Film Review : Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Directed By – Matt Reeves
Starring – Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, and Gary Oldman

In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.

ALL HAIL CAESAR!!!

Gah! I just want to see it again!A couple years ago I was shocked by how much I liked the reboot of The Planet of the Apes. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking that they must have just ran out of idea because Tim Burton already ruined a great franchise, but to my surprise Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fantastic attempt to reboot the whole series. Well, it is almost certain that this is going to last a while because “Dawn” is cleaning house at the box office and just so happens to be one of the best action movies I’ve seen since District 9. I mention that film because it was the last time, other than Inception, that I was blown away by an effects driven action film. I was on the edge of my seat. I was slacked jawed at the entire middle act. I walked away from the theater immediately thinking of when the next time I could go back to see it. I needed a little pick me up this week.

The film starts out with a stage setting sequence that actually doesn’t suck for once as it tells us about the fall of the human race due to our dance with science and the need to help old people with Alzheimer’s. There are few who were genetically immune to the epidemic and survived but are now forced to live in mad max style colony with gas generators and filth running in the streets. This isn’t a human world anymore, at least not near San Francisco. The outer forests of California, which look like the Amazon in this film, are now colonized by a much more advanced society of apes led by the one, the only, fucking Caesar. Seriously, he may be one of my favorite movie characters after this film. The writing staff who worked on this film just nailed the character and all his moral glory. Caesar is still living with familiar faces such as Maurice the giant Orangutan and Koba the scar faced lab ape. Caesar also has a new family comprised of a son and wife, both of whom play a big role in the film. It’s funny but the film picked a great time to be released with all the tension in Israel and Pakistan, but also stuck to serious moral issues of family and friendship. I won’t go to far into the plot because it’s a ride you want to take on your own but the trailer gave most of that away anyway.

I was surprised by how much the story of the film payed homage to Shakespeare, Julius Caesar to be specific, which is a funny joke if you ask me. It seems like it would be at least. A subtle retelling of Julius Caesar about an ape…NAMED CAESAR? It sounds crazy, but it actually worked quite well as we see tension and fighting within the ape colony. This is their film by the way. Do not go into this film thinking that you’re going to get a whole lot of Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke. They are there only to progress the storyline as the natural enemy, meaning being human, of the apes. The real meat and potatoes is all ape baby and the actors behind these apes should be heaped with praise. HEAPED. Andy Serkis continues to be an absolute treasure in a motion capture suit. “Rise” was impressive enough, but this film takes motion capture to a whole new level. There were more close up shots of all the apes doing ape things that made me believe I was watching the real thing. The only ape that looked CGI was Caesar’s son Blue Eyes, who for some reason just could not shake the fact that he wasn’t real. Every other ape, mostly the villainous Koba, looked completely genuine and was helped greatly by their motion actors. Speaking of Koba, Toby Kebbell may have outshined Serkis with his performance. If I was present in front of Koba I would be shitting my pants. His scarred body and menacing jaws would have had me running in the other direction as I was actually pretty frightened in the theater, which doesn’t happen much. The on screen humans, led by a great actor in Jason Clarke, all did a fantastic job hooking me emotionally into the story. There were some moments that just weren’t needed much, mostly having to do with the kid and girlfriend of Clarke, but it didn’t distract too much. Gary Oldman was fantastic as always and had two really great scenes in where he both gave a speech and made me teary eyed. The cast was a home run.

The action was just top notch. There was one scene involving a tank that seriously almost made me stand up and clap. It reminded me of shots that Alfonso Cauron would construct in Children of Men. It’s easily my favorite shot of the year and may be my favorite shot since Gravity came out. The gigantic ending set piece which climaxed the film was pretty awesome but seemed to mirror the final set piece in “The Amazing Spiderman” too much. I was into it, but it just seemed to similar. The whole est of the film was so unique that the ending that the ending battle just let me down a tiny bit. Oh, and finally, we arrive and end with Caesar. The opening and final shots of his face are just perfect. Perfect!

As you can see, I loved the film. I want to see it again. Hopefully I’ll see it again because it was a blast to watch and a serious contender for my top films of the year. I’m so glad it’s making money because Matt Reeves is a talent behind the camera and really seems to have a grasp on this franchise. Hell, Nolan couldn’t even make two outstanding Batman films back to back. He made a Dark Knight sandwich with two stale pieces of bread. This is the making of a serious sandwich fit for a king. An ape king. FUCKING CAESAR!

4.5/5




Film Review : RoboCop (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 48%

Directed By – José Padilha
Starring – Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Samuel L. Jackson

In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.

I’m going to start off this review a little differently. The following quote was pulled from the trivia section of IMDB for this film…

During production of the film, director José Padilha phoned friend and fellow Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles to confide in him his frustration in the lack of creative control he was allowed by the studio for the project. Padilha estimated that for every ten ideas he brought to the project, the studio refused nine, and went on to the describe the making of the film as “The worst experience of [his] life”. When word of this conversation became public, in an effort to appease the studio Padilha released counter statements expressing satisfaction with the film.

The reason I quote this is because I’m about to rip this film a new asshole. It was a piece of garbage and anybody involved in making it should be ashamed. It’s not that I just didn’t like it. It was so poorly constructed, acted, edited, and written that it seemed like the entire production team made this on the weekends when they were occupied with something else. The fact that they put this remake in the hands of a first time screenwriter shows how much effort they were willing to put into this. José Padilha is a director I admire. His Elite Squad films and documentary Bus 174 are fantastic gritty stories that up the realism and don’t hold anything back. I feel bad for the man who came to Hollywood hoping to hit a mainstream audience and he’s going to look like a fool now because of inept studio interference getting in the way of his creativity. What a waste of talent. Shame on those studios. This is why I give José Padilha a pass on this one. He should keep making excellent Brazilian films where he has complete control. There are going to be a lot of people who will seek out his films. He doesn’t need Hollywood bullshit.

That being said, the movie was atrocious. I don’t even know where to start. I guess the first order of business is the one thing we knew would hold the film back, the PG-13 rating. I know that direct adaptions are kinda lame. The original “RoboCop” was violent as hell and why the story was still a basic Frankenstein re-imagining, it was fun as hell. This remake wasn’t fun. This remake wasn’t even a little bit fun. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t think any of the effects were cool. I didn’t find a single thing enjoyable except for the wonderful Gary Oldman who tried his best to make anything in this film work. I think that may be a biased statement, but he didn’t do anything wrong with this role. Another slight positive was just the notion that it’s nice to see Michael Keatons face on the big screen again. He wasn’t very impressive but it was still great to see. The rest of the cast were horrid. Abbie Cornish shouldn’t act. Her attempts at being an anxiety filled house wife were laughable. Joel Kinnaman should stick to television. He just doesn’t have the face, voice, or presence to command a film. He’s a supporting actor at best. It was nice seeing Michael K. Williams in a role that isn’t Omar from “The Wire” but the lines his character was given were so corny that it was like a ten year old in the back room of a studio came up with them while playing cops and robbers with his imaginary friend Steve. The whole cast besides Oldman failed on a major level.

I couldn’t stand the writing. They spent almost two thirds of the film setting up the development of RoboCop only to realize that they haven’t developed any conflict yet and just shoved a villain in at the last second. Again, it is a remake so I’m not spoiling anything but if you’ve never seen the original film you would be very confused as to why Michael Keaton all of a sudden became a villain. It was that sudden. The film also revealed all these different plot twists with corrupt cops and completely forgot about closing that part of the story. A major character is revealed to be an asshole and then the scene ends and we hear nothing of it, or see that character again for the entire rest of the film. You could land a space shuttle through these holes. It was laughable.

Oh, I nearly forgot about Samuel L. Jackson. His character was one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen in a film. He acted like a segmented narrator throughout the film giving comments on what we just saw while doing so in a fashion that was abrasive and obnoxious. They also just HAD to throw in him saying “motherf*cker”. They had to do it. It was entirely distracting and stupid.

The action was also just poorly done. There was no sense of danger or intensity. It was bland, quick cutting PG-13 video game slop. I actually almost fell asleep during the big set piece at the end. That’s how boring it was.

Don’t waste you time seeing this film. It’s a mistake that should never have happened and was sabotaged from the beginning. If you want to see good work from José Padilha then check out his previous films. This is something he will be forgetting and I will be too.

0.5/5