Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

 

The makeup effects in the original PLANET OF THE APES film were revolutionary in 1968. The Tim Burton-helmed remake, now a decade old, pushed the art as far as it could go under the masterful control of Rick Baker. Now the newest “Apes” movie, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has taken things a step further with visual effects from WETA. The apes look just like apes, act just like apes, but are digital creations that can do things that you probably couldn’t train an ape to do on film in a million years. Besides, training apes seems kind of cruel.

The appeal of these makeup effects in the original as well as the sequels is that the performances of great actors could burst through those ape faces. Many people would associate PLANET OF THE APES immediately with Charlton Heston, but those who have affection for sequels such as “ESCAPE,” “CONQUEST,” and “BATTLE” would unflinchingly tell you the franchise truly belongs to Roddy McDowell, who played Cornelius and Ceaser to great effect. The guy was a fantastic and skilled actor but he could also really ape it up. It was a winning combination and it made the series stand out. But the days of makeup and McDowell are over, and now for the most recent “Apes” film we have CGI and Andy Serkis (no stranger to playing simians), which isn’t a bad trade-off at all.

 

 

It’s sort of a prequel to the 1968 film. But the timeline became so messed up and so full of paradoxes that this could precede that film, it could stand on its own as a complete fresh start, or, Hell, you could probably place it somewhere in-between in an alternate universe. With all the time-and-space-bending presented you could probably even fit in Burton’s film into the continuity somehow. But if you want to say, “hey, this is what happens that led to what we see in the first movie,” then that’s agreeable, and there are some hints scattered about that would fit that frame of mind in place.

The movie begins innocently enough, with scientists experimenting on animals to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease but things don’t go exactly as planned (which is exactly the same plot of DEEP BLUE SEA by the way). The formula doesn’t work too ideally on humans but it takes to apes very nicely, causing advanced intelligence. Enter Caesar.

We have James Franco in the movie, we have Frieda Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Draco Malfoy, but make no mistake: Andy Serkis is the star. Caesar is the main character, the story is about his struggle, and it is a deeply facsinating study of a primate endowed with extraordiary intelligence; who is blessed and cursed with cognition and self-examination of a man, wondering how and why he is, recogonizing he’s an anomoly, and feeling some entitlement to be a little higher on the food chain.

 

 

It’s not as sci-fi heavy as some of the other movies in this series but it gets the drama right and treats the material seriously and cautiously, avoiding anything too silly. I wouldn’t say there’s much racial or social allegory going on here but it tells the story of the ape uprising very well. You could argue that maybe the intentions of the little revolution shown here aren’t incredibly justified, like, why would the apes turn and mistrust all of mankind just because a few assholes at an animal shelter gave them a hard time? Well, I don’t think that’s entirely the point. Sometimes movies like this just consider what it would be like if our time staying as the most dominant beings on the planet were through. Could be aliens, could be apes. But it’s fascinating since apes are so similar to us, seeming just a little removed from the evolutionary line, so why couldn’t there be an alternate universe where they were in charge and we were the ones in cages? If apes are as similar to us as we think they are then we’d know they wouldn’t want to share the rule of the world.

 

 

A good story was told with modern effects that were very convincing and the drama was very well played out. Andy Serkis was incredible and pulls off a wonderful performance as Ceaser. The references to the original films are fun and not too overbearing, and it pays a much better service to the franchise’s fans than the remake did. It has the same kind of spirit as those movies but it is a fresh take on the general story so whether you’ve seen every single one and know the overall plot detail by detail or whether this is your first venture into the series it successfully satisifies in just about every area. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t the best one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’d love to see more.

RE: Star Wars in 3D

Those CGI-laden prequels were bad enough. Now the Star Wars saga is going to be released in 3D? Are you kidding me? George Lucas is the fucking Anti-Christ. He’s a greedy, money-grubbing asshole who is squeezing every possible dollar out of the Star Wars franchise possible, and taking advantage of the loyal fans. With every change he makes to Star Wars, a little part of my childhood dies.

Nah, that’s a little too easy, isn’t it? Not to mention melodramatic and uninspired.

You know, I’ll never forget the first time I saw Star Wars. It was 1997 and the special editions were starting their theatrical run. I was 10 years old, and ready to let the wonderful world of Star Wars into my life. My dad took me to a bargain matinee. I had my big bag of stale, movie theatre popcorn (it never really tastes as good as it does at the theatre), and the house was packed. A group of mentally handicapped folk were sitting in the back. They would clap and cheer at inappropriate moments. It was magical.

There’s no denying how much of a cultural phenomenon the Star Wars saga has become. It doesn’t even need to be spoken. The original movies, in my opinion, are some of the finest achievements in cinema history. The prequels…not so much. But while they were out, it was nice that Star Wars was once again prominent in our culture’s consciousness. It was nice to see all the merchandise in stores, commercials with Darth Vader, Burger King kids meals, etc. It’s nice to revel in and celebrate these movies on such a large scale. So when Episode III was ending its theatrical run, I felt a little saddened. That was it. That was the last Star Wars movie to be released in theatres. It’s like the party was over.

Just on their sheer awesomeness alone, I think the Star Wars movies should be re-released theatrically at least every decade so we can once again have the opportunity to bask in all things Star Wars, and introduce this great series to a new generation of fans. So, when I heard the news of Lucas’ plans to release the films theatrically once again and in 3D, I was excited by the possibility of Star Wars, yet again, becoming this big event. I could practically see all the commercials and posters and Burger King meals all over again.

I guess there were a lot of people who did not share my excitement. The typical complaints: George Lucas is a greedy prick, he’s ruining the movies, 3D sucks, etc. etc. I get that Star Wars fans are as passionate as fans get, but I just don’t understand the resentment. How exactly are re-releases ruining these beloved movies? This isn’t 2004. It’s not like the original cuts are being withheld. They’re readily available on DVD. You can watch them and enjoy them. The only- and I stress this, the ONLY- valid complaint is that the DVD editions of the original cuts are not presented in anamorphic widescreen and not compatible 16X9 Widescreen televisions. That truly is a dick move, which will hopefully be rectified with the upcoming Blu-ray release.

So with the original films perfectly accessible, I don’t see why there is so much hate for all the little tweeks and changes made to the movies. They’re being released for the umpteenth time, so why not get a little something new and worth your money? I can’t tell you how many editions of THE EVIL DEAD I’ve purchased over the years, while the movie is exactly the same each time, except for maybe a new special feature here and there. And people say George Lucas rips fans off? If you’ve seen the movie 100 times already maybe it would be a nice change of pace to notice a CGI spaceship flying around in the background or something. I’m not saying all the changes made to the movies are good, but it gives you the chance to see the movie a little differently. I’m all for the sprucing up of certain scenes with improved technology so some of the effects look more convincing, and I don’t mind seeing a new creature added in like a thinner, mobile Jabba in A NEW HOPE, some more of the Wampa in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and the Sarlaac in RETURN OF THE JEDI. But I’ll tell you this right now: Han shot first, and Hayden Christensen’s ghost can go fuck himself.

The original, theatrical versions of the films will always be the truest. All the rest is novelty.

And that’s what 3D is: a novelty. There’s nothing wrong with novelty. If you’re shelling out your hard-earned cash, why not see the movies through a different perspective? If you’re not interested in seeing them in 3D, then stay at home and watch the DVD. You’re not being forced. Stop acting like George Lucas is fucking robbing fans at gunpoint. Last time I checked, you have free will to do whatever you want. George Lucas’ team is putting a lot of time, effort, and money into the project. It isn’t a double-dip DVD edition with different artwork and a new commentary. It’s a multi-million dollar operation. God forbid it should attract enough people to make, uh, watcha-ma-call-it, profit? Yeah, there’s show and there’s business. If you don’t want to see the movies in 3D, then you don’t have to. I can’t stress that enough. I have no interest in seeing the Twilight movies, so I don’t see them. They have not affected my life whatsoever. Yet people still complain about those movies, too. What is it about human nature when people would rather complain about things they hate than praise things they love?

One concern I do have is whether or not the 3D effects will be any good. They were not filmed with 3D cameras, obviously, they’re being converted to the format. That has many people skeptical. But if you consider some of the lousier 3D movies of late, you’ll know that they were hastily converted in order to ride the coattails of AVATAR’s enormous success. If it takes an entire year to convert each Star Wars movie, then you can be sure they’re doing something right. Lucasfilm has the best technology at their disposal. Keep in mind, before Blu-ray, and even before DVD, it was Lucas’ THX that was setting the standard in digital film restoration. Maybe Lucas will set the standard in 3D conversions.

My biggest problem with the whole idea is that they’re sequentially releasing the movies, starting with Episode I. I’m not entirely on board with that, especially since they’re basing the releases on the other movies with how well the first release goes. I suppose Lucas knows what people really want to go see is the original trilogy, and he’s testing the waters with the prequels. What if Episode I bombs? And do you really want to sit through Episode II again? If these make less money than expected, it just may be the ultimate test of how much Lucas really loves his franchise.

I’m also baffled that they haven’t taken into consideration the fact that 3D is very much a fad, and people are already getting sick of it. If it’s really going to take a year to convert each film, we’re looking at 6 years of annual Star Wars 3D releases. Do you really think 3D will still be popular in 2018, let alone 2012???

The smarter move would have been to just release the original trilogy. Not only because the prequels received less-than-stellar reactions from critics and fans, but they still feel fairly recent, don’t they? Episode III was released in 2005…that feels like last Thursday to me. I don’t think I want to wait until 2015 to get a chance to see the original Star Wars on the big screen again.

On the bright side, the world may end in 2012, and everyone will finally shut the fuck up.

Reference: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3i677c428c4dc16c2c03ba2f1f01214c4d

Trailer analysis: Yogi Bear, and Thor

If you need further proof that Hollywood has become a parody of itself, then by all means check out the teaser trailer for Yogi Bear. Be sure to feast your eyes on the trailers for the Smurfs movie and the Jack Black version of Gulliver’s Travels while you’re at it.

The special sneak preview of the the upcoming live action Yogi Bear movie hit the net last night. Needless to say, it looks fairly by-the-numbers. Let’s see:

  • Live action blended with horrendous CGI? Check!
  • Genuinely talented actor taking a paycheck by voicing the titular character? Check!
  • B-Grade talent in the human roles? Check!
  • Animals dancing and shaking their butts to pop music? Check!
  • Tedious slapstick humour? Check!
  • In FUCKING 3-D?? Check and mate!!

I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the Yogi Bear cartoon, but I’m pretty sure taking your kids to see this should equate to child abuse. It looks like absolute garbage, and will probably kill your kids’ brain cells. You may as well toss them a bottle of Jack Daniels and tell them to have at it.

Do kids really like seeing these shitty-looking CGI animals dance to pop music so much? Like, really? Teach your kid to read, participate in team sports, plant a fucking tree for God’s sake, or at the very least just stay at home and watch the original cartoon! How can they possibly fill an entire movie with picnic basket stealing gags? It’s filler, fodder, junk food for the brain. Any kid going into this movie is going to walk out of it a little dumber.

The trailer may as well contain a voice over saying: We think kids today are stupid. We’re going to take a beloved cartoon character and shit out a lousy movie with him, fill it with pretty colours, lots of dancing, and lame jokes, because today’s kids just love that stuff!

Kids aren’t that stupid, are they? Take them to see the Pixar stuff, take them to Harry Potter, they can handle that. But this movie looks like it will be shit. Stop taking kids to see this worthless trash and they’ll stop making it!

Ugh. Whatever. It’s a stupid kids movie. Not the first. Not the last. But I’d never take my (theoretical) kid to see something like Yogi Bear. I’d have too much love and respect for my offspring.

It breaks my heart to see Anna Faris in this movie. I do think she has talent, and she’s really hot, too. It’s  also disappointing to see Dan Aykroyd sell out with voicing Yogi the bear, and not doing all too great of a job of it, either.  He’s a gifted actor, writer, and comedian. He’s one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, a true comedic pioneer, he’s an Oscar nominated dramatic actor, he’s a Ghostbuster for God’s sake, and hey, his wine brand is pretty good, too. So it’s really come to this, huh?

In addition to the exciting Yogi Bear news, some leaked footage of a 5-minute Thor trailer has been popping up as well. Good luck finding it, though. It gets pulled as soon as it gets uploaded. I can’t say I’m a big Thor fan or anything, my familiarity with the character really only extends to the “BY THE HAMMER OF THOR” line repeated so hilariously in various TV shows and films, namely Anchorman. Ha, ha. Personally I can’t really see the appeal of a space viking that has a big hammer as a weapon, but whatever.

Some thoughts on the trailer:

  • It’s never occurred to me until right now how much Anthony Hopkins sounds like Marlon Brando, and his role gives off a Superman/Krypton opening kind of vibe.
  • I have no idea who the actor playing Thor is. He must be new. I’d swear he was an ex-wrestler or something if it weren’t for the fact that he’s British and can apparently act without grinning into the camera.
  • “For a crazy homeless man, he’s….pretty cut.” Tee hee, funny line.
  • Natalie Portman alone should get my ass in the seat.
  • The best thing about the trailer was the Iron Man reference.  Oh boy, I can’t wait for Iron Man 3. When’s that coming out??
  • The costume design is impressive, but not too surprising considering the film is helmed by Kenneth Branagh, director of Shakespearean adaptations such as Henry V, Hamlet, and As You Like It. I’d say Branagh’s involvement in the project would be an encouraging factor, but then again, this is the same guy who voluntarily acted in Wild Wild West.

So I’m sure the verdict isn’t quite in yet. Some folks are hella excited for this movie and died of nerdgasms upon viewing the trailer, but I think a lot of people are still waiting to make up their minds. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Thor is any good or not.

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