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Ulysse 31

Homer in the 31st Century
Not the fat yellow inhabitant of Springfield, but Greek writer.

The Odessy moved in time to the 31st century starts with Ulysses leaving for what should be a relatively easy journey back to Earyh along with his son Telemachus.

Then Telemachus is taken prisoner by the cyclops and Ulysses goes to the rescue.

He kills the Cyclops, rescues Telemachus and two blue skinned aliens, Numinor and his sister Yumi from the planet Zotra.

As punishment Poseidon sentences Ulysses to wander the realm of Olymous and turns his crew ("Comapnions") into stone. Only Telemachus and Yumi are saved due to them being in a healing chamber at the time.

Their only other companion on this journey is Telemachu's birthday present - the robot No-No, almost there for comedy relief but he does come into his own in one episode.

Through 26 episodes each of 25 minutes we journey with Ulysses as he travels through the Olympus searching for the way home - which Poseidon told him would only be found by going through the Kingdom of Hades.

Each episode is virtually self contained - no time period is specified between each episode so it is impossible to calculate how long they have travelled or indeed in which direction.

They have many strange encounters, most of them are of the problem-solving and overcoming obstacles type. Each episode has a message but it is not plainly laid before the viewer.

Often we are left wondering what happens to the people Ulysses leaves behind.

A great series but the after watching the last episode you are left with the unanswered question - what happens next? The animation is superb and the designs for star ships, and other objects are great.

Watch, enjoy and relive your youth.


A young Anthony Hopkins plays a ventriloquist-cum-failed magician, who after initially bombing on his first performance uses 'Fats' a seemingly ordinary ventriloquists dummy in his act. Initially as a prop/sidekick, the funny man in a double act but relying on it as a 'crutch' more and more until it appears to his manager (Burgess Meredith) that he is having a nervous breakdown.

Magic, is a film that has been done before and in my opinion better.

The first was in the 1945 film Dead of Night (or at least a sequence wherein Michael Redgrave plays a demented ventriloquist who believes his dummy is alive).

The second is a classic episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Dummy" written by Rod Serling but based on an unpublished story by Lee Polk. This time the plot device is a "switcheroo". Cliff Robertson plays Jerry Etherston convinced his dummy 'Willie' is alive. At the end Willy becomes the ventriloquist (played by George Murdock) and Etherstone the dummy.

"What's known in the parlance of the times as the old switcheroo, from boss to blockhead in a few easy lessons. And if you're given to nightclubbing on occasion, check this act. It's called Willie and Jerry, and they generally are booked into some of the clubs along the 'Grey Night Way' known as the Twilight Zone"

The third is a minor Zone episode called "Caesar and Me" in which the dummy frames the ventriloquist for a robbery.

It was "The Dummy" - with one of the most chilling final shots of any TZ episode - a slow camera pan from the grinning, now human Willie to the dummy of Jerry that has remained seared into my memory.

This film is 'of it's time' - very grainy 70s film stock, bleak, sinister, spooky and occasionally terrifying. The sinister orchestral music by Jerry Goldsmith helps - but still we are left trying to decide whether Hopkins is mad or the dummy is really alive.

Frightening, eerie, mysterious - probably all of those at the time but watching now these have paled into mere suspense - the signposts are there but not quite in plain sight.

A good film, yes, almost as good as a Twilight Zone episode but not one to watch alone or in the dark and really should have ended with narration - in Rod's inimical style of course.


Philip K. Dick world
David Cronenburg does Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick specialised in writing about people who were questioning the nature of reality or identity. Here Cronenburg takes us on a ride with two characters - Jenifer Jason Leigh & Jude Law. It ostensibly starts out as a meeting wherein a Virtual Reality game called "eXistenZ" is demonstrated, with Leigh playing the designer and Law a meek technophobic marketing executive. They plug themselves into this "virtual" world and then within that world plug themselves into a secondary virtual environment. There are numerous recurring themes throughout the movie - the gun, the dog and not least the characters. The one question that is posed throughout is "What is reality?" Midway through the film, Law in the hotel room is questioning whether the place that he inhabits is indeed real or in fact a game environment. This movie was released well before the fad/fashion for online virtual avatar style environments or MMORPG (Massivly Multipyer On-Line Role Playing Games) such as EverQuest or Virtual Life. This film is a multi-layered questioning of the perception of reality. Christof in The Truman Show put this very succinctly: "We accept the reality of the situation with which we are presented, it's as simple as that." When we get to a technological situation where people are more concerned with what is happening in their "virtual" lives than with their real ones - don't worry, be afraid - be very afraid. This film is excellent at distorting the viewer's perceptions of reality - "it's just your in-game character, don't fight it" (when Law shoots someone or eats visually disgusting food). Sensible people know where the boundaries between the real and the virtual are but when these boundaries do not exist it is cause for alarm.

Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta

Super animation
Hayao Miyazaki name became prominent with Spitied Away, however what is often overlooked are director's first film efforts. Who remembers that Spielberg directed Duel or George Lucas directed THX 1138? I remember seeing fragments of this movie - almost certainly the last 45 minutes in late 80s and what stuck with me was the visual lushness of the design and animation. So when I found a copy in a well known store for £9 I couldn't resist but buy it. The odd thing is that the last 45 minutes of the movie do not tally with my memory of it (memory is funny that way).

Viewing this movie now with all the gained knowledge of artists portfolios is how very like Jean 'Moebius' Giraud some of the artwork is. I can only assume some influence here.

When Pazu catches a falling girl (Sheeta) his adventure really begins - the quest for Laputa - a reference to Jonathan Swift's overlooked portion of Gulliver's Travels. With healthy references to Jules Verne it's a basic good vs. bad chase movie with the final portion having the heroes end up on Laputa.

This is the portion that is strongest in my memory - the 'pastoral' ecological aspect of Laputa returned to nature - the multitude of robots covered in moss beneath the giant tree. This is, in my opinion, the highlight of the movie - the views of the surface of Laputa, as opposed to the mechanised underground.

Although this is the dichotomy of this movie - to show that even technology cannot overcome nature - the irony of the last robot tending the garden and animals. The ending of the movie Silent Running is almost exactly the same.

It is incredibly stylish, I would not say 'slick' - very beautiful and organic and a tremendous amount of detail in the buildings, airships and the design and look of just about everything.

Myazaki is a true master of this kind of Japnanese anime. Buy this movie and treasure it.


Utterly Bizarre
Basic premise: Dam is built which is about to flood the town of Northfork. Everyone is evacuated except for the "die hards". In come a group attempting to evacuate the remainder - attempt to persuade them to leave.

Well it sounded interesting enough on the back of the DVD box so I rented it.

A more bizarre film populated with the weirdest characters I haven't seen.

And the pace - it was just so turgidly slow. If it was supposed to be languid it wasn't, it was terminal. An hour and 20 minutes I watched in silence as more and more strange, and frankly inexplicable things happened in front of me.

To be honest after that point I just got was just so slow.

The washed out colour, the strange soundtrack with it's languid and slow orchestral pieces mixed with radio jazz from the 40s.

And the characters...I keep coming back to these strange characters...the "Cup of Tea" character living in a house with a very near sighted...well I didn't know what to make of him, some sort of robot perhaps...with interchangeable hands...and strange guy with a suitcase and a lady with a wig.

It was all so...well bizarre...I couldn't make heads or tails of it...and normally I'm the kind of guy who enjoys mystery and unusual characters.

The DVD also said "A cross between Twin Peaks and Six Feet Under" - well if you couldn't get to grips with Twin Peaks then avoid this film.

In one sequence, the boy runs from a swing to a house after seeing some strange creature on stilts...the creature reminded me of one seen in Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal" I honestly couldn't take any more after and hour and 20 minutes...perhaps I should have tried to stick it until the end but an hour and twenty minutes seemed like an eternity and I gave up.

Two stars - might have been 3 if cinematography had been better, desolate landscape notwithstanding.


Silly but fun
Escape to Victory has to be one of the silliest premises of all war/escape related movies.

Think "The Great Escape" played for laughs.

Sylvester Stallone is a parallel for Steve McQueen's "Hiltz, the Cooler King" character in the latter.

Of course where would the film be without Michael Cane or indeed Sylvester Stallone.

Then again one must remember that when viewing this movie it plays upon the 1966 World Cup glory of England.

With the token representatives of Bobby Moore and Mike Summerbee it does seem to feel like flogging a dead horse by utilising players who some may say left their glory days behind them.

It is almost an afterthought that the likes of Pele and Ozzie Ardeles are included.

The fact that five players from the eastern block (Czechoslovakia and Poland) were allowed (one even playing in the match) can perhaps be read as a subtext for unity.

**** SPOILER ALERT **** The final score? Well football is not something easily filmed as a "staged" event. Choreographed it may well have been. Realistic? Perhaps not, but it did indeed contain elements of excitement and of course the obvious set-ups for both Pele and Ardeles.

**** SPOILER ALERT END **** The knowing smile on Max Von Sydow's face at the end where the players disappear into the masses tells more than perhaps everything else before.

A great movie? No. A good movie? No.

A fun movie? Yes. So how exactly did all these great football players end up in a German prisoner of war camp? Who knows and really who cares.

Never in the history of war/escape movies has one been made so far removed from the truth.

The sharper, more real aspects of the war, the Germans and so forth are glossed over, though reference is made to the "non existence" of the POles and their initial appearance does indeed give deference to the appalling treatment they were subjected too.

Up there with the best Irwin Allen made. Cheesy, silly, laughable but just a great fun movie. Light entertainment.

Altered States

Russell does Cronenberg
This film feels very much like an early work of David Cronenberg.

William Hurt plays Eddie Jessup who starts to dabble into isolation tank experiments in the 60s. Here science and the effects of hallucinogenic and/or psychotropic drugs themes and influences take over.

Real science and pseudo-science intermix here with no clear boundaries and can be likened (if taken as such) as a commentary on the use (or mis-use) of LSD.

Jessup takes these two elements to the ultimate extreme after hearing about and then visiting a tribe of Mexians who take a strange mixture using some (assumed) locally grown mushrooms to induce a state of "shared memory" where they regress to a more primitive state. Jessup participates in the ritual and when he returns he continues the experiment after a prolonged break (and marriage).

This involves him taking a quantity of the "medicine" brought back from Mexico and placing himself into an isolation tank. He "regresses" back to a proto-hominid state and ends up being found naked in a zoo in the morning.

How much "hokum" is involved here is debatable but as the author Paddy Chayefsky has disowned this movie it is reasonable to assume that much has been "altered." The various regressions are portrayed in this film in various ways - firstly by the use of inter cut visual effects to "simulate" the experience to the viewer - weird optical effects, explosions and bizarre visuals - almost like a psychedelic wallpaper. It does leave the viewer thinking that one had to in effect be there to experience what Jessup was experiencing himself.

This "regression into a more primitive form of life" has been tackled in a more mainstream (if you can call it that) episode of Star Trek The Next Generation entitled "Genesis" but the science behind that episode was even more hokey than here.

As an exercise in blurring the lines between "what is real and what is not" it is effective and should raise some deep questions within the viewer about the nature of reality - a topic for which science fiction author Phillip K. Dick was well known for.

Unfortunately it does not do so, merely skimming the surface and leaving the viewer feeling that the "meat" of the science is sadly lacking in any substance.

Obviously the question of experimenting on humans does indeed open a very large can of worms and is a very emotive subject.

The general viewer I feel will be left at the end feeling a little dazed and confused and there is not enough here for an in-depth study of philosophy. I do not think that a film of this nature that deals with this subject to any degree of detail would find a wide audience appeal.

My summary stated that this felt very like an early Cronenberg effort and I stick by that - a poor 2nd to Cronenberg but if you want to while away a wet Sunday afternoon then watch it.

Interesting idea poorly handled.

White Noise

Faces in the Snow
Denis Quaid plays Jonathan Rivers who's wife dies in a car crash. He is contacted by Raymond Price (Ian McNeice) who tells him he has been receiving broadcasts from Rivers' dead wife via the white noise of static broadcasts. The premise of this film although based on (presumable) fairly realistic research does tend to have the effect of making the viewer think it is straying a little too far into the 'pseudo-science' or hokum territory especially near to the end of the movie. I am sure that many people have spent long hours trawling through wavelengths and static TV broadcasts in the hopes of seeing faces of loved ones and after the amount of time Rivers spends watching snow on TV the lack of sleep may explain some of the things he sees - though maybe not all of them. Perhaps there is a kernel of truth to the premise of this movie and can as such be accepted by the viewer. As for Quaid;'s dead wife 'guiding' him from beyond the veil this is where I think the movie strays into the 'hokum' territory a little too far. There are definitely parts of this movie that make you jump and the way the film is cut interspersing events with TV snow and 'other worldly voices' is clever and well executed. A film to watch in the dark but probably not alone and I would not recommend attempting to replicate the experiments shown in this film - that is if you believe in ghosts.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

One of the best movies
Innocent sailing trip turns into nightmarish battle for survival against 50 foot giant.

This is 50s fantasy at it's best. The first few minutes of the film and already we have to hide behind the sofa. That cyclops is scary - I mean real scary.

It may look crude by todays CGI efforts but considering this is 1958 we're talking cutting edge technology.

Ray Harryhause was the pupil of Willia H. O'Brien, the master animator of King Kong, from whom he learnt his trade (and tricks). Harryhausen employed stop motion animation techniques by building finely detailed models. Today Nick Park creates Wallace and Gromit, in 1958 Harryhausen created the cyclops.

Harryhausen also coined the term "dynamation" and created the blue screen visuals used in this and the other films he was involved with. Again cutting edge technology for 1958 and something that had never been seen before.

Can you imagine sitting in the theatre in 1958 and watching Kerwin Matthews battle the cyclops - that must have been awesome.

Indeed even nearly 50 years later the film still has the ability to scare.

"Build me a wall between Sinbad and the cyclops" says Sokurah (played here to great effect by Torin Thatcher). Barani, the genie, does indeed create a magically invisible wall. First the cyclops starts pounding it with his fists and roars - one scary roar. He then throws a rock at it - of course the wall vanishes because the genie can't withstand that.

And all of this happens in the first five minutes of the film and all for a small magical lamp. The object Sokurah has "liberated" from the treasure of the cyclops.

Sokurah magically shrinks the heroine and whisks her away to the said same cyclops island. Sinbad of course gives chase after receiving the clues to the cure given by Sokurah himself.

Sinbad of course has to overcome various obstacles placed in his way by Sokurah. The cyclops reappears to squash a few unwitting sailors under an uprooted tree, but Sinbad wins out by blinding the cyclops and luring him over a cliff.

Later he reaches Sokurah's castle, wherein is a large dragon chained up. Sokurah conjures up a sword wielding skeleton and thus ensues one of the all time classic battles of cinema. Harryhausen used this motif again in a later movie using more skeletons. Again remember this is cutting edge stuff - nothing like this had ever been seen before.

With the princess rescued, Sinbad escapes the castle, frees the genie and encounters cyclops number 3. Our quick thinking hero releases the dragon from it's shackles (well it breaks free) and a "reoyal rumble" ensues outside the cave between the cyclops and the dragon.

Just a fantastic movie - one to watch many times over.

Jack the Giant Killer

Pale imitation of Harryhausen's best
This is a film that comes from the same stable as 7th Voyage of Sinbad, insofar as Nathan Juran was director and Kerwin Matthews and Torin Thatcher are in it, but alas there the similarities end. Whereas 7th Voyage was a racehorse, this is a mere carthorse. Firstly the good points. The acting was reasonable, Kerwin is "efficient" as the farmer-turned-hero. Torin is passable as a villain but not as evil here as he was as Sokurah in 7th Voyage. Judi Andrews portrayed the good.bad duality very well and the "bad" makeup made her somewhat more appealing than did the ordinary. Now it's onto the bad points - of which there are a number.

Firstly the animation. Unquestionably not up to Harryhausen's standard, even to the extent of being very "rubbery" looking and less than believable. Take Cormoran for example, the giant at the beginning of the film. Clearly a take off of Harryhausen's cyclops from 7th Voyage (complete with cloven hooves, two horns and knobbly back), with a face that looked as if it had been modelled on Torin Thatcher's. Wah Chung, Jim Danforth and David Pal were the animators (tho IMDb only lists Jim Danforth).

The sets were reasonable, Pendragon's castle obviously being the focus of the film. Even the spiral staircase in the middle had carved letters round the inside lip - one clearly read "solaris". The iron knights, were of course, men in suits, and the ruined temple was a location shot with backdrop behind but reasonably well executed. Tho the demise of the castle was poorly done - stone built towers do not explode in the way shown at the end of the movie - and when we see the remains it is a very poorly built model we see.

The "blue screen" effects (back projection) are clearly not as good as those of Harryhausen and are obvious throughout the film.

Well plot. Let me see, farmer rescues girl from cyclops, not realising she's the princess (d'uh? - She's just been crowned as such, you would think there would be posters depicting a likeness of her - as the whole of Cornwall seems to be enjoying some festivities), gets knighted, escorts princess (disguised as peasants) to France, gets captured by witches ("glowing" actors in costumes), gets cast adrift by the ship's crew (along with the dead captain's son), gets rescued by a Viking, goes to Pendragon's island to rescue princess (who has meanwhile been turned into "Voluptua"), gets given genie in bottle & 3 wishes, fights the bad guy, rescues the princess, gets attacked by monsters, kills monsters, thus destroying castle, sails off into distance.

Hmmm...well it's no Lord of the Rings (book, not movie), but it does have an eclectic mix of mythology in there somewhere.

Cormoran, for example, is based on a "real" fable (if it can be called such a thing), tho in this instance Jack did not strangle the giant and slay him with a scythe.

Brewer's "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" says of Cormoran: The Cornish giant who fell into a pit twenty feet deep dug by Jack the Giant Killer, and filled over with grass and gravel. The name means cormorant or great eater. For this doughty achievement Jack received a belt from King Arthur with this inscription - "This is the valiant Cornis man That slew the giant Cormoran" Cormoran is the brother of Blunderbone.

Of Jack the Giant Killer, Brewer says this: owed much of his success to four marvellous possessions - an invisible coat, a cap of wisdom, shoes of swiftness and a resistant-less sword.

Tho there is also this (from a Cornish Legends website): According to Cornish legend, Jack was a farmer's son who lived near Land's End in the days of King Arthur. The folk of the area were being terrorised by Cormoran, the Giant of St. Michael's Mount, who stole cattle and carried them away either on his back or dangling from his belt. A reward was offered to anyone who would slay the fearsome giant, and Jack took up the challenge. He dug a huge pit near Morvah and covered it with sticks and straw. Then he lured the Giant away from the Mount by blowing his horn. The angry Giant rushed down the Mount and fell into the pit. Jack then struck him a mortal blow with his pick-axe and filled the pit with earth. For his brave deed he was given a magnificent sword and belt, embroidered "Who slew the Giant Cormoran".

Famed for his bravery Jack The Giant Killer became something of a super hero, killing wolves and breaking the skulls of pirates in addition to being on hand to deal with other troublesome giants. Later he travelled on to Wales to slay more of them and further embroidered his legend, and, to mark his slaying of Cormoran there stands to this day near Morvah Church a huge stone which is said to mark the Giant's Grave. It is also said that sometimes voices can be heard coming from beneath it! Oendragon, of course being partially based on Arthur's father Uther Pendragon (of Tintagel Castle), the similarities between the castle in the film and St. Michael's Mount cannot be determined, tho it is likely.

If you like fantasy adventures from the 60s in the style of Harryhausen you will like this film, and despite the many flaws, is rather enjoyable.

The Core

Frivolous fun
Science - swayed from hokey to just about plausible.

Sterio-typed characters - yes

Plot - paper thin.

I enjoy movies of all kinds and knowing what to expect when I rented this out (a somewhat cheesy, implausible disaster-cum-save-the-earth movie) it's exactly what it says in the tin.

This move was good because it didn't take itself seriously (like Armageddon). Lots of comenters have mentioned that film in the same breath as this - though they might as well have mentioned "Towering Inferno" or the other Irwin Allen disaster movies of that ilk.

This film is an Irwin Allen for the modern day. Predictable. You kind of knew who was going to live or die, you knew who was gonna get socked on the jaw. These are the roadsigns of a disaster movie - it's supposed to be fun.

This was fun - I enjoyed it so I give it 3 stars.

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