Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Great Rework of the Origin Story

The Planet of the Apes franchise had been stale for a while.  The 2001 remake of the original was a lackluster ridiculous movie with cheesy special effects and bad acting.  This decade-later remake starring James Franco, however is a lot of fun.  The number one reason I enjoyed this movie so much is the fantastic and effective performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar, the lead ape who leads an ape revolution.  The performances by all the ape in fact are fantastic, it was hard to believe that they were all CG and that there was a human behind each performance.

The story is also really good and satisfying.  The story of the rise of Caesar from the child of James Franco's character to leader of a revolution against the mistreatment of his fellow apes is compelling.  On the other side, I wondered how the writers would come up with a plausible method to display how a few hundred Apes in California could ever get to a large enough force to eventually take over a planet.  This question is answered satisfactorily in the movie.

The worst part of the movie are the humans.  James Franco does not really do much in the movie.  Event though the movie take place over almost 10 years, James Franco looks exactly the same.  Frieda Pinto is given almost nothing to do in the movie, her character is bland, uninteresting and totally replaceable.

The last third of the movie from when Caesar stands up to his oppressors in a primate facility to the end is thrilling.  It improved the movie from interesting character study on Caesar to an exciting action movie.  

*** Stars

Attack the Block: Fantastic Fun Film

As I mentioned on the podcast A Fistful of Popcorn, Attack the Block is my favorite movie of the year.  I have not had a better time at the theaters this year.  There are several reasons why:

- The lead, Daniel Boyega (Moses) is a compelling character.  Even though his character is a teenager, he is not played as an immature kid.  He is the leader of a gang and he is serious in his role.  He recognizes his role as the leader of his crew and sticks to his code of ethics for the Block.  I expect to see Boyega doing big things in future movies.

- The soundtrack for the film is fantastic.  The music in the film hit the right notes making us get exciting to see more of the action that occurs on screen.

- For an alien invasion movie, the script is refreshing fun and simple.  Compared to silly blockbuster movies such as Battle: Los Angeles and the upcoming Battleship.  There is no overblown romance story line bogging down the script or overdone plot points that become increasingly confusing.

- The aliens themselves actually are better looking than other alien movies.  They are genuinely scary and not silly humanoid slime creatures with guns.

This movie will be a sleeper hit when it eventually goes wide, I urge everyone to see it.

***1/2 stars

Monday, August 1, 2011

Another Earth

A young girl, Rhoda, during a celebration of her acceptance to M.I.T. gets drunk and crashes into another car killing most of the family members in the other car.  This is not very interesting at first, however, this happens during the night when the world discovers another planet, and it is a replica of our planet, Earth.  After serving a four year sentence for her crime, the girl returns from prison a changed woman; from a young, hopeful girl to a broken, sad, woman.  At the same time, a company plans an expedition to Earth-2 and offers an open position on the shuttle in an essay contest.  Rhoda enters the contest, in the hope that maybe she can discover what her life would have been like without the crash.  She also decides to visit the lone survivor of the crash, a former professor, who had his life destroyed in the crash.

Another Earth is well made, its themes of redemption and overcoming loss are meant to strike a deep chord with the viewer.  However, I could not get into this movie.  It felt cold and distant.  Brit Marling's performance as Rhoda is slightly boring, her character never really gives us a chance to invest any interest in her character.  The story of redemption did not work well for me, it seemed rather implausible.  It is easy to tell that this movie is lovingly made and personal to its writer/star, and I can also see how other people may like this movie, however, this movie didn't work for me.

** Stars