War for the Planet of the Apes

Release: Friday, July 14, 2017


Written by: Mark Bomback; Matt Reeves

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Maurice: “Ooo! Oo!!!!”

Me: “Yeah buddy, I hate war too.”

We all know how Caesar feels about it. Poor Caesar. If he had his way, we wouldn’t even be here. War for the Planet of the Apes basically details everything the alpha male, the very first ape to experience increased intelligence, has been wanting to avoid. And how.

Of course Caesar doesn’t get his way even when he really should, after all he’s endured. After all those demonstrations of mercy and stoicism. Alas, here we are, locked into a brutal and bitter conflict that will, almost assuredly, see the fall of one species and the survival of the other, the odds of reconciliation at an all-time low. With the imminent threat posed by a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson, scary good) who is hell-bent on wiping out the apes once and for all, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and a few loyal ape-padres must launch a final attack that will determine the fate of the entire planet.

War for the Planet of the Apes finds director Matt Reeves (who took over from Rupert Wyatt in 2014 with his ominous Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) pushing the pathos of the franchise to even greater depths. He’s saved the most visceral depiction of an epic ideological struggle for last. Admittedly, it’s a fairly misleading title, as ‘war’ isn’t so much an indicator of scale, but rather a reference to a certain mentality. The film opens with a harrowing battle sequence, concludes in explosive fashion and tosses a few other moments of intense confrontation into the mix but the overall tone asserts the psychological unraveling and the perversion of logic associated with war.

To that end, we must witness the continued suffering of Caesar when he takes it upon himself to track down the vengeful, rogue colonel, who turns out to be every bit his intellectual equal and, further to Caesar’s dismay, has a devastating backstory of his very own. He’s the ideal dramatic foil. He has reasons to be angry. Harrelson actually goes for livid, chillingly reminding you how good he is at playing nasty, but he never overplays his hand.

Though he is adamant he must go the journey alone, Caesar is nonetheless joined by a trio of his most trusted allies. The Bornean orangutang Maurice (Karin Konoval) insists he will need his moral support. For muscle, he’s flanked by the gloriously large lowland gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and his adoptive brother Rocket (Terry Notary) — a common chimp, yes, but also a tenacious fighter. But Maurice is valuable in another way besides being team cheerleader. He’s a voice of reason, proving his shrewd judge of character can come in handy at some fairly critical moments.

Others join. Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape is a welcomed though fairly obvious nod to Serkis’ groundbreaking mo-cap as the troubled tag-a-long and ultimately ill-fated Sméagol/Gollum. Fortunately Bad Ape is more than simple fan service. He’s a sorrowful simian who’s been on his own for “long time. Very long time.” On top of adding a splash of humor to proceedings, his perspective proves invaluable and offers clarity to the intellectual evolution of Caesar himself, who sits before him, quietly impressed by a member of his own species having learned to speak English. It’s a profound moment that perfectly encapsulates how far we have come since 2011.

It might surprise some to find it all coming down to an act of retribution. But if you recall, a simple misunderstanding by zoo security is what set this whole saga off in the first place. Instead of bogging itself down in philosophizing and extrapolation, Reeves’ direction comes across as more quietly observational — the cameras remain objective and unflinching as people die and apes are savagely tortured. The writing has consistently shied away from overcomplicating things. And Harrelson’s painful revelation confirms the ironic nature of this whole confusing cycle. We “created” the intelligent ape, now they are minimizing us. It’s kind of tragic. Well, depending on how you’ve come to view these movies.

Recommendation: Powerful, provocative and emotionally resonant. The third and final iteration in the rebooted Apes franchise sends audiences off on a thrilling high, and brings long-time fans back full-circle. Combined with ever-improving special effects and the committed work of motion-capture performer Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes is absolutely the most mature and most well-made film in the post-Charlton Heston era. Sure it’s a little predictable, but it’s predictable in a very surprising way. And that totally does make sense when you see the movie. 

Rated: hard PG-13

Running Time: 140 mins.

Quoted: “My God, you are impressive. Smart as hell. You’re stronger than we are. But you’re taking this all much too personally. So emotional!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Hangover – Part III


Release: Thursday, May 23, 2013


…..sigh. I suppose the momentum of the party had to slow down sometime. Too bad that it happened when we all needed energy the most. In a trilogy, it’s never a good move to make your third and final installment the weakest in the series, even though that’s usually what happens.

Many Most trilogies spend a lot of time introducing characters, creating atmosphere, and providing a storyline in the first installment that will have us addicted at the get-go. The second film, ideally, is an expansion on what made the first film a success while managing to go to new places and new heights. It is most often where fans of the original, and even some newcomers, will butt heads with their opinions about the direction we’re going in — whether or not these are directed at that particular sequel or the differences/similarities between one and two is a matter of opinion that will widely vary. Regardless, a sequel more often than not bears the burden of living up to a standard. The first is free of such pressure, hence we often think back on the first film with fond memories, more often than not tagging them as THE film in the series to see.

And then we get the finale.

The third film has the most difficult job to do: expand further on where the others were taking us while bringing everything to a logical and fitting conclusion that not only contributes to the overall tone of the piece but satisfies this particular link-up of the story. A lot of the time, either one of these elements do not get met (and in some really bad cases, neither do), leaving us at times wishing they never continued to add to the story.

Todd Phillips’ drunken debauchery comes to a slam-bang close in The Hangover – Part III, but this time he has scrapped one of the major elements that made his previous two so funny: that moment you wake up and have no idea why you’re missing a tooth, parenting a random baby, or you’ve had your face tattooed in the style of Mike Tyson. “The morning after” discoveries really don’t have a place in this film since it is now time to prove what each member of the Wolfpack is made of. Phillips replaces this hilarious shock value with a much more traditional and quite frankly, boring, storyline that caters more to the likes of one Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) after he escapes prison and is being tracked down by some very mean gangsters indeed (led by none other than John Goodman) when he steals $21 million in gold bricks.

The involvement with our beloved Wolfpack is a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Whilst the gang is minding their own business taking Alan (Galifianakis) to a facility where they hope he can receive the mental help he’s been clearly needing for a long time, they are run off the road by Goodman and company and find themselves with no other option but to help find the missing gold and Chow, otherwise Doug gets killed. At this point, Doug’s gotta be thinking his friends’ shit is just not worth putting up with anymore.

Regardless, the trap has been set and off we go on the third adventure that involves burglary, the defiling of bodies and the use of bath salts. The resultant story to justify it all is nothing more than a mess. Alternately chuckle-worthy and depressing, Part III demonstrates why comedy is not  the best foundation for making a trilogy. Most of this film focuses on Chow’s hijinks, some of which are hilarious, a lot of them not so much. We are no longer truly having a good time here. Part III is far less a comedy than Part II was (if you can believe that), and we really struggle to understand how any of these idiots have become married men.

If they’re not as dedicated to their wives, they are at least dedicated to trying to sell us on the same levels of panic and anguish as they had evinced in Bangkok — because, let’s face it, the stakes were much higher there than in Vegas the first time around. However, when Stu screams “What the f**k is going on?!!” in response to some bizarre sequence of events, the line comes across as more of a film tagline than an earnest reaction. This is but only one example of the many fraying edges we witness as the story goes on.

There are, however, a few redemptive moments throughout that come close to the spirit of earlier scenes in the trilogy. The house raid scene with Chow and Stu is priceless, as well as the climactic scene in Vegas. . . where it all began. Phil (Cooper) very boldly declares that “It all ends tonight.” Let’s hope so. I’m not sure anyone — the Wolfpack especially — can withstand anymore of this abuse. At the very least, Part III has worn out the comedic element; there’s plenty of drama to still go around. But that’s not why we paid for our Hangover really. And of the drama we really care about here, a lot of it is really just dumb melodrama, spurred on by Alan’s immutable stupidity.

As far as tying together all the loose ends, Phillips manages the job fairly well. The end is not so much predictable as it is appropriate, and may give some of the more hardcore fans of this trip some goosebumps. It would be a stretch to call it a bittersweet goodbye, but I would be remiss in not giving Phillips at least one thumbs-up for wrapping up the story nicely. It’s nothing even close to realistic, but then again, none of these films were! At the heart of The Hangover is a story of brotherly love, of sharing all the good memories one could ever want along with the bad, and surviving it together, come hell or high water. Or hookers. Or Mike Tyson. Or roofies.

Without getting too sentimental (considering this is surely the worst of the three), I’ll miss seeing this group of actors together but it’s good to finally get the hangover out of the way so we can move on about our day and get on with what we were meaning to do before we got so fucked up we couldn’t tell left from right. Shall we toast to that at least? I think we should.


2-0Recommendation: I would try to avoid seeing for as long as possible. Try visiting Vegas this time at your local dollar theater; this is by far the worst in the series and is not worth $10 since you’re not getting nearly the number of good laughs as you did in the first two. It’s a different story structure, which is a commendable risk that the director took here, but it resulted in unfamiliar territory that may take awhile to get used to. It’s less of a Hangover story as it is a drama with some very funny moments peppered throughout.

Rated: R

Running Time: 100 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Dark Knight Rises

Bane in the rain

Release: July 20, 2012


Allow me to first give an acknowledgement to the families of the victims of the July 20, 2012 Colorado shootings at a screening of this very film. Tragically viewers lost lives while enjoying Nolan’s third installment of his Batman series and we’ll probably never know for what reason. My condolences to all Aurora-area victims.

The legend has ended.

What’s come, has gone and what’s gone is, well….some of the best action hero moments in the history of filmmaking. Though Nolan headed up this particular crew and had the vision to make Batman as dark as it became, there must be many thanks given to the plethora of others involved in the nearly seven-year process. Not to mention, what fantastic acting from a mostly-consistent cast throughout the trilogy (the whole thing with Rachel Dawes being played by two different actresses still gets me, though). We started on a high plateau with the standard set by Batman Begins in 2005. Nothing could prepare us for what was to come three years later, when we were introduced to the Heath Ledger Joker — who was really not as funny as he was disturbing. And now, here we are in 2012.

Nolan’s epic finale is a nearly-flawless two-hour-and-forty-four-minute ode to the temporarily relieved Gotham City, a metropolis free from the fugitive Dark Knight and his intentionally misconstrued identity. Set eight years after his vanishing following the death of Harvey Dent, TDKRis truly a monster of its own. For a lot of the time the burden Batman is carrying is almost so great as to exceed capacity on the screen; audience members leaned further forward in their seats in this movie than I’ve seen in recent memory. Will Batman rise to the challenge? Or even more elemental than that, can he?


It was long thought that the city was surely strong enough to stand on its own without the bat silhouette gracing the sky, without a bat symbol smeared on the sidewalk from a child’s chalk pastel. It was long thought that Harvey Dent was the new good in Gotham (until, well, you know…..). That good, though, was not nearly good enough. We enter the film at a ceremony celebrating the life of the late district attorney (Dent) with Commissioner Gordon commending the man’s efforts in cleaning up the streets. Thanks to him, Gotham has been corruption-free for several years.

Thus, Nolan has given us quite the vantage point at the start; the notion that familiarity breeds contempt. Too much down time for the city’s finest inevitably gives rise to the city’s newest, most formidable threat ever. For Nolan to choose Bane over the studio’s supposed favorite (The Riddler) was to signify that something much larger than the return of Batman was going to happen to Gotham. The Dark Knight is an answer, though for a limited time only, Batman’s services are being offered at half-price. We see Selina Kyle for the first time here, played by the luscious Anne Hathaway. She’s sometimes at Mr. Wayne’s side, sometimes not; then again, that’s not the kind of attention you want. Hathaway’s Catwoman is a subversive trickster, nearly camouflaged by the night that hangs like Wayne’s cape.

Personally I thought Nolan’s interpretation of Catwoman was brilliant (perhaps owing more to Hathaway’s performance). She creates a tension that is always present throughout the film, a tension we haven’t seen consistently or been obsessed with throughout the course of the film since the evil chuckles of the Joker rattled down empty hallways a few years back.  She is a minor foil for Batman at first, but when push comes to shove, it is Bane that proves just how much they need each other to triumph.


The moment we first get to meet Tom Hardy at his most intimidating is an opening sequence involving planes and some precious cargo. Again, leave it to Nolan to set a high standard early on. This one scene alone may even eclipse the pinnacle of ass-kicking in Batman Begins. Its a stunning moment that brings us up to speed with a man like Bane — what his intentions are, how big a threat, who he wants to focus on making suffer first. But apparently that last one can be answered with ‘everyone.’ All that stand in Bane’s way basically get annihilated. His focus is the entirety of Gotham, when he blows up 99% of the bridges that feed the city, leaving only one to the surrounding areas.

The confinement of all Gotham City policemen to the underground sewage system; the destruction and terrorizing of a football game; the breaking of Batman’s back: it is all part of a scheme that’s larger than life. It should make your jaw drop.

Especially the last hour or so of the film. What goes down in the concluding moments to Nolan’s franchise is some of the most intense, visually arresting, violent and complex fighting sequences ever attempted on camera. Not to mention Nolan’s chief use of the IMAX cameras, and wanting to release it on an eight-story screen. “It’s larger than life, that scope and that scare; [its] what I really wanted to provide for them,” is what Nolan tells a reporter at the London premiere.

It’s one thing to watch superhero versus villain duking it out in the streets, but when you add to that thousands of freed prisoners (all armed with assault rifles) and the entire city’s police force you come to understand that, by now, Nolan knows how to work under pressure and how to manipulate violence so that it becomes something more representative of art than of hatred. Bane’s revolution is a kind of symbology that Nolan’s work has finally been done. We’ve reached extremes here, with the Hudson and East Rivers entirely frozen and serving as death traps for any citizen wishing to escape.

Interestingly enough, Bale seems to spend less time in his suit in TDKR than he did in his first time donning the suit in Begins. While there was certainly reason to demonstrate Wayne’s life out of the suit, it would have been nice to see Batman being more….Batman. I don’t deny him The Bat (a cool new toy courtesy of Mr Lucius Fox once again); aerial support was critical in the end. But we learn that its Selina Kyle who would take down Bane, Lucius and the Commissioner keep everything under control while Batman bombards the city with his attacks against the Bane infantry, and Detective Blake (the perpetually awesome Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the man charged with essentially freeing all the city’s cops from their underground prisons. Ultimately, what is it that Batman does that would absolve him from his so-called sins against Gotham? What would reflect a lifetime of pain and suffering? All arrows point to self-sacrifice.


4-5Recommendation: This becomes the only logical conclusion to the somber saga that is the Dark Knight. It’s not even necessary that I recommend this film! You’ll see it if you’re wanting to see it. But here’s why Nolan succeeded in reaching scores of fans worldwide: independently, each film stands alone as a work of art. When put together as a trilogy, you may be looking at one of the most comprehensive and cohesive superhero stories that will ever be filmed. We’re not talking technological breakthroughs, or instantly recognizable casts. We’re talking about states of mind. If you are willing to lose yours over a movie, this one is it.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 164 mins.

Quoted: “Calm down, Doctor! Now’s not the time for fear. That comes later.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com