. However, this circus has a problem in that one of its star Pokémon, Mr. Mime, refuses to perform. In order to fix this, Brock suggests that Ash disguise himself as Mr. Mime, which Ash agrees to do, sort of against his own will. But then Team Rocket comes in and steals Mr. Mime… but instead they end up catching Ash, who is still disguised as Mr. Mime. He does manage to escape but I’m just amazed at what Misty and Brock end up doing in this episode when he gets captured. They don’t try to go and rescue him and instead go back to Ash’s house and eat. What kind of friends are Misty and Brock to leave Ash on his own when he’s captured by the bad guys? I mean, Ash does get away from Team Rocket but he doesn’t even get angry at Misty and Brock for not trying to rescue him, which for the record I would’ve done if I was in his situation.

POKÉMON: THE FIRST MOVIE


Of course I can’t talk about odd Pokémon moments without discussing the anime’s first feature-length film, ‘Pokémon: The First Movie’ AKA ‘Mewtwo Strikes Back’. Watching this film again definitely brings back a lot of nostalgic memories but as for the film itself… well, this is a case where the film is more geared to fans of the show and as such is more appealing to them. This isn’t a case like ‘Serenity’ or ‘Veronica Mars’; if you’re going into this film new to the series, then you’re really going to get confused at times. Also, from what I’ve heard, the original Japanese cut of the film was much different than the American version we got. The main change is that a sequence in the original cut that was basically the origin of the Pokémon known as Mewtwo, in which he befriended the clone of a scientist’s deceased daughter, was cut from the American cut, meaning that Mewtwo’s reasoning for mistrusting humans that was fairly developed enough in the original Japanese edition of the film, isn’t really delved on in the American cut. But that’s nothing compared to some of the stranger moments that occur within this film.

First off, this film has a few errors in regards to properly identifying Pokémon. One Pokémon trainer refers to his Pidgeot as a Pidgeotto, Team Rocket think that a silhouette of a Scyther is actually an Alakazam, and a Sandslash is called Sandshrew and apparently those in charge of the American cut purposely left these errors in for the fans to point out. But one of the most baffling elements of this film is its message. The main plot revolves Ash and friends, along with a few other Pokémon trainers, being ‘invited’ to a party hosted by the world’s greatest Pokémon trainer, which is revealed to also be the world’s greatest Pokémon, Mewtwo. Mewtwo then takes all of their Pokémon from them and has them cloned as he plans to take over the world with his clone army. But Ash manages to save the original Pokémon as a massive battle ensues between the real Pokémon and their clones. After a montage of this battle, the trainers, unable to take any more of it, comment on, basically, how ‘fighting is wrong’. I mean, it is actually a good message for kids but at the same time it is very ironic (and actually a bit hypocritical if you really think about it) that this message is being used in a show that is ALL ABOUT FIGHTING!!! And by the end of the film, Mewtwo actually erases the memories of all of the Trainers who were there… which makes the message of the whole movie…


But then we come to ‘that moment’… Pokémon fans, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the event that happens at the end of the movie, when Ash tries to intervene during a fight between Mewtwo and Mew, the latter of which is the legendary Pokémon whose DNA was used to create Mewtwo, and ends up getting caught in their attacks, resulting in him being turned in stone… basically killing him. Now I will admit that I did actually cry during this scene, mostly because of Pikachu’s reaction to it and his attempts to resurrect his friend. But then we get to one of the strangest moments in not just the history of Pokémon, but film history in general. All of the Pokémon begin to cry at the loss of Ash and the collective strength of their tears is able to bring him back to life… I’m not kidding folks, this really happens. Now, for the record, this technically was explained as being possible earlier in the movie when someone mentioned that the tears of Pokémon revived those who had lost their lives in a huge storm but even then, it’s still a very weird moment that doesn’t seem at all possible but it happens. And that’s ‘Pokémon: The First Movie’ in a nutshell for you; a film that is more appealing to fans of the show but also full of some very odd moments. But then again, as we’ve already seen, this show has been full of weird moments so it’s not that surprising.

The feels, man...

A GOLDEN ‘GROWLITHE’? PLUS, CONFUSION OVER STAGE OF GROWLITHE EVOLUTION - LIGHTS, CAMERA, QUACK-TION + THE FOURTH ROUND RUMBLE


In this episode, Ash and friends meet the famous director Cleavon Schpielbunk, who is in town looking for Pokémon to appear in his next movie, ‘Pokémon in Love’, which is basically ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with Pokémon. Schpielbunk notes that he has previously won the ‘Golden Growlithe’ which apparently is the Pokémon world’s equivalent of the Golden Globes. But I have to ask… does this (shown above) look like a Growlithe to you? No, because it’s an Arcanine, the evolved form of Growlithe. And folks, this isn’t the only time this season when these two Pokémon were confused for each other although in this next situation it was the other way around. In the episode ‘The Fourth Round Rumble’, Team Rocket tries to fool the police by having their balloon float around while they stay on the ground and capture Pokémon. Two Officer Jennys notice this and one of them commands her Arcanine to use Flamethrower on the balloon… although technically she only has a Growlithe and not an Arcanine. I’m surprised no one working on this episode noticed this error but it’s there, similar to the misidentification of other Pokémon in ‘The First Movie’.


And those are some of what are, in my opinion, some of the weirdest moments that occurred during the first season of the ‘Pokémon’ anime.