Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Apes” rise to sucess!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Apes win August!

When I first saw the trailer for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” I asked myself the same question. How can you go beyond a serious and completely political concept that is hidden in a sci-fi film? My reaction was mixed of the things that were shown in two minutes, but that changed when news of “Rise” being a hit broke out. It was in the top three box-office slots for three weeks and got plenty of positive reviews. Like a chimp, my curiosity grew and thus relented.

To my surprise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” actually lives up to being quite entertaining and by far a great close to the summer. From the opening scene where poachers capture chimps to sell to science labs, I was slowly drawn into it. James Franco plays a scientist that is trying to make a cure for Alzheimer but two problems exist. First, a female chimp mistakes them for stealing her hidden child and goes beyond berserk to the point where they feel the experiment should be shut down. The other problem is his boss (David Oyelowo) is more of a business man who would rather see sells than saving humankind and thinks his project is not worth looking into.

However, the mother’s chimp named Ceaser (performed through the magic of motion-capture actor Andy Serkis) who happens to have the drug’s brain power passed onto him from his mother’s genes. As things progress, Ceaser gets older and starts to learn of the world and its toils. These elements have a “Frankenstein” quality to them as we sympathize with the creature of different he is from society. As I was watching this, I felt I wasn’t looking at a digital effect but a living breathing chimp that is trying to coupe with the world he lives in. Kudos to WETA for giving another remarkable character. While not as ground-breaking as Golumn, its close enough.

However, things change when Ceaser is placed in a Primate Sanctuary, after attacking an irate neighbor, and this is where things build as we go from Ceaser’s rise as a mistreated animal to a respected leader that guides the other apes through a breathtaking climax of action-packed spectacle. Most of the time, we don’t care much of the subplot James Franco deals with and get our wishes of seeing less of it. For if it was the main idea of the picture, it would spoil the enjoyment and make the film to be a preachy message about animal testing.

I find it unique how we spend a lot of time with the Ceaser character and how much sympathy is built into him. We want to see him succeed, we want to see him go against mankind and rebel, and above all take his place in being a true leader. They place so much care into this storyline, that we care less about the humans which is a good thing for most of the Apes films. The idea of Jame’s character who uses his own father (John Lithgow) who not only has the disease, but is experiment on is a tragic element for one to think of. What right do we have to use our own loved ones as guinea pigs for the good of mankind? Its sad and at least dumbed down to avoid distracting the main elements of this feature.

While “Rise” is surprisingly worth checking out, this movie does have its flaws. Tom Felton (aka Malfoy) has a part and turns out to be the least likeable character because that is how he is written. His tasks include torturing the apes in the Sanctuary Ceaser is living at for his own amusement and ruining two good lines from “Planet of the Apes.” And while “Rise” does well as being serious as its previous five brothers from the original franchise, its does have its campy moments like a sign-language conversation that has subtitles and acted like something serious from Full Metal Jacket. Some fans of the original series might be a tad biased for having a new franchise for the next generation, but I walked in with an open mind and found it to be enjoyable.

To compare, “Terminator Salvation” was beating a dead horse. There is no way you could resurrect a done to death concept and make it new without pointing out the clichés. “Apes” has unlimited possibilities with the idea of taking animals that take over the world and make a society of their own. You can do anything with it and it will never feel like leftovers from last year’s Thanksgiving and that’s what I felt was unique about this reboot that stood out from the others I’ve seen. While it’s no masterpiece, it’s a damn good movie that is worthy of seeing.

Rental Corner: Driving “Angry” with the “Fighter”

The Fighter

The Next "Million Dollar Baby"?

Biopics have come and gone with poor attempts like Mel Gibson’s “The Three Stooges” and some that at least manage to remain respectful like “Man on the Moon.” David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” comes very much between this as a straight-up “Million Dollar Baby”-ish film, but at times can have the same level of camp as a Rocky sequel. The story centers around “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) who struggles to be a professional boxer as he deals with the living style of Lowell and the problems with his family. There is not much to say about his character seeing how he goes from the basic everyday man and works his way up to the ultimate achiever. This story has been done before with elements like the mother being the manager and not knowing what is right for him with a girlfriend tossed in that acts like the voice of reason but leaves little impact.

The one thing that does make “Fighter” the more worthy is the subplot of Micky’s half-brother that is trying to make a comeback while doing drugs behind his family’s back. At first we tend to feel against him for the poor choice he takes of wasting a life he worked for, until the second half when he makes a realization after releasing the mistake he made once he unknowingly participates in a documentary on how drug addiction ruined his life.  This is where I ask, why not make the movie about that? Was it the risk of having another pro-drug film like “Ray” or “Walk the Line”? The strange thing is how it acts like the center of the film, which it oddly does at times when the main focus is on the brothers in general.

Another problem is some of the dialogue and dramatic arguments seemed to be delivered like a rejected sketch from “Jersey Shore.” It’s all cuss, complain, and gets irritating at times. And if you are looking for some big boxing moments, there is not much. All we get is two big fights and a montage of knock-outs. While “The Fighter” doesn’t pack much punch, it’s still entertaining none the less. Not highly recommend, but at least worth a look.

Drive Angry

Just skip it

“Drive Angry,” on the other hand, left me mad. What kind of creature would create this? A mean-spirited and gory road film about a man who is on the lam and trying to save his daughter from a Satanic cult’s choice of sacrifice. The concept on paper sounds ok, but inside its center is full of gore and sex that just dims it down. Nicolas Cage as the protagonist comes off as bland with his monotone, “Drifter” attitude while his feisty co-star tries to be the next Cherry Darling from Planet Terror.

To sum things up, it packs the seven deadly sins in an ugly, trailer trash talking, blood oozing, lustful, unappetizing feature that only exists to please the fans of exploitation films, which obviously shows. Movies like “Machete” and “Kill Bill” can have their violence and come out being fun, but there is no joy to “Drive Angry.” Its soul rests itself on trying to outdo “Grand Theft Auto” games as opposed to just being entertaining.