Friday, December 9, 2016


Get yourself a big bowl of popcorn and your beverage of choice. We have three movies to talk about today.

The Legend of Tarzan [2016] might just be my favorite Tarzan movie of all time. My pal Anthony Tollin kept urging me to see it on the big screen and, foolishly, I never got around to it. I wish I had made the time because, even watching the film on a library-obtained Blu-ray was a breathtaking experience. The Internet Movie Database offers this short-form synopsis:

Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.

Let’s see if I can manage some SPOILERS FREE commentary. The movie stars Alexander Skarsgård as John Clayton/Tarzan and the actor does a great job portraying both personas and, best of all, makes both of them valid examinations of the legendary figure.

Margot Robbie is the beautiful and fierce Jane Clayton. You can’t take your eyes off her when she’s on screen.

Samuel L. Jackson is George Washington Williams. His character is an American entrepreneur as well as a veteran of the American Civil War and other not-so-righteous conflicts. He’s great fun to watch, but he also brings the weight of history to the proceedings.

Christoph Waltz is Captain Léon Rom, the kind of merciless villain you love to hate. He is masterfully slimy.

Djimon Hounsou plays Chief Mbonga, who seeks revenge on Tarzan for a reason I’ll not mention here.

The movie is set in 1885 or thereabouts. The European powers have divided Africa between them with Belgium getting the Congo. Minor spoiler: its intentions are not honorable.

Taking the Tarzan stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs as their starting point, writers Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer have crafted an exciting story that feels like ERB and yet addresses modern sensibilities. There is great respect shown for the African characters, including those who are enemies of Tarzan. The action sequences, both those that take place in the jungle and those that take place in a city, are stunning. The human sequences, including those involving apes, are powerful and relatable. I love the writing of this film.

Kudos to director David Yates for pulling together a great cast and a great script. I’m going to do my best to see his Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them while it’s still in the theaters.

After you’ve seen the movie, which I highly recommend you do, check out the trivia at the film’s IMDb page. It’s fascinating stuff and will give you an even greater appreciation of this wonderful movie.

My other favorite Tarzan films? Disney’s Tarzan [1999] is right up there. Tarzan's New York Adventure [1942] is a childhood favorite, as is another Johnny Weissmuller movie whose name I can not recall. It ends with Tarzan taunting a Nazi agent - “Here, Nazi, Nazi” - as he leads the villain to his jungle doom.

On my silly scale of great apes, I give The Legend of Tarzan...the  Full Monkey! 

Latitude Zero [1969] was a movie I’d heard of for years, but never saw until this month when I bought the double-disc special edition of it. I opted to watch the original Japanese version of the movie. Here’s the quicky synopsis from IMDb:

A journalist is saved by a giant submarine captained by a 200 year old man who takes him to an underwater paradise city where no one ages. That's when monsters and mutants sent by the captain's rival, a 200 year old scientist, attack.

That synopsis leaves out the two Japanese scientists also rescued by the 200-year-old man, the beautiful American who lives in that undersea paradise, the evil scientist’s wife and a totally bad-ass female Japanese submarine captain who gets...maybe I better leave that for after the spoiler warnings.


Joseph Cotton plays Captain Craig McKenzie, the leader of Latitude Zero. His city is constantly making scientific breakthroughs which they secretly share with the world. His super-submarine Alpha has has many cool devices as TV’s Batman of the 1960s. His rival, Doc Malic of Blood Rock, is played by Cesar Romero with an eye-popping exuberance that makes Romero’s Joker look sedate. Patricia Medina, the star of The Beast of Hollow Mountain, plays Malic’s beautiful, mature wife. The couple drink at the drop of a body, laugh a lot and look like they would “do it” right then and there if this were not a joint Japanese/American production. Even a kiss is something of a rarity in the Toho films of this era.

Akira Takarada is one of the scientists rescued with just-slightly slimy journalist Perry Lawton [Richard Jaeckel]. Linda Haynes plays Dr. Anne Barton. The scientists are quite taken with Latitude Zero and its mission of recruiting scientists who want to do their work free of corporate and government concerns. When Malic kidnaps one such scientist and his daughter, McKenzie and his new pals mount a rescue.

The most intriguing character is Captain Kuroi Ga [Hikaru Kuroki], commander of the Black Shark, Malic’s own super-submarine. She is also Malic’s mistress, a “bonus” of which Mrs. Malic is aware and willing to go along with until Kuroi keeps failing to destroy the Alpha. Kuroi’s fate is to have her brain removed and put in the body of a giant griffin created by Malic.

Latitude Zero is fast-paced with submarine action and deadly traps action and artificial bat-men action. It’s got a sense of wonder as Perry and the scientists see the incredible scientific advances of the underwater city. It’s even got a sense of humor, most often at the expense of the ambitious, avaricious journalist.

The struggle against Malik ends in a most satisfying manner. Those Japanese scientists opt to remain in Latitude Zero with their new girlfriends, Doc Barton and the rescued scientist’s daughter. Even Lawton gets a bizarre happy ending.


Latitude Zero was directed by Ishiro Honda (Godzilla and so many other incredible movies) and written by Ted Sherdeman, based on his radio serial of the same name. The film’s special effects are not always as convincing as they could be, but the often-quirky story and the terrific acting makes for a movie that’s great fun. I have no doubt I will watch it again.

On my scale of zero to five Batman references, Latitude Zero gets three “nana nana nanas” and a “Holy Romero, Batman!” I recommend it to all my Toho-loving cronies.


MegaFault is a disaster movie from The Asylum, which made its SyFy Channel premiere on October 10, 2009. It was written by Paul Balas and directed by David Michael Latt. Here’s the brief synopsis from the film’s IMDb entry:

When miner Charley “Boomer” Baxter sets off a series of massive mining detonations in West Virginia, a gigantic earthquake is soon rocking the North Atlantic, exposing a deep seismic fault that runs the length of the North American continent. Joining forces with government seismology expert Dr. Amy Lane, Boomer must now race against time to stop the chasm that is threatening to tear America and the entire world in half.

The movie stars Brittany Murphy as Lane, Eriq La Salle as Boomer, Bruce Davison as Dr. Mark Rhodes, Justin Hartley as Lane’s husband Dan, Paul Logan as Major Boyd Grayson and Miranda Schwein as Lane’s young daughter Miranda. I’m going to dispense with spoiler warnings for this one. The synopsis is sufficient, though I will mention the script notes that the earthquake isn’t actually caused by Boomer’s detonations. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

MegaFault is what you expect. It’s 90 minutes of action interlaced with human drama. The extinction-level sense of menace adds to the intensity of every scene. The special effects aren’t award-winning quality - they look cartoon-ish in a few places - but they convey that menace well.

The acting is good to very good, especially La Salle. Sadly, this was Murphy’s last movie as she died a few weeks after its premiere.

Davison has solid sci-fi and super-hero chops. Hartley was Oliver Queen in Smallville. Logan would shine in Mega Piranha and will be appearing in the eagerly-awaited CobraGator. Schwein hasn’t been in any other movies, but, as young as she was, she did a good job in this one.

I was entertained by MegaFault. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a good one. Which is all I ask from SyFy original movies. On my scale of zero to five seismic events, I give it a shake, a rattle, and a roll. I can look at you, ‘til you don't love me no more.

I'm taking the weekend off, but I’ll be back on Monday with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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