The Films of 2020: Bloodshot (dir by David S. F. Wilson)


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is the first year since 2008 not to feature any new Marvel films.  Despite the fact that Wonder Woman 1984 still has a Christmas release date, it wouldn’t surprise me if it still got moved back into 2021.  With the exception Tenent, 2020 has been the year of the anti-blockbuster.

I have to admit that, at first, it really bothered me that I was going to have to wait to see both Black Widow and the new Wonder Woman film but, as more time has gone by, the less I actually care about either one of them.  I think one reason why comic book films have been so popular over the past few years is because they were relentless.  There was always a new one coming out.  If you were disappointed with Captain Marvel, you could still say that the trailer for Endgame looked really good.  If you were less than thrilled with Batman v Superman, you could at least look forward to Wonder Woman.  Now that we’re no longer being inundated on a daily basis with new MCU trailers and DCEU gossip. it’s a lot easier to realize that a few of those films were surprisingly good (and I stand by my declaration that Guardians of the Galaxy was the best film of 2014) and some of them were notably bad but the majority of them were entertaining without being particularly memorable.

That bring us to Bloodshot.  Depending on whether or not Wonder Woman 1984 holds onto that Christmas release date and if The New Mutants are forgotten about, Bloodshot could down in history as the only major comic book film released in 2020.  It stars Vin Diesel as Ray Garrison, a dead Marine who is revived and turned into an invulnerable super soldier.  Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) sends Ray after the people who previously killed him and his wife, Gina (Talulah Riley).  Ray kills a lot of people over the course of Bloodshot.  He also continually wakes up in that laboratory, with no memory of who he is.  Could Harting just be using Ray to kills own enemies?  It’s possible, if just because I don’t think there’s been a heroic character named Emil in a comic book movie.

As a film, Bloodshot is …. well, it’s okay.  If you’re going to make a movie about a relentless super soldier who can’t be killed, Vin Diesel is probably the best actor that you could get to star in it.  (Yes, Dwayne Johnson could play the physical aspect of the role but his natural likability would go against the whole relentless killer thing.  Diesel, on the other hand, can actually convince you that he’s planning on murdering everyone that he sees.)  And if you need someone to play a smarmy mad scientist named Emil Harting, Guy Pearce seems like the obvious choice.  The action scenes are well-done, even if they do go a bit overboard on the slow motion.  The CGI is convincing.  When Ray gets a bit of his face blown off, it legitimately looks like a chunk of his face is breaking off of him.  (Fear not, Ray has super healing.)  Much like Ray, the film has a job to do and it doesn’t let much get in the way of doing that job.

And yet, the film itself is never exactly memorable.  There’s none of the little quirks or unexpected moments that distinguish the better comic book films.  Instead, Bloodshot feels like a throwback to the days before comic book films became a big deal.  We know that Guy Pearce is evil from the minute he shows up, just as we know that the film is going to end with a battle the involves a lot of flashy CGI.  No effort is really made to take anyone by surprise.  Bloodshot goes through the paces and hits all of the expected notes but it’s never really lively enough to be engaging on anything more than a “Hey, did you just see Vin Diesel kill that guy!?” sort of way.  Bloodshot is a film that’s just there.  Occasionally, it’s entertaining but ultimately, it’s rather forgettable.

A Halloween Film Review: Kong: Skull Island (dir by Jordan Vogt-Roberts)


You may have noticed that, in the title of this post, I specifically referred to Kong: Skull Island as being a Halloween film but not a horror film.

That was very much intentional on my part.  Kong: Skull Island is really not a horror film.  (I think you could argue that the only King Kong film that can legitimately be considered a horror film would be Peter Jackson’s version and that’s just because he tossed in a few scenes that were obviously inspired by the old Italian cannibal films.)  I watched Kong: Skull Island a few months ago and I really can’t say that there was ever a moment where I was scared or even uneasy.  It’s just not that type of film.

At the same time, it is a fantastically fun and entertaining monster movie, one that has a good sense of humor about its own absurdity.  Halloween is not just a time to get scared.  It’s also a time to have fun and, for that reason, Kong: Skull Island is a perfect movie for October.  In fact, I think that it was actually a mistake for Warner Bros. to release the film in March.  They should have released it during the first weekend of October.  It could have provided a counterbalance to all of the depressing films that have been released this month,

Kong: Skull Island is a throwback to the gleefully absurd monster movies of the past.  Just so we don’t miss that point, the film starts with a 1944 prologue before then jumping forward to 1973.  (Significantly, not a single scene takes place in the 21st Century.)  Samuel L. Jackson plays Lt. Col. Preston Packard, the tough, no-nonsense commander of the Sky Devils helicopter squadron.  The Sky Devils are finally on the verge of leaving Vietnam but they’ve been asked to carry out on more mission.  They’ve been asked to fly an expedition over a newly discovered island.  The official story is that they’re going to be mapping the island but everyone knows better than to trust the government.

Kong: Skull Island is very well-cast, which is a good thing because the majority of the characters are thinly written.  Among the civilians in the helicopters: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and John Goodman.  Of course, they’re all playing characters but, for the most part, you’ll spend the entire movie thinking of them as being Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and John Goodman.  For that matter, you never think of Samuel L. Jackson as being Preston Packard.  He simply is Samuel L. Jackson.  When they eventually discover a castaway living on the island, it doesn’t matter that the man’s “name” is supposedly Hank Marlow.  He’s played by john C. Reilly and that’s who you’ll always think of him as being.   They’re all charismatic actors so you certainly don’t mind watching them but, at the same time, the film understands that the main reason we’re all here is to see the giant gorilla.

To the film’s credit, it doesn’t take long for King Kong to show up.  This is not one of those films where things are dragged out in an unnecessary attempt to create suspense.  (After all, the audience already knows that King Kong’s on the island.)  Almost as soon as the helicopters breach the airspace over Skull Island, Kong shows up and starts knocking them out of the sky.  The survivors end up stranded on different parts of the island.

Of course, it’s not just Kong that they have to worry about.  In fact, from the start, the audience is smart enough to know that Kong is actually one of the good monsters.  However, Skull Island is also inhabited by bad monsters, like these giant reptiles that Kong keeps having to fight.

Early on, there’s a scene in America where, in regards to the Watergate scandal, John Goodman says that Washington, D.C. is never going to be more screwed up than it is at that moment.  That line pretty much epitomizes Kong: Skull Island.  It’s a lark with a knowing sense of humor and it is not meant to be taken at all seriously.  At it’s best, Kong: Skull Island satirizes some of the most pompous monster movies of the past.  Whenever someone says something portentous, you can be sure that the film will quickly find a way to puncture the somber mood.

And it’s all terrifically entertaining.  Watch, enjoy, and don’t worry too much about whether or not any of it makes sense.  A trip to Skull Island is a trip worth taking.

Playing Catch-Up: A Monster Calls (dir by J.A. Bayona)


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As our regular readers are undoubtedly aware, I was born in Texas and I grew up all over the Southwest.  I don’t believe in trigger warning and quite frankly, I lose respect for anyone who I hear whining about having to have one.  That’s the way we are down here.  If you can’t handle potentially being upset by something or someone, that’s you’re own damn problem.

That being said, I do feel like I should give everyone a heads up about A Monster Calls.  Don’t consider this to be a warning because a warning suggests that something bad is going to happen and A Monster Calls is actually a very good movie and one that I highly recommend.  But I do think I should say that I sobbed almost all the way through A Monster Calls and I wasn’t alone.  When I saw this movie on Sunday, there wasn’t a dry eye in the Alamo Drafthouse.

That’s just the type of film it is.  It’s a movie that deals very sincerely and very forthrightly with what it means to lose someone who you love.  It’s a coming-of-age story that deals with fear, loss, guilt, and those moments when — even while dealing with unbelievable pain and sadness — we can still find happiness in the moments that we have and in the imagination that all people — especially young people — possess.

Technically, A Monster Calls is a fantasy though it actually deals with very real emotions and events.  Conor O’Malley (Lewis McDougall) is a shy and introverted 13 year-old who is haunted by nightmares, one in particular.  His parents are divorced.  His father (Toby Kebbell) lives in America and is barely a presence in Conor’s life.  His mother, Lizzie (Felicity Jones, giving an amazing performance), gave up her own artistic ambitions when she became pregnant.  Now, she’s sick and every day, Conor is told that his mother is starting yet another new treatment because she’s “not responding as expected” to the previous treatment.

With Lizzie growing more and more ill, Conor finds himself living with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver).  To Conor, his grandmother appears to be overly strict and unemotional but, as the film makes clear, she’s not.  If she seems strict, it’s because she knows that she will soon have to take over as Conor’s guardian.  If she seems unemotional, it’s because she’s trying to stay strong for both her daughter and her grandson.

Meanwhile, at school, Conor finds himself targeted by a strange bully named Harry (James Melville).  The scenes with Harry are some of the oddest in the film.  At times, Harry seems to look at the perpetually miserable-looking Conor with almost an expression of empathy and you wonder if he feels some sort of guilt over what he’s doing.  But whenever Harry approaches Conor, a viscous sadism emerges.  Though Harry always seems to be the one who is staring, he continually demands to know why Conor is always looking at him.  When another student tries to hit Conor, Harry announces that only Harry is allowed to hit Conor.

And then there’s the Monster.  At night, the Monster visits Conor.  A gigantic, humanoid tree, the Monster speaks in the voice of Liam Neeson and he alternates between being threatening and being almost paternalistic.  When Conor gets angry, the Monster encourages him to destroy things.  When Conor gets sad, the Monster taunts him for thinking that his sadness is somehow different from everyone else’s sadness.  The Monster is frightening but, at the same time, he seems to be the only thing in Conor’s life that he can depend on.  The Monster’s words may be harsh but there’s also something oddly comforting in their harshness.  It helps that he sounds like Liam Neeson.

The Monster tells Conor three stories, all of which are full of ambiguity and end with uncertain lessons.  The Monster tells Conor that, after he finishes the third story, Conor will be required to tell him about his greatest nightmare.  Conor finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the Monster but, as quickly becomes clear, his main fear is talking about his nightmare.

A Monster Calls is a beautifully done story about dealing with loss, one that will make you cry but, at the same time, will leave you feeling almost grateful for those tears.  The Monster is a truly spectacular creation and Liam Neeson does a perfect job voicing him.  What makes A Monster Calls so special is the way that director J. A. Bayona deftly balances Conor’s apocalyptic encounters with the Monster with the small, every day details of real life.

It makes for a powerful film.

Just make sure you’re ready to shed some tears.

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2016: Warcraft (dir by Duncan Jones)


Last night, my cousin and I watched Warcraft, which is a film that has been called “the worst of 2016” by several critics.

Personally, I don’t think it’s the worst film of 2016.  It didn’t make me physically ill, like Hardcore Henry did.  My cousin — who, unlike me, has actually played all of the Warcraft games and therefore came into the film already knowing who and what everything was — says that he enjoyed it.  On the basis of both Moon and The Source Code, I think Duncan Jones is a genius who will eventually emerge as one of the most important directors working right now.  Dominic Cooper is in Warcraft and so is Ben Foster.  They’re both fairly unrecognizable (thought not as unrecognizable as Clancy Brown!) but they’re also two excellent actors and I’m always happy to see them listed in the credits.  Visually, the film was well-designed though it was impossible for me not to think about the Make Love, Not Warcraft episode of South Park.

But I have to say that no film has ever left as totally confused as Warcraft.  I got that the film was about a war between Orcs and humans.  And I appreciated the fact that the film attempted to give all of the Orcs their own individual personalities and culture.   If I wanted to, I could probably spend a few 100 words talking about how the war in Warcraft can serve as a metaphor for every war currently being fought in the real world.

But seriously, I spent nearly the entire film trying to keep straight who was who.  The cast was huge and the dialogue was full of people and creatures talking about magic and honor and history and tradition and sacrifice and why so-and-so had to do this to such-and-such because of something that happened to someone else centuries ago and it made my head hurt trying to keep up with it all.  I eventually gave up.  My cousin was enjoying the film and, in the end, that’s all that mattered.

Plus, there was a cute little orc baby!  I liked him and his story reminded me of the story of Moses floating away in that basket.

Anyway, Warcraft was slaughtered by critics and, because it cost a ton of money to make, it didn’t make any money back.  So, the film probably won’t get the sequel that the ending was obviously designed to set up.  However, I get the feeling that, next year, Warcraft will be a popular film to live tweet whenever it shows up on SyFy.

It may have been the most incoherent film of 2016 but it wasn’t necessarily the worst.

Warcraft Official Trailer (For The Film…Not The Game…I Know, Right!)


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Warcraft was a game on the PC that I played for hours on end. It was the closest thing gamers had to a video game version of the Warhammer Fantasy property. the title had two popular sequels and gave birth to the biggest, most popular and most addictive MMORPG in history. I mean, World of Warcraft, led to couples getting divorces, players getting into real fights outside the game and even getting together in holy matrimony for reals.

So, Hollywood seeing a cash cow when it sees one had been trying to get a live-action film based on the Warcraft property for years. So many different directors had been attached to make it (from Uwe Boll right up to Sam Raimi) but in the end Duncan Jones got the job to bring Azeroth (and Draenor) to life on the big-screen.

With the film still months away, Universal and Legendary Pictures look to start the hype train going by releasing the first official trailer for Warcraft with much fanfare.

Face Front, True Believers! The New Fantastic Four Is As Bad As The Old Fantastic Four!


FFFace front, true believers!

This is the one you’ve been waiting for!  There’s a new Fantastic Four movie out, looking to cash in on this cozy crazy comic book fad!  It’s been getting terrifyingly terrible reviews and the ravenous reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes have given it a scintillating score of 9%.  But don’t let my manic misplaced modifiers put you off, pilgrim!  The ancient prophecy is true!  Fantastic Four is as boldly bad as everyone says!  Not even the merriest members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society will find much to marvel at here!

This is the latest attempt to start a Fantastic Four film franchise.  This time Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) are both unlikely teenagers.  Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) recruits Reed to help work on a “Quantum Gate” that will transport explorers to the Negative Zone.  Instead of being transformed by gamma rays, Reed and his friends become super human as a result of going to Planet Zero and getting splashed by green goo.  Reed has the power to stretch.  Ben develops a rock-like hide.  Dr. Storm’s son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), becomes a human torch while his adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara), is given the power of invisibility.

Doctor-DoomIt takes over an hour for Reed and friends to become fantastic and, even after they do, there’s no sense of wonder or excitement to Fantastic Four.  It’s obvious that a lot of money was spent on special effects but there is not a single scene that can match the power or imagination of a Jack Kirby illustration.  Worst of all is what is done to Dr. Doom (Toby Kebbell).  One of Marvel’s most complex and iconic characters is reduced to being just another vaguely motivated movie bad guy.  Fantastic Four feels like a throwback to the worst comic book movies of the 90s.  Nuff said?

This version of Fantastic Four was directed by Josh Trank, who previously directed the excellent ChronicleFantastic Four is so joyless and rudimentary in its approach that it feels like the anti-Chronicle.  After the initial negative reviews came out, Trank tweeted, “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”  (He later deleted the tweet.)  Perhaps studio interference explains why Fantastic Four feels so disjointed.  It seems to be missing key scenes.  For instance, do you remember all of those cool moments from the trailer?  Most of them are not in the actual movie.

fant_fourIf you count the never released Roger Corman-produced 1994 film, this is the fourth attempt to reboot The Fantastic Four.  When I was growing up and reading comics, I never really cared about The Fantastic Four.  The only time I ever read Fantastic Four was if they were doing a crossover with the X-Men or Spider-man.  I knew they were important to the history of the Marvel Universe but they also seemed old-fashioned and almost corny.  It’s hard to take seriously a scientific genius who can not come up with a better name than Mr. Fantastic.  As characters, the Thing, the Human Torch, the Invisible Woman, and Mr. Fantastic all feel like they still belong in 1961 and maybe that is why all the recent film adaptations of The Fantastic Four have failed.   Perhaps the fifth attempt should take a retro approach and set the story in the 1960s.

Perhaps then the flashy, fulsome, and far-out Fantastic Four will get the marvelous movie masterpiece that they deserve!

Excelsior!

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Trailer: The Fantastic Four


Here’s the official trailer for Interstellar 2!

Oh wait…sorry…

This film is called The Fantastic Four.  Apparently, somebody realized just how bad the previous Fantastic Four films were and decided to just reboot the whole franchise.

Anyway, judging from this trailer, it looks like this film might be more like Man of Steel than Guardians of the Galaxy.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”


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This is gonna be one easy review to write because it all boils down to this : you really can believe all the hype, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is flat-out fucking awesome, and you need to go out and see this flick immediately.

My job is done, I’m finished, goodnight.

But I guess I do have at least a little bit more to say —

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I wasn’t a big fan of Cloverfield by any means, but I’m turning into a big fan of Matt Reeves. I know it’s heresy to some, but I thought that Let Me In was every bit as good as its Swedish progenitor, and with this latest — and, frankly, best — installment in the venerable Apes franchise,  Reeves has shown himself to be a director who is fully hitting his stride. The bigger and bolder the project, the more he seems to rise to the occasion. I frankly don’t even know how you go about eliciting good performances from actors who are only there for the purpose of having a bunch of hair overlaid onto their faces via computer, but he did it here. Andy Serkis, as ape leader Caesar, and Toby Kebbell, as his primary (and creepily duplicitous) rival, Koba, both turn in Oscar-caliber work on the basis of their facial expressions alone. They’re gonna wow you, folks, no lie.

As for the human actors playing — well, human parts, Jason Clarke is solid as stand-up guy Malcolm, apparent real-life asshole in the extreme Gary Oldman does typically competent (if, to be perfectly fair, unspectacular) work as survivalist head honcho Dreyfus, and Kodi Smit-McPhee is extremely convincing as Malcolm’s teenage son, Alexander (plus, he can be seen reading Charles Burns’ Black Hole, so bonus points for that). About the only weak link comes by way of nominal love interest Keri Russell, whose “concerned as shit” look at all times begins to grate pretty early on. But when you consider the fact that all these people spent pretty much the entire time in front of a blue (or maybe it was green) screen, getting only one subpar performance from the bunch is pretty good. And who knows? Maybe Russell simply can’t help coming off as worried 24/7.

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My only other minor quibble here is with the title — when a film called Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is followed by one called Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, you gotta wonder when the buildup is going to stop and we’re finally gonna get down to the shit. Or maybe we’re looking at a 20-part story here and we’ve still got plenty of stage-setting to go, in which case we’ll be treated to Prelude To The Planet Of The Apes and We’re Still Getting To The Planet Of The Apes next.

Hey, I did say it was a minor quibble, did I not?

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Apart from that, this has everything you’d want in a big-budget summer blockbuster, and quite a bit more than you’d honestly expect : there’s pathos, melodrama, palace (if your palace is a tree) intrigue, cheap scares, high-octane thrills, elaborately-staged battle sequences, and a genuine sense of urgency to the proceedings. Events — and tension — gradually build to the point of inevitability, and the film’s third act actually delivers in terms of its promised payoff.  And for those of you who are tired of James Franco’s ever-evolving shtick — whatever it is — rest assured that he doesn’t even pop up in a flashback sequence.

Ya know what? Let’s not even do Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes the disservice of comparing it to other summer popcorn flicks — this leaves typical blockbuster fare like The Avengers or Star Trek so far back in the dust it’s not even funny. What Reeves has made here is one of the very best films you’ll see all year, even if big-budget sci-fi grandiosity is not your thing. This is eloquent, spectacular, undeniably powerful drama of the highest order. It’s everything and the kitchen sink plus one of those nifty fancy programmable faucets all attached to a fancy-ass 300-pound granite countertop.

Okay, I’m finished with the italics, promise. If you don’t like this, you don’t like movies. My job here really is done.

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (dir. Matt Reeves)


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(Poster by Matt Ferguson)

When ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ came out, I wasn’t excited; I didn’t even see it in theaters. I am a fan of the original franchise (one and three mainly), and still had the bad taste of the terrible Burton remake in my mouth. So the idea of a prequel/reboot was one of the last things I wanted at the time. Still, I gave it a chance when it was released on home video, and it blew me away. I, like so many, was surprised by just how good it was. So good in fact, that I desperately wanted a sequel. Luckily the film was a success (both financially and critically) and that inevitable, albeit desired, sequel was made. Having now just seen it, the question now becomes whether it lives up to both that first film and the enormous expectations I had built up between films (especially more recently with the “prequel” shorts). The answer, thank god, is a resounding “Hell yes!”

It was so good in fact that I’d go so far as to say that this franchise has become my favorite since Nolan’s ‘Batman’ films. This is why the easiest way for me to describe how this compares to the first film is to say that ‘Dawn’ is to ‘Rise’ as ‘The Dark Knight’ was to ‘Batman Begins’. ‘Rise’, like ‘Begins’, was an exceptional origins tale; but it was a story that felt rushed or overshadowed in place for the development and establishment of  only the central character. ‘Rise’ still had an emotional resonance, and the final twenty minutes are incredibly thrilling, but it ultimately felt incomplete.  With ‘Dawn’, like with ‘The Dark Knight’, the film makers were free to use what was already established with their new hero to tell a much more complete, more complex and emotional story on a much grander scale.

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‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ takes place ten years after the events of the first film. The world has been devastated by the Simian Flu. Humans have spent the last decade fighting the virus and themselves. They live in a post-apocalyptic world, struggling to survive, but are making progress. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his troop on the other hand have built themselves a community, a tranquil home in the Muir Woods that is thriving according to their needs.  That peace is interrupted when a group of humans enter their territory. They are led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), who is trying to find and fix a hydroelectric plant that could help bring power back to San Francisco. The actions of one in that group lead Caesar and his family to have little trust in their intentions, but allows them to proceed because they are clearly desperate. Caesar is one of the few apes that has seen the good in human’s and also knows cooperation could keep the peace.

As the bond between human and ape grows there is still one among Caesar’s troop that does not believe that peace is possible. That ape is Koba (Toby Kebbell), who was beaten, tortured and used for medical testing his entire life. Koba’s distrust only grows when he learns that the humans, led by a man named Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), have access to military stock piles and are willing to take control of the area surrounding the dam by force if it were to become necessary. Thinking Caesar is weak and too loyal to humans, Koba decides to take it upon himself to protect the apes, and his actions set off a chain of events that could only lead to only one thing…war.

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When the film ended and I walked out of the theater I felt completely satisfied with what I had just seen. My expectations for the film were already incredibly high, but I would be lying if I said this didn’t actually exceed them. What makes the film such a resounding success for me is the way in which the story puts everyone on equal grounds. There are no true villains here, and even those that assume that role do so for reasons that were easy for me to empathize with. Dreyfus may want to kill the apes, but he does so because he is a man who has lost everyone he ever loved and will do anything to protect the remaining humans that have put their trust in him. Koba, as selfish as some of his actions may be, is someone who was physically and mentally abused his entire life. His revenge might seem cruel, but one could hardly blame him for wanting it. Everyone is fighting for the survival of those that they love and the homes they established. I couldn’t help but want everyone to succeed. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the pain and damage under the surface of both man and ape make the idea of peace between the two impossible. Some differences are irreparable. There is definitely an allegory here of war that reflects current and past conflicts.

Luckily those themes of warfare, family and survival are all expressed effortlessly through the actions of its characters. It manages to be intelligent and complex without being thematically overbearing, while maintaing an intanacy. That is mainly because the film is handled with exceptional craftsmanship by Matt Reeves. The direction and cinematography, especially within Caesar’s settlement, is wonderful. It is never flashy, and is often much darker and moodier than one might expect. The editing and pacing is near perfect, which is rarely the case with these sorts of films. It only ever slows when it needs to, but the story is always moving forward. Every scene matters, even the quieter moments, for which there are many; again, something one might not expect, especially given the action heavy trailers. The score is perhaps the best Michael Giacchino has done since ‘Up’, adding to the moody atmosphere, and I LOVED his little nob to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in the opening sequence. Everything here is done with purpose and execution of it all is nearly flawless.

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Lastly, I would be remiss to end this review without mentioning the performances, which were the soul of the film. Even with the way everything else was handled, I am not sure ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ would have worked without these specific performances. The human cast of Clarke, Oldman and Russell were all fantastic. The film’s only real flaw was that there actually wasn’t enough focus on them. I understand that the heart of the story is Caesar and his apes, but the human characters could easily have been developed more. Still, what development and emotional connection we did get was due mainly because of the actors portraying them. They make us care for these people, making the inevitable conflict even harder to bear as the film approached its climax.

The motion capture for the apes was mind blowing. Andy Serkis is in a class of his own. The visuals and animation here are some of the best I think I have seen; but it is the emotion and talent of the actors behind all that CGI that makes those ape characters feel so real. Serkis plays Caesar as someone filled with grief and the weight of the responsibility of caring for his troop bleeds through. Toby Kebbell plays Koba with a ferociousness that is equally terrifying and mesmerizing; and I also really loved Nick Thurston, who played Caesar’s eldest son Blue Eyes, and how he managed to expressed so much in just his gaze. I mentioned early in this review how this film compares on some level to ‘The Dark Knight’ for me. That film was speculated to be in the run for an Oscar nomination for Best Picture but it never happened. The backlash was so strong that some think it was the reason the Academy increased the number of films that could be nominated. I truly hope that Serkis will receive some form of recognition for his work here; and if not, I hope all of us praising him so greatly now will be vocal enough when the time come that maybe the Academy will make another change to who and what it nominates.

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I am not sure where I would place this film among others I have seen in 2014 but I know I’d put it somewhere near the top. This isn’t just another intelligent summer blockbuster; it is really an exceptionally crafted epic, a thrilling action-drama with an emotional and thematic resonance that future films should make a note of. And, as I felt when I first watched ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, I eagerly await the next installment – which will thankfully be directed again by Matt Reeves.

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Prequel Shorts


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(Above is an exclusive poster found on Collider.com)

I am having a hard time remembering the last time I made a post like this that wasn’t a review, so I think you can use this article as a measure of just how excited I am for ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. I, like a lot of people, was completely surprised by how good ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ was. It rejuvenated a franchise (one I really enjoy) that was most recently tarnished by a really, really bad remake. It was so good that a sequel was not only inevitable, but desired.

Luckily Fox is fulfilling that desire next week with the release of the sequel, which has received universal praise from the few reviews that have already been released. The out-pour of this praise definitely has me more excited than I was beforehand…but it is not the true source of the hype that has me ready to buy a ticket for a Thursday night showing for the first time since ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. No, the source of that hype is a series of short films that act as a bridge between ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’, examining (quite artistically, surprisingly) the events that occurred after the outbreak of the Simian Flu at the end of ‘Rise’. These shorts are a collaboration of 20th Century Fox and Motherboard and can be viewed below:

‘Spread of Simian Flu: Before The Dawn of the Apes (Year 1)’ (dir. Isaiah Seret)

‘Struggling to Survive: Before The Dawn of the Apes (Year 5)’ (dir. Daniel Thron)

‘Story of the Gun: Before The Dawn of the Apes (Year 10)’ (dir. “thirtytwo”)

What I love most about these is how they are so unlike most “viral” shorts. These aren’t straight forward stories like you see with the Marvel One-Shots. These are actually artistic, emotional and thought provoking films, to the point in which I saw people commenting on them being pretentious…music to my ears to be honest with you. Each explore themes of their own while also wonderfully adding to the atmosphere and mythos of the new ‘Apes’ series. Furthermore, the very fact that the studio clearly gave the writers and directors of each liberty to not “play it safe” with a piece of marketing revolving around a multi-million dollar franchise just gives me a ton of confidence in the franchise on the whole. It is this, more than the reviews, that has me excited to see ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ next week, and maybe they will do the same for you.

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Along with the prequel shorts, which are directly related to the events of the film, they also released a documentary which can be seen below. It too is incredibly well made, and is a surprisingly poignant true story of apes and human interactions during and after the events of medical testing and human warfare.

‘The Real Planet of the Apes’