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: Kong: Skull Island

For the fourth time in the history of American filmmaking, one of the all time great movie monsters bows into theaters to pound his chest, roar and reign supreme over an island not meant for man to tread. It’s director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ turn to give life to a beast some have dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World in Kong: Skull Island.

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Image by Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.

Fair warning: the plot for the film will be familiar if one is familiar with the mythos of Kong from the past. In in the early 1970s, a scientific expedition to an uncharted island in the South Pacific goes horribly awry, when a team led by Colonel Preston Packard, decommissioned SAS Captain James Conrad and researcher Bill Randa run afoul of Kong, the mammoth ape protector of Skull Island. Their first encounter with the beast results in seven soldiers dead and the research team separated and every single soul on the island is in grave peril, but not from Kong; the truth is that Kong is the island’s deterrent to creatures far more frightening.

I won’t go out of my way to tell you that Kong: Skull Island is a blockbuster worthy of a king or it should be rightfully crowned. I found the picture rather tame with a few original twists but I suppose I was just unsatisfied with the final result.

If Kong: Skull Island had any selling points, it would be that I thought Vogt-Roberts and the writing team of Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connelly did a nice job in adhering to Kong’s origins and island life/persona: a fearsome protector to those in need, always ready to aid a damsel, worshipped as a god on Skull Island. I felt that they recognized the scope and grandeur of the title character and did what they could to make him as big as possible but the film itself just couldn’t measure up to the enormity of Kong’s reputation. Seriously, take the giant ape out of the picture and what are you left with?

For starters you have a movie that is weighed down to the anchored to the homages paid to Apocalypse Now, which is excessive to the point of over-the-top. This movie could have occurred in any time period so, why at the end of the Vietnam War?

You also have a movie that simply wastes a lot of star power. Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Tian Jing, Thomas Mann, Will Britain, Richard Jenkins; there are many good actors in this movie and this cast tries to deliver good performances where they can but like Godzilla, they’re not why audiences show up! Whatever contributions they do make, go to waste because the material they are working with is shallow and the visual effects steals the show.

Larry Fong’s cinematography aims to be strong but reeks of inconsistency and the editing Richard Pearson follows suit, which is unfortunate. Stefan DeChant’s production design is striking, the art direction is commendable, the set decoration by Cynthia La Jeunesse is fine, Mary E. Vogt’s costumes aimed for authenticity; technically there was a lot to respect with this film and what did you didn’t like, you forgot.

Maybe I subconsciously compared Kong: Skull Island to its 2005 predecessor by Peter Jackson, even though I didn’t want to, but ultimately I couldn’t help but notice that Jackson’s Kong had the girth and dimensions to bring Kong to its Kingly status while this film felt cartoonish. Kong: Skull Island is fun, in it’s own way, but lacking.

Movie of the Week: Kong: Skull Island

2017 will mark the fourth year in which one of the most famous movie monsters of all time has ever graced the silver screen. In 1933, 1975 and 2005, audiences the world over has seen different takes of the enormously proportioned primate who reigned supreme over his domain only to be captured and felled in the domain of man. This weekend marks Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ turn to bring the giant ape to the big screen as a team of explorers ventures out into uncharted territory teeming with danger and atop the pyramid of Skull Island is a king whose reign about to be challenged by an unforeseen enemy: modern day man. Kong: Skull Island bows into theaters this week.

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Screenwriters: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connelly

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Tian Jing, John Ortiz and Toby Kebbell

What am I expecting to see?: The producers behind this movie have big plans for this film and I hope that this movie does enough to see these plans come to fruition. I want this movie to honor the Kong movies that came before it while doing everything it can to make a proper mark for itself. I don’t expect it to reach the epic levels that Peter Jackson’s King Kong reached in 2005 but I for one hope that Kong: Skull Island has its fun.

Review: A Monster Calls

Since trees are capable of living for hundreds of years, one could say that they could tell stories about how the world around them change time over time, but trees are not sentient being like humans; meaning to say that they cannot speak or hear or think despite being living creatures.

From the imagination of Patrick Ness and brought to vivid life by J.A. Bayona, one unsuspecting yew tree comes to life to the aid of a young boy named Conor, who is caught in the middle of very unfortunate circumstances at home and at school. A Monster Calls is a magical and emotionally evocative story about a boy who has to come to grips about the events that are happening to and around him before it’s too late.

This is beautiful and haunting film told in watercolor and nightmares and tales about human complexity that are initially difficult to interpret but the impact in its telling and these characters is something to be commended! Author and screenwriter Patrick Ness adapted his celebrated novel to the screen with great panache and J.A. Bayona proved that he was the right man for job in breathing life into this adaptation that is equal parts frightening, puzzling, breathtaking and A Monster Calls lingers after you leave the theater.

What makes A Monster Calls so special is that you allow yourself to feel the emotions that Conor is going through; the anger, the sorrow, the helplessness and the film is a journey to explore those emotions and get closure which is ultimately what the story of A Monster Calls is about; it’s about the need to get closure, to resolve your feelings, to face the truth about dire circumstances and growing from them.

Lewis MacDougall is very formidable in his debut as the artistic yet troubled and tortured Conor O’Malley. Felicity Jones as his ailing mother is very good, Sigourney Weaver as the estranged grandmother delivers a fine performance, Toby Kebbell is good as Conor’s absentee father and Liam Neeson lends his distinct voice to the Monster, this storytelling and enchanting guide through Conor’s pain and trials throughout this film.

The supporting cast of James Melville, Ben Moor, Jennifer Lim, Dominic Boyle, they’re okay but they come in and out of the movie so quickly they don’t exactly have a chance to stand out but this is, for the most part, MacDougall, Jones, Weaver and Neeson’s movie to shine.

Oscar Faura’s cinematography is pretty, Jaume Martí and Bernat Vilaplana’s editing is crisp, Eugenio Caballero’s production design is marvelous, the art direction is stunning and the visual effects are sweeping. This was a practical but well-executed film that holds your attention from start to finish.

There is tremendous beauty and depth in the thought-provoking tale of A Monster Calls. I very much encourage everyone to see this film because it takes you away and holds you captive in its storytelling but it is honest in all aspects of its production and the end result is a very compelling piece of film.

The King of Skull Island! Teaser Trailer

It is not wise to walk into another’s house and start a fight. That’s just extremely bad manners. It’s all the more unwise to venture into a monarch’s kingdom and drop bombs. That’s literally a declaration of war! A team of explorers and scientists embark upon an excursion onto a mythic island, where creatures never seen before call home and in their pursuit to study the island, they incur the wrath of the island’s protector! This team is caught in a maelstrom of chaos as they navigate uncharted terrain, evade exotic beasts and face unknown fears as they are in the grand presence of the King of Skull Island: KONG!

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and written by Max Borenstein, Derek Connelly, John Gatins and Dan Gilroy, Kong: Skull Island stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, John C. Reilly, Tian Jing and Jason Mitchell. Treading upon Skull Island is forbidden but an excursion will take place on March 10, 2017.

God Bless Comic Con! Why? TRAILERS!!!

I just knew that I would be blogging something today. Didn’t know how, but I knew. At first I thought I would throw up a surprise review on Star Trek Beyond, which IMO wasn’t all that; I’m not a Trekkie, I fail to see the appeal in Star Trek but I’m being honest, fans of the franchise will get a kick out of Justin Lin’s addition to the franchise and its attempt to appease its audience with classic nostalgic tones but for those non-Trekkies like myself: meh.

In case it hasn’t dawned on you: San Diego Comic Con is underway. It is in this time where fellow nerds, pop-culture enthusiasts, comic-lovers, practically people I can get along with confluence together to ooh and ahh all of the new grounds being broken in the worlds of comics, video games, television, films in the coming weeks, months or years even. You can always count on Comic Con to deliver something to wet your pop-culture appetite. While I was distracted by Star Trek Beyond, I returned home to catch up on what I’ve missed and I have missed much!

Kong: Skull Island

When Godzilla roared his mighty roar, someone at Warner Bros. and Legendary must have realized that this could be the beginning of something truly extraordinary but the creatures Godzilla faced did not pose enough of a challenge for the giant! Who could possibly stand against such a foe? The answer: KONG! An expedition led by Captain James Conrad, takes a team of explorers onto an island laden with danger and reigning over this treacherous-loaded-paradise is a creature who has existed long before the time of man but formidable and fearsome enough to hold dominion over his world and he won’t bow before anyone who dares stand in his way! Behold the trailer for Kong: Skull Island!

Kong: Skull Island is written by Max Borenstein, Derek Connelly, John Gatins and Dan Gilroy and is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. The film stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell, John C. Reilly, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell. Kong becomes King on March , 2017.

Doctor Strange

Just when I FINALLY calmed from seeing that ridiculously trippy trailer from Doctor Strange, they set this on us! I’m not complaining it looks spellbinding all the same! BY THE EYE OF AGAMOTTO ENCHANT US!

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg and Scott Adkins, Doctor Strange is written by Jon Spaiths, directed by Scott Derrickson and will land in theaters by November 4, 2016. WOW!

The LEGO Batman Movie

I confess, I regret not giving The LEGO Movie a chance while it was in theaters. It did prove to be quite the delightful adventure. The film went on to enjoy a LOT of success in 2014, and in typical Hollywood fashion success usually equals sequels or spinoffs and in The LEGO Movie’s case, both. While the sequel is a ways off, a spinoff starring one of the films most popular characters is completely put together and fans are eagerly awaiting for the unveiling of The LEGO Batman Movie.

Chris McKay is the director guy in charge of assembly, who co-wrote the film with Seth Grahame-Smith and Eric Sommers, with the assistance of Jared Stern and John Whittington. Will Arnett will lend his voice to Batman, and rounding out the cast is Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera, Zack Galifianakis and Mariah Carey. The LEGO Batman Movie will hit theaters with excellent reflexes on February 10, 2017.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Harry Potter’s magical age has come and gone but renowned literary genius J.K. Rowling has started a new story about a new magical hero. Famous magizoologist Newt Scamander’s arrival in 1950s New York City has coincided with strange happenings within the American wizarding community and these bizarre events have involved some form of magical beast or two. Scamander must put his expertise to the test to remedy the problem before the fallout falls onto the non-magical population. This is the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is written by J.K. Rowling, directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo, Dan Fogler and Samantha Morton. A new age of magic begins on November 18, 2016.

Wonder Woman

One can say she made her long-awaited debut in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, many can argue that she stole the show in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Either way, whether you liked Batman v. Superman or not-I didn’t-Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was a revelation and a statement; badass heroes don’t have to be men. Before she stepped back into the light in that intense battle, she had a story and this trailer is a preview of said story about how Princess Diana of Thymiscara set foot onto the world of men, guided by Steve Trevor.

Directed by Patty Jenkins and written for the screen by Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Lucy Davis, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Saïd Taghmaoui and Florence Kasumba. Wonder Woman rides into battle June 2, 2017.

 Justice League

Perhaps no movie will be under no greater scrutiny than the follow-up to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Judging by this trailer, Justice League is saying and doing all of the right things but trailers have been deceiving before. Essentially, Batman is recruiting a team of meta-humans including Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. This team of extraordinary individuals with great power will combat a coming threat. Justice League is coming together.

Zack Snyder directs, Chris Terrio contributes the screenplay for this superhero ensemble piece starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amber Heard, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe, Jeremy Irons and Henry Cavill. Justice League bows into theaters on November 17, 2017.

I have never attended Comic Con before but one day I hope to go and be a part of so much nerdgasmic excitement! Any more trailers come out, I’ll bring them here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy and GOD BLESS COMIC CON!