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.


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!


Classic Review : What’s Up Doc? (1972)

IMDB Score – 7.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Directed By – Peter Bogdanovich
Starring – Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neil, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Michael Murphy, Phillip Roth, Stefan Gierasch, and Liam Dunn

The accidental mix up of four identical plaid overnight bags leads to a series of increasingly wild and wacky situations.

Finally, I am able to return to watching some films that weren’t released in 2013. This year I’m going to try to see as many films as I can in the theater that way I’m not playing this much catch up after New Years. It’s been a busy week for me so I haven’t been able to sit down and catch of with a lot of films. Today however, is a snow day. My home state of New Jersey is under yet another blanket of snow, so I decided to sit down and watch something (hopefully) funny in order to ease into the day.

If you have been reading my writing then you know I’m not a huge comedy fan. I just find more misses than hits so I usually stop trying until I’ve read enough about a film to give it a go. Classics however are always appealing to me. “His Girl Friday” and “Bringing Up Baby” are some of my favorite comedies ever so it’s not a surprise that I ended up enjoying this film, which is a self proclaimed homage to the great screwball comedies of the thirties. “What’s Up Doc?” follows four travel bags that hold entirely different items as they swap owners and cause mayhem. We’ve seen this before, but screwball comedy is more about the sight gags and dialogue than unique story.

Would you believe this is the first film starring Babs that I’ve seen? I hated “Meet the Parents” so I didn’t end up seeing any of the sequels and a road trip film with Seth Rogan just turned me off. I’ll get around to seeing her famous musicals and her Oscar winning debut in “Funny Girl” somewhere down the line. This was my first and honestly I found her adorable. Her character was that perfect blend of quirky and smart that hit the chord with me. She carried the film, which is saying something considering she was partnered up with one of the worst big name actors I’ve ever seen. I just can’t understand why people think Ryan O’Neil is a good actor. The only film he is decent in is “Barry Lyndon” but lucky for him, Kubrick requires a lot of standing and looking instead of reading lines. I mean, everybody has seen this clip right…?

So bad. Maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe the director was a five year old throwing oreos and telling him how to dictate the lines. I just think he’s terrible. He did however manage to prevent this film from going down the toilet and I commend him for that. Other great comedic performances in the film come from Madeline Kahn, who plays the real fiancee of O’Neal. This was her film debut and she nailed the uptight, romance-less control freak, and exact opposite of Babs. Kenneth Mars plays a character very similar to his nazi supporting theater go-er in “The Producers”. His accent and overall douche-iness didn’t get old. Finally the brief appearance of Liam Dunn as the judge was probably the hardest I laughed during the whole film. He was a riot.

The film also boasts one of the most entertaining car chases in film and I’m not surprised. It took up a quarter of the whole film budget. The whole thing was filmed like a less epic version of the chase in “The Blues Brothers” but with Chinese dragons, plates of glass, and the wonderfully steep streets of San Francisco.

It was a very enjoyable film, as most screwball comedies were back when Hollywood had a sense of humor. It’s also one of the rare hilarious films that can be enjoyed by the whole family.