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Late Reviews: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

I, for one, welcome our new Simian overlords…

The long bank holiday weekend in the UK has meant two things.  The first is that I refrained from posting in order to enjoy the break – the second is that I ended up watching a bunch of films which had passed me by in the last year – thus giving me the opportunity to then post more reviews.   Everybody wins?

SPOILERS throughout for the film’s plot – please be advised if you haven’t seen it yet.

To the point, then – I finally had the chance to catch up with last summer’s sleeper sci-fi hit, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and it was absolutely worth the wait.  British director Rupert Wyatt‘s first major studio effort is a remake/remodel/remix of the classic sixties sci-fi “Planet of the Apes”, itself originally adapted from the Pierre Boule satirical novel, and this new version does a damned good job of updating the story to reflect our present-day societal concerns whilst still finding clever and unobtrusive ways to directly reference the original film.

My major reservation about seeing this film was purely a casting one – I’m not the biggest fan of James Franco and didn’t relish the prospect of sitting through a movie where he had to carry the bulk of the story on his shoulders.  It’s an irrational prejudice and one which I’m happy to say was somewhat undone by his work in this film, which was oddly affecting and compelling – it’s a tough ask to make a driven scientist who does some fairly appalling things during the course of the story sympathetic and understandable, but a combination of a great script from Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Franco’s subtle characterisation makes you care about Will Rodman, even when his work essentially brings about the fall of civilisation as we know it.

Still, in a planet where TMZ.com, the OctoMom dance single, “Geordie Shore” and One Direction exist perhaps it could be said that humanity had a good run and should turn things over to our Ape betters, eh?

This isn’t to say that Franco’s the only reason to see the film – he’s supported by a superb cast which includes the ever-reliable Brian Cox, Freida Pinto, David Oyelowo, a splendidly hissable, wonderfully villainous Tom Felton and a truly heartbreaking John Lithgow, playing Franco’s father in the film, whose battle with Alzheimer’s is the motivating factor which sets the plot in motion.  As for the reliably excellent and boldly innovative motion-capture-hybrid performance by Andy Serkis, I’ve written about his shamefully unacknowledged body of work before but you might want to read Franco’s generous and informative assessment of his performances over at deadline.com.

Why must we put up with such unattractive movie stars? Why?!

And what a plot it is – rather than the astronauts crash-landing on a mysterious planet which turns out to be (shocker!) an Earth overrun by apes in the 1968 film, this update takes a more grounded approach to the established mythology, following scientist Will Rodman (Franco) whose attempts to save his father (Lithgow) from ongoing Alzheimer’s Disease are complicated when he rescues chimp cub Caesar (a superb Andy Serkis) from certain death at his lab.  His work on an experimental  cure for his father’s condition involves testing on animal subjects, which increases their intelligence and comes back to bite him in the butt in the worst way possible…

It is this relationship between roughly plausible science and spectacle which gives the film a weight that it might not otherwise have if it were a run-of-the-mill, explosions aplenty blockbuster – we can all imagine the horror of what Alzheimer’s would do to somebody that we love and what steps we might take if we had in our power to do something that could reverse that foul and evil disease once and for all.

The film’s plausibility doesn’t stretch to its treatment of the primate characters, unfortunately – when we eventually see the hellish ‘ape rescue’ facility which an adult Caesar is incarcerated, I had to raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of an Orangutan and a Gorilla amidst the general chimp population.  Just wouldn’t happen – the animals would have torn each other apart, the facility would have shut down and the plot just wouldn’t be able to unfold in the way that it does in this film.  I attribute this wholly to artistic license and can move past it as the rest of the film is so enjoyable.

“To the Apple store, brothers! iPads for one and all!”

By the time that the set-piece depicted above arrives, and our Ape brethren have well-and-truly overrun a San Francisco utterly unprepared for an army of super-smart Simian soldiers besieging the Golden Gate bridge, I was ready to follow it anywhere that it went and eager to see how an inevitable sequel would develop the plot strands left hanging at the end of the film.

At the close of the film Caesar and his intelligent apes have escaped to the forests of California and Franco’s much-beleagured airline pilot neighbour- played by genre veteran David Hewlett – has been contaminated with a strain of virus which, we can logically deduce from the mid-credits scene, is responsible for a global pandemic which will go on to decimate the planet’s population.  We’ve not yet gone down the route of gun-wielding great Apes riding horses and rounding up rogue packs of on-the-run humans but we’re certainly a bit closer to it by the time that this film ends – I’d love to see what kind of spin Wyatt and his writers could put on the tropes established by the original quintet of “Apes” films.

If you liked the classic series, have a love of thought-provoking sci-fi and want a movie which doesn’t which doesn’t treat the audience like dolts and buffoons then this is definitely a film that you should catch up with.

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Take my money, Christopher Nolan – Take it!

Wonder if I can borrow the Tumbler to get there?

Well, that’s my Friday morning (and lunchtime) sorted.  The Dark Knight Rises, bought and paid for.  Not (Lie)Max, as it happens – I anticipate seeing this film again, though, so there’s always time to have my eyeballs scoured by Wally Pfister‘s cinematography being projected mere inches from my face, for the full sensory overload treatment.

Excuse me, Sir – You wouldn’t be attempting to record the film on your iPhone now, would you?

See you sometime later today with my non-spoiler verdict on this trilogy-capping uber-sequel.

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Trailered: “The Dark Knight Rises”

Happy Tuesday, everyone – have a trailer for the forthcoming Christopher Nolan opus, “The Dark Knight Rises” in your ocular cavities!

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If “The Avengers” is akin to a particularly delicious veggie bean burger in a sour dough roll with hot sauce, lettuce and mustard (go with me here), then The Dark Knight Rises looks like a particularly ornate three course meal with a decent cup of coffee following it.

Also, in related news, I’m now quite hungry.  Curses!

Hey, Hey, it's Anne Hathaway!

I’m amazed at how Christopher Nolan has managed to keep up the quality of his reinvention of the cinematic Batman for two excellent movies and it seems as though his aesthetic and storytelling choices show no sign of running out of steam if this trailer is to be taken as any evidence.

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No spoilers seem to be revealed herein – just tantalising hints about Bane, Bruce and the nature of the character played by Marion Cotillard and action sequences which look to one-up the large-scale mayhem liberally peppered throughout “The Dark Knight”.  This is the same Christopher Nolan, mind you, who according to the internet can’t direct action sequences.

This will end well...

And now a pause for a chuckle at the bonkers gall of that notion.  Oh, internet nerd defence forces, don’t ever change…

“The Dark Knight Rises” will, assuming everything goes to plan, be obliterating box office records at a cinema near you from July 20th…

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So, there’s a “21 Jump Street” movie happening?

This is clearly proof that I’m getting very old, very past it and increasingly befuddled by the world – not only is there a “21 Jump Street” movie, but it’s positively imminent.  And apparently reasonably entertaining.

Again, my gast is flabbered.

Man, Jonah Hill is an inspiration to us all...

I have fond, possibly misplaced memories of the original 80’s television series, which was one of the first American shows which was appointment viewing for me when my family first got Sky satellite TV back in the late 80’s.  It had a cool premise – youthful cops bust crime in high school by going deep cover – and actors like Johnny Depp and Holly Robinson engaging in super cool hijinks in none-more-Canadian locations, which seemed impossibly exotic to a teenager doing hard time in North Yorkshire suburbia.

Narcs, man! I'm telling you, those kids are Narcs!

And Peter DeLuise had a mullet for the ages – I doubt that a whole division of Poet Laureates could do justice to its fluffy majesty.

This gentleman, kids, was once considered very cool indeed.

So, there’s a movie – from the directors of “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meetballs”, just to compound the madness inherent in reviving this franchise  – and it features Jonah Hill and walking, talking piece of 2×4, Channing Tatum as the undercover cops busting-up shenanigans in high school, with Ice Cube giving it some gruff, paternal bad-assery in the Steven Williams role.

Never thought I’d see the day – from NWA to portraying The Man in an action comedy.  They’ve surely got to reference THAT particular switcheroo somewhere in the flick or they’re plainly not doing their jobs.

Go watch the trailer for the new film and see what you think – I’m saying ‘wait for DVD’, but your mileage may vary…

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