Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

To be honest, I was going into War for the Planet of the Apes with an idea of what I was in for. Based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen and heard about the film up to that point, I thought audiences were going into a film where Caesar would be leading his species in an all out assault to preserve their survival against what is left of mankind, yet I was unprepared for what really was in store.

apesposter

Image by 20th Century Fox

Essentially, War occurs two years post-Dawn and well distant from the events that transpired in Rise but not totally disconnected. After Caesar suffers an unimaginable loss that rocks him to his core, he takes it on himself to journey across the wintery wilds to find a man called The Colonel and kill him. Caesar is aided by his most trusted simian companions, Maurice, Luca and Rocket and pick up a few stragglers along the way in the peculiar Bad Ape and a mute girl who is later dubbed Nova; this journey to find the Colonel fills Caesar with inner turmoil to hold on to the principles he held so dear to him or embrace the darkness within himself to exact his vengeance, like Koba did. This inner battle within the first super ape is the War that takes center stage in the film.

Matt Reeves, the director and co-writer of the film, impressed me in bringing Caesar grand story to a stirring finish in the fashion that he did. Reeves and Mark Bomback have crafted a story with heavy biblical references to allow their protagonist to shine in the brightest way they could and truly cement his legacy as his story comes full circle.

Essentially, the Planet of the Apes franchise in its entirety is a story about hubris; how living creatures create their own undoing and there is a success in how this story, Caesar’s story, was told. In War, Caesar wrestles with his darkness brought on by immense grief, he suffers like Christ suffers, he led his species to freedom as Moses did, every action he takes in this movie, shapes the course of his future and the future of his apes and this story leaves a profound and thought-provoking experience with audiences and it resonates when they leave the theater.

I especially took pleasure in how the film handled Caesar’s relationship with Nova. Before the two meet, Caesar dives right into his inner demons to the point where he is almost apathetic, remorseless and bloodthirsty but Nova reminds him of the humanity inside him and how that humanity has kept him from becoming Koba; in a way that theme of humanity and hubris tied all of the films together.

Andy Serkis’ performance is once again, high caliber! The CGI visual effects are just a costume but he breathes life into his characters and audiences are taken for an emotional ride with his performance as Caesar. From the moment, Caesar makes his presence known in the picture, everyone becomes invested; Serkis commands the screen as this character and doesn’t let up for an instant!

Woody Harrelson is as good as I’ve ever seen him as the vicious and bloodthirsty Colonel. Steve Zahn is a hoot as Bad Ape, Amiah Miller is terrific as Nova, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Ty Olsson, Sara Canning, Aleks Paunovic, Devyn Dalton, Max Lloyd-Jones, Alessandro Juiliani and Toby Kebbell were all outstanding in the roles they played.

Michael Giacchino’s score, Michael Seresin’s cinematography, James Chinlund’s production design, William Hoy and Stan Salfas’ editing were all very satisfying. The visual effects were as elite as you might see all year.

I went into War for the Planet of the Apes expecting something totally different but I was completely washed away by how emotionally resonating, thought-provoking and creatively assembled this movie was. You won’t be flat out excited by it, but you will be immersed in how Caesar cements his legacy and how his tale comes to a close.

The Planet of the Apes franchise finishes on a very strong note.

Movie of the Week: War For the Planet of the Apes

The epic conclusion to the legend that is Caesar is coming to a close this weekend. The first of the super-apes has inherited the sins of the wicked Koba and now what is left of mankind has dispatched a military force to quell the threat the apes possess. Caesar led his species to freedom in Rise, he did all that he could to maintain that peace in Dawn, but now that seems so long ago. For his home, his family, his future, Caesar has finally embraced the fact that now is the time to fight for his future and this is War. This is the war that will determine who is the superior species on Earth. This is the war that will shape the course of the future going forward. The War For the Planet of the Apes has begun!

Director: Matt Reeves

Screenwriters: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Terry Notary, Max Lloyd-Jones, Gabriel Chavarria, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite and Devyn Dalton.

What am I expecting to see?: I have enjoyed this rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise thus far and from what I’ve heard regarding this film in the past few weeks, is that War For the Planet of the Apes is the best one yet and could be the best film to come out this summer! I expect this movie to do what every final installment in a trilogy should do: tie everything together and turn up the intensity another notch. I expect Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson to command the screen and this movie to be technically elite in every aspect. I’ve been looking forward to War for the Planet of the Apes for a long time.

Joss Whedon sends up the Bat-signal for BATGIRL!

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Image by shamserg

Filmmaker Joss Whedon’s last two forays into the superhero genre, The Avengers and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, were hits as far as I was concerned and as far as the world was concerned, he retired from the realm of heroes after Ultron made its way into theaters.  I never expected to hear this news though and it’s surprising and exciting: Whedon will produce, write and direct a standalone Batgirl movie!

Batgirl first appeared in DC Comics in 1967 as Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon in “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” by writer Gardner Fox and artist Carmine Infantino.

Now in the past few weeks, Batman’s presence in this expanding DC Cinematic Universe has certainly opened up many doors. For instance, The Batman, starring Ben Affleck, has roped in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves to helm the project, which has been delayed due to rewrites and other circumstances, the character Nightwing will be given his own standalone feature and now this?! Color me excited!

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Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Batgirl will be DC’s second film with a female-driven lead, the first being Wonder Woman and I for one, am certainly looking forward to seeing how Whedon will shape this film going forward. At this juncture, Whedon leading the project is the only details I can give; there are no actresses or actors attached, nor any mention of a specific story that will be adapted for this film. Furthermore, there is no telling when this movie or The Batman or Nightwing will make its way into theaters.

Review: Chappie

I will never forget the feeling I had when I exited the theater after the screening of District 9 nearly five years ago. I saw a movie that opened the door to a new world of science fiction, faux-docudrama film-making while making various groundbreaking parallels to the world Academy Award nominated filmmaker Neill Blomkamp hailed from.

Image by Sony Pictures

Neill Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi feature Chappie is essentially a new spin on Short Circuit

Now we fast forward to 2015, where Blomkamp has unveiled his new feature, Chappie. As I exited the theater following the screening of this movie, I had more of an urge than a feeling. I was urging to immediately forget that I wasted my time with this sloppy sci-fi feature that truly puts the artificial in artificial intelligence.

In Chappie, Blomkamp takes the world of District 9, which would be Blomkamp’s hometown of Johannesburg, and puts a Short Circuit/Frankenstein twist on how Blomkamp sees the social structure on the world that is represented by Johannesburg.

As human’s acted as the law-enforcement force upon the alien refugees residing in the capital of South America, robots act as the law-enforcement force upon the citizens. These robots think and act as police-officers and they are effective, but Chappie is different.

Chappie is the first robot who is given his own identity via artificial intelligence and he comes to terms with his environment like a child, thinking and learning as he grows smarter, but all the title character accomplishes is negated by the stagnant and woefully written world that he occupies, the characters who interact with him and the direction of the film itself, which undoubtedly confirms my suspicions: Neill Blomkamp is not in a slump; he is in a (pardon my language) GODDAMN FREE FALL!!!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the credits when this movie ended. “Directed by Neill Blompkamp”?! No way. This tacky, soulless, muddling, cliche motion picture was made and co-written with his wife Terri Tatchell, from the same guy who directed District 9? I’m amazed that this is what he has reduced himself and his caliber of work too. It’s shaming, if you ask me.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Sharlto Copley was cast in the lead role/title character. He provides the voice and, I believe I could be mistaken, the motion capture performance of Chappie, but there is just no connection with this character in the same way audience could connect to a character such as Caesar from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Possibly because you can’t connect with a character with no eyes or expressive personality of his own and Chappie lacks both as a character and a movie.

Sony Pictures

Dev Patel (right) tries to keep Chappie on the right path

The cast of characters around Chappie only worsen the appeal of this movie. The recognizable actors such as Dev Patel, Academy Award nominees Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver are as shallow as a kiddie pool. Seriously, there is no depth or driving force behind these characters at all.

Patel is Deon, Chappie’s creator/part-time Jiminy Cricket. He establishes the AI software possible for Chappie to be unique but he is only in and out of the robot’s “life” because Chappie’s “family” have other ideas for the robot’s future.

By Greg Lawler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

South African musicians Die Antwoord should be more well-known because of Chappie

Let’s discuss the family shall we? Maybe Blomkamp is a fan of the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord because that is the only reason I can come up with as to why Blomkamp added Ninja and Yolandi Vi$$er to this movie. Anyway Ninja and Yolandi play “mommy and daddy” to Chappie because they need him to help pull off a heist that can get them out of trouble, but it is so awkward watching them be gangsters and teach Chappie to be gangster because time is being spent wondering who these guys are, where they came from and why the hell are they in this movie?

Jackman is the one-dimensional bad guy Vincent Moore, who wants to implement military grade weaponry into this police “drone” system, i.e. a walking tank that could have been seen on District 9 and mistaken for alien technology, and Weaver is…does it really matter if she is only in this movie because she wants to test the waters on working with Blomkamp for that new Alien project he will be working on? I don’t know.

The writing of Chappie is obviously so haphazard and goes off the rails on so many occasions. First Deon, creates the software for artificial intelligence, that’s never a bad sign that something horrible is about to happen, then these two awkward small-time crooks get into trouble and magically come up with a way to get out of it by hijacking a robot to pull off a big-time heist, then Chappie “grows up” in a gangster environment, Moore sees an opportunity to use Chappie as a platform to get his “Moose” operational, all hell breaks loose, bottom line when you try to hope that this movie will make sense, it doesn’t.

Cinematographer Trent Opaloch and editors Julian Clarke and Mark Goldblatt offer the same visual appeal as Blomkamp’s prior films, partially because Opaloch and Clarke have worked with Blomkamp in the past. I don’t know what to make of Emily Roux and Bobby Cardoso’s art direction; the graffiti at Ninja and Yolandi’s hangout was some of the weirdest stuff I’ve ever seen.

Blomkamp is simply using the same techniques, the same setting, same plot to convey the same political message: in a harsh and cruel environment, those with power will use that power to keep the powerless in line and will go out of their way to stamp out anyone that is special, but Chappie attempts to tread into some philosophical waters regarding the idea of souls and existence only to make a mockery of it in the end, where they try to resurrect Yolandi.

Chappie has all the warning signs of a mechanical failure from the start of the feature and audiences cannot wait for it to be over. Equal parts over the top, equal parts senseless and entirely artificial to the letter, is the film that confirms that Neill Blomkamp needs to find something new to explore before his career cannot escape the downward spiral it has found itself in: Chappie.

2015 Oscar Predictions Part I

The 87th Academy Awards are on the horizon and the time has come for predictions

With the 87th Annual Academy Awards only a few weeks away, now seems as good of a time as any to throw my two cents into the fold as to who will come out victorious on February 22nd. In the past, I’ve always focused on what I like to call the Big Eight, the four acting categories, the two screenplay categories, Best Director and Best Picture, but this year, I want to get into the habit of taking my predictions to a new level; instead I will extensively predict 18 of the major Oscar categories in a three part series. The first two parts will consist of the technical categories, the final part will be the acting categories, Best Director and Best Picture and on Oscar night I will cover the event on my blog and Twitter page. Let’s get started with Part I of my 2015 Oscar Predictions.

Best Documentary:

  • Citizenfour
  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • Last Days in Vietnam
  • The Salt of the Earth
  • Viruga

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Citizenfour

Laura Poitras’ intense documentary about infamous NSA whistleblower Michael Snowden

Best Foreign Language Film:

  • Ida (Poland)
  • Leviathan (Russia)
  • Tangerines Manderiinid (Estonia)
  • Timbuktu (Mauritania)
  • Wild Tales (Argentina)

I predict that the Oscar will go to:  Ida (Poland)

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Polish drama about an aspiring nun who discovers a dark secret in her family’s history

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

  • Foxcatcher
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Comics’ adaptation about a small band of outlaws who become the galaxy’s last line of defense

Best Production Design:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • Mr. Turner

I predict that the Oscar will go to: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s grand period piece adventure about legendary concierge and his lobby boy in a prestigious European hotel

Best Visual Effects:

  • Captain America: the Winter Soldier
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Interstellar
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past

I predict that the Oscar will go to: Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s sensory overloading sci-fi epic about a group of explorers who discover a wormhole to an undiscovered galaxy

Best Animated Feature:

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Song of the Sea
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I predict that the Oscar will go to: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dean DeBlois’ beautiful sequel about Hiccup and his best friend Toothless opposed against a war-monger bent on vengeance

That concludes Part One. Next week I will add Part Two and the week after that Part Three. The Oscar nominees can be found here and the Oscars will occur on February 22nd at 7 PM on ABC, with Neil Patrick Harris as the Master of Ceremonies.