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.

Ant-Man Sequel is in the Works!

Image by Marvel

It was only a matter of time. Considering how well-received it was, how much money it made to date and-not to toot my own horn-how much I personally enjoyed it, it shouldn’t truly stretch the imagination that Ant-Man is going to get a sequel. The Insect of the Avengers Initiative Marvel Cinematic Universe starred Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a thief who is recruited by prominent scientist Dr. Henry Pym, played by Michael Douglas to pull off a heist of size-shifting proportions. Peyton Reed’s summer superhero blockbuster was a HUGE hit thus Kevin Feige and the creative team of Marvel decided that the Scott and his Pym Particles was worthy enough to have an Ant-Man 2 or as it will be dubbed, Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Judging by the title, it’s safe to say that Rudd and Evangeline Lily will be reprising their roles as Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne. Details are somewhat scarce regarding who else will return for the sequel though.

The studio has no details regarding whether director Peyton Reed will be returning

There is also no word if anyone else from the cast will return to Ant-Man and the Wasp, including Michael Douglas, T.I., Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña or Judy Greer. There is also news regarding the schedule of the Phase Three lineup as films are being shifted around.

Additionally, Ant-Man’s second adventure will lead to a couple of other films shifting their dates, with Marvel’s Black Panther moving up to February 16, 2018 and Marvel’s Captain Marvel landing on March 8, 2019.

Finally, three untitled Marvel Studios films will premiere on May 1, 2020, July 10, 2020, and November 6, 2020.

Ant-Man and the Wasp will arrive in theaters on July 6, 2018.

Review: Ant-Man

Image by Marvel

Marvel can officially close the books on Phase Two of its Avengers Initiative now that “The Insect” has come and gone with his installment. Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as the title character, a thief who is recruited by a prominent scientist to steal dangerous technology that could propel the world down a chaotic spiral, using a suit powered by particles capable of reducing his size but augmenting his strength.

Ant-Man may seem clumsy and tad bit sloppy in terms of it’s narrative storytelling but there is no denying that this is perhaps the slickest superhero movie since Iron Man. This had heart, humor, the action was very sturdy, it was visually splendid and I enjoyed Ant-Man from start to finish.

Director Peyton Reed was asked to step in after Edgar Wright walked away from the project due to creative differences with Marvel, but Reed truly held on to the integrity that Wright was working to achieve and kept the foundation of Wright’s vision intact through the screenplay, co-written by Wright, Adam McKay, Joe Cornish and star Paul Rudd.

What I truly enjoyed about Ant-Man: continuity. This movie knows where it stands in the Avengers Universe, post-Age of Ultron yet left enough Easter Eggs for what is to come in Phase Three, even though I felt this was worthy enough to be the primary installment of Phase Three; I also liked the fact that Michael Douglas’ character Hank Pym is given his proper due with this franchise as his character was the original Ant-Man and one of the founding members of the Avengers in the comics, but in this movie he was an integral member of S.H.I.E.L.D. in his early days until he left to keep his tech from falling into the wrong hands.

By Red Carpet Report on Mingle Media TV from Culver City, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

Rudd’s character Scott Lang, is not only just the hero but he’s a hero you can actually relate to and root for. He just out of prison only to have a rough time trying to get his life together, find a job, reconnect with his daughter, try and avoid a life of crime, I just related to his character somehow because I’m trying to make out here myself and it isn’t easy.

Then you have the characters that I’m not really certain to feel about, in this case the characters of Hope, played by Evangeline Lily, and Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll. Hope is Pym’s daughter who bears resentment towards her father because of the circumstances of her mother’s death and Cross is Pym’s former protege determined to take everything away from his former mentor no matter the cost. Hope has her strong points, but her character seems so vapid and there doesn’t appear to be much to her except her daddy issues and Cross is just a cheap excuse for a bad guy who doesn’t really get interesting until he puts on the Yellowjacket suit.

The rest of the cast including Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, T.I., Martin Donovan, David Dastmalchian, were either characters who were reduced to props with no discernible dimension of their own or characters that I didn’t much care for. Abby Ryder Forston, who played Lang’s daughter, was cute considering the material she was given, but still falls under that category. In fact, I think some of the CGI ants in this movie were more significant and lively than most of the actors in this movie.

Will I say Ant-Man is the best superhero movie released this year? Unfortunately, no. Age of Ultron will not be dethroned yet, but I will say that the savvy that went into the production of this picture was fresh enough to make me see past the blemishes and say that this is one of the most enjoyable films released to date.

When it comes to heist movies, don’t expect anything on a sophisticated scale a la Inception or American Hustle. Ant-Man‘s premise to use an army of ants to steal the Yellowjacket suit before it falls into the wrong hands is a premise that you know that you can’t take seriously but it seems like a stretch in of itself. Maybe because of the film’s genre or the fact that it doesn’t feel as if the stakes aren’t raised high enough; it’s just a touch shallow in the wrong places.

Peyton Reed had to step in after the fallout between Marvel and Edgar Wright, but he gave a solid effort directing this movie; I truly thought the film was paced nicely and he allowed the action to take the spotlight when the action needed to and the same could be said for the humor.

I liked the screenplay, I liked the visual effects, I thought Russell Carpenter’s cinematography and camera effects fit what this movie and what moviegoers were looking for when it comes to a superhero who can change his size, Dan Lebental and Colby Parker Jr.’s editing wasn’t world class but it was convincing for this movie.

There’s a saying:

It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog.

-Sidenote: I do not condone animal cruelty in any way, shape or form

Ant-Man may be the Insect of the Avengers Initiative, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in strength. Not overwhelming strength but respectable. After all, he embarrassed a new Avenger in a fight. That’s respectable.

Movies of the week: Mr. Holmes & Ant-Man

It’s a double feature for this week. The subjects: a dignified period piece featuring a distinguished leading man cast as the world’s most famous detective and a big-budget superhero spectacle where size doesn’t matter. Retired detective Sherlock Holmes is well into the twilight years of his prestigious and distinguished life and reconnects with the one that got away; a case involving beautiful woman was left unsolved, and there is no way the brilliant detective is going to let that mar his illustrative career. Sir Ian McKellan stars in Mr. Holmes.

What am I expecting to see?: For once it’s good to see Ian McKellan not play Magneto or Gandalf the Grey/White and the lure of him taking on the role of Sherlock Holmes is undeniable. I believe Bill Condon, with Mitch Cullin’s screenplay, has crafted a beautiful story for McKellan to flex his acting muscles and deliver a brimming performance, with Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Patrick Kennedy and Phillip Davis supporting him. I’ve been quite taken with the allure of Mr. Holmes and I feel it would be quite a treat.

Phase Two of the Avengers Initiative has come to a close and now the epilogue feature is on the horizon. Scott Lang is a former thief who has just left “da joint” and he has been offered a chance at redemption by renowned scientist Dr. Henry Pym. Pym believes Lang’s talents as a thief could be a great asset to pull off a heist that could be of a great help to the world at large. Lang must embrace his inner hero and stop Darren Cross from unleashing a devastating horror upon the world. Scott Lang must become Ant-Man.

What am I expecting to see?: I found Age of Ultron a tough act to follow but I’ve heard great things about Ant-Man. Peyton Reed had to fill in as director since Edgar Wright stepped away due to creative differences, but early reviews on Ant-Man have been glowing! The cast of Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Bobby Canavale, Judy Greer, T.I. is diverse and look as if they can bring depth to this film. I think a hero as small as Ant-Man can become a big hit.

Review: Jurassic World

I’m not exactly sure I would say that I’m a fan of Jurassic Park, in the same sense that I am a fan of Star Wars and superhero mythology. I show appreciation for the technical prowess and ingenuity the original Jurassic Park feature managed to accomplish 22 years ago, but when Spielberg’s epic creature feature was released then, I was probably four or five years old when I first saw it so I didn’t know any better.

Image by Universal

Anyway, flash-forward to today and we have Jurassic World, director/screenwriter Colin Trevorrow’s attempt to build a new world atop the bones of the original, in many ways metaphorical and literal. Still, the song remains the same: humans try to play God and they inadvertently let the devil out of the box. The devil in this case being a genetically engineered T-Rex-raptor hybrid code-name: Indominous Rex; a 50 ft long, pale, thick-skinned and intelligent predator raised in captivity with no social skills whatsoever. She ate her own sibling!

Well because Indominous is such a “clever girl” she manages to take her own tour of Isla Nublar, indifferent to the tens of thousands of human inhabitants who wanted to enjoy the park’s attractions and if she’s hungry, she has no issue eating anything or anyone.

I had reservations going into Jurassic World, I wasn’t even 100% certain that I was actually on board with seeing it because I was thinking: “have they learned nothing from the first movie?! Why are they still playing God?!” I guess after two decades of hibernation, producers Steven Spielberg, Thomas Tull and company thought that they could reinvigorate the park franchise with something bigger, scarier and more “wow-factor” when in reality, they were just beating an extinct horse.

Could you say that Indominous is the top attraction to Jurassic World? Sure, but thing is, watching her hunt is like-oh good Lord, I’m about to quote American Dad (SMH)-“like watching a shark in an aquarium. It’s intimidating, menacing even but scary? No.” Amy Elliot Dunn from Gone Girl, she was a scary b****! Indominous made me flinch a time or two but whatever.

I get that Trevorrow wanted to pay homage to the film that started it all, but could he have come off as such a big fanboy?! He, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Derek Connelly, the four of them wrote this movie’s screenplay and that is the best they could come up with? There is a thrill here and there but there are some scenes that are just bogged down with bad puns, lame jokes and moments where you just go “really?”

By Mingle Media TV, via Wikimedia Commons

I felt that there was only one organically grown moment in Jurassic World, a movie that feels so genetically modified from start to finish. The scene with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are comforting a dying Brontosaurus; that was a moment that truly hearkened back to the original film and it was sure pure to witness even though it was brief.

Well since I started talking about the human characters let’s go into detail about Chris Pratt’s slightly chauvinist raptor-training Owen. This leading male character is the voice of reason throughout this entire film and he’s probably the other reason, besides Indominous, people will want to see this because he finally has a superpower: the ability to train those ancient killing machines called raptors. It feels as though the role of Owen was tailored for Pratt but he’s difficult to assess, yes he can be a badass at times but there is nothing appealing about his character to be honest.

By aphrodite-in-nyc from new york city (P1050817), via Wikimedia Commons

Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Claire, just drops the ball in so many ways. She comes off as this pent-up, workaholic, irresponsible guardian to her nephews, played by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson, in this crisis, (I’m not exactly the world’s best uncle myself) who puts business ahead of everything else and throughout the entire movie she is so subservient to Owen’s masculine presence, it’s trifling, disappointing and hollow.

The rest of the cast including Vincent D’Onoforio, Omar Sy, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan, Judy Greer either contribute so little to the narrative or are basically reduced to props. The entire human cast takes a backseat to the CGI animals in a way that seems inferior to how the human cast took a backseat to last year’s Godzilla remake.

Technically Jurassic World is quite safe when it should be edgy and thrilling. Even the CGI dinosaurs are mechanical at best. The production design by Ed Verraux, the editing by Kevin Stitt, Michael Giacchino’s score for instance are all very tame because I felt that the director spent so much time trying to honor the original material and recapture something past, that there is nothing current or modern about it.

With how this movie was written, it couldn’t be anymore obvious that a sequel is in the works. Even the fossils could tell that a sequel is planned out!

I think Colin Trevorrow should shoulder the brunt of responsibility for how tacky this movie was. Some parts of the film were reduced to a colossal cliche, like with Khan’s character made it clear that he was the only suitable helicopter pilot on hand and the camera had to zoom in to make that clear, WTF! Also the final showdown between Indominous and Tyrannosaurus to determine who is Rex of Jurassic World, most of the time, the camera is on Pratt, Howard, Simpkins and Robinson, I did not pay $14 to have the camera on the insignificant humans of Jurassic World! Mr. Trevorrow or John Schwartzman, director of photography, keep the camera’s on the dinosaurs for crying out loud!

I had reservations going into Jurassic World. I wasn’t even sure if I absolutely wanted to see it. Turns out, I wasn’t missing anything if I skipped it.

Ant-Man teaser: small but strong

Once the lights go up on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Phase Two of Marvel’s Avengers Initiative will close and Phase Three will begin. Although, Marvel Studios says that Ant-Man may be too small of a film to initiate Phase Three, I say otherwise because of Ant-Man’s importance to the Avengers Universe. Just because he’s small doesn’t mean he’s insignificant. Besides Phase Two began with the letdown that was Iron Man 3, so maybe the final phase can begin with a boop instead of a boom! Anyway, the new trailer for the new installment arrived last night, courtesy of ABC’s new program Agent Carter. It teases the hero, Scott Lang under the tutelage of Dr. Henry Lang, embarking on a redemptive path to pull off a heist with global-beneficial proportions, with a little levity thrown in. Check it out.

Directed by Peyton Reed and co-written by Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd, based on the story by former director Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, Rudd leads the cast with Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña and Corey Stoll as the film’s villain Yellowjacket. Ant-Man arrives in theaters by July 17, 2015.