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.

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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.

Review: The BFG

The literary imagination of Roald Dahl has yielded classical adventures such as James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I never had the opportunity to read the books but I watched the films and I enjoyed them all.

As a film lover and blogger, I honestly admit that I have not seen all of Steven Spielberg’s work but I know most of what he has done and his range as a visual storyteller certainly lives up to his lofty and prestigious reputation. Be it a matter of a frightening nature such as Jaws or Jurassic Park, something profound such as Schindler’s List, Lincoln or Bridge of Spies, something playful and adventurous like Hook or Raiders of the Lost Ark, he will find the right aesthetic to highlight the story’s strong suits.

The words and imagination of Roald Dahl, the perspective of Steven Spielberg and the influence of Disney have converged to bring The BFG to the big screen. The film begins with child abduction and ends with the most absurd paramilitary campaign audiences will ever see and yet I for one could not help but to be taken by the most delightfully innocent family feature I have seen in a long time.

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Image by Disney

Little insomniac orphan Sophie glances out her window and sees a wonder beyond imagination and she is whisked away to a magical realm called Giant Country by a 24 feet tall gentle giant, who is dubbed “Runt” by his taller, meaner goliaths who venture into Great Britain, abduct children themselves and eat them. “Runt,” who will be christened “BFG”-abbreviation for Big Friendly Giant-by Sophie, prefers eating vegetables, particularly a rather unpleasant-looking giant cucumber and his pastime is catching dreams-not the type of dreams you’d see in Inception, but rather the essence of dreams-and throughout the film, his good nature, his charming rapport with Sophie and his peculiar grasp of vocabulary is on display and the film simply shines!

Is this Steven Spielberg’s best film to date? No, but this does definitely count as a Spielberg tale that children and adults will love.

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Image By Romain DUBOIS, via Wikimedia Commons

I suppose what makes this film something special, aside from Spielberg’s simplistic approach to the subject, is the rapport between leading performers Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill. Rylance is certainly taking advantage of the wondrous opportunity working with Spielberg and his take as the BFG is heartwarming, sincere and funny, while Ruby Barnhill is no slouch herself; for a newcomer, she is captivating, engaging, she doesn’t allow the spotlight to make her feel as small compared to Rylance and as I was watching the two of them interact, whether they are catching dreams, eating breakfast with the Queen, sneaking in-and-out of London during the witching hour, they certainly enjoyed working with each other and I feel as though they brought out the best in each other.

I also credit the writing of this film. The late Melissa Mathison has a history with working with Spielberg and she knew how to get to the meat of Dahl’s story and craft something only Spielberg could breathe life into; watching the story of The BFG unfold, the writing just comes so naturally and it touches on something truly pure.

I also couldn’t help but notice John Williams’ musical contribution to the film and the score was a pure positive for the film as well.

The supporting cast including Jemaine Clement, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Jonathan Holmes, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, all have relatively small roles compared to Rylance and Barnhill but the best is brought out in all of them.

The cinematography of Janusz Kaminski is practically simple but beautiful to behold, Michael Kahn’s editing is smooth and seamless, Rick Carter’s production design is splendid, Elizabeth Wilcox’s set design is marvelous, Joanna Johnston’s costumes are on point, the visual effects are up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year, The BFG is one of the most technically grounded films of 2016.

I didn’t expect to like The BFG as much I did but I couldn’t help it. The charm of these characters, the attention to detail, the craftsmanship put into this film were on full display and surely and steadily I was won over and I encourage readers to see The BFG in theaters because, I reiterate, it is delightfully innocent to behold.

The BFG is just another triumph this year released under Disney’s banner. It is a great change of pace for what is out in theaters now and audiences of all ages will go home happy because of it.