This week I had the opportunity to screen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Despite my opinion that the previous film would have been better suited to that title (shouldn’t the planet dawn before it rises?) DotPotA was for all intents and purposes a perfect sequel, albeit a little long. I should start off by saying that I “really liked” the first film in the franchise. The performances were heartfelt and the effects were beautiful. You really got to see that Ceasar was dealing with some complicated emotions, and you got to see his ascent into a higher level of intelligence… in other words, you got to see him discovering his sense of self. In DotPotA, those principles are taken to their farthest logical conclusions, as we see Ceaser ten years later and what his world has become. I “loved” this movie.
I would like to begin by saying that without Weta and Andy Serkis, this movie would not be half as compelling as it is. Serkis gives a flawless performance as Ceaser, now grown up with a family of his own, in the overgrown forests surrounding San Francisco’s all-but-empty ruins. I loved that this film centered more around the apes than the humans. The ape characters were compelling, expressive, and well fleshed out. I felt myself drawing parallels between the ape families and my own family experiences, which is what, I believe, the film makers were hoping we would do. The creation of CGI characters so believable and so emotive that I could feel myself relating to them more than the human characters is a feat worth celebrating.
Now… lets get to monkeys on horses with guns.
There are certainly no shortage of hold-your-breath moments in this film. The danger feels real, and the audience is heavily invested in the outcome. The drama unfolds, nail biting and heart rending, as you see what might have been come crashing down in a blaze of fire and ammunition. There are explosions, fire fights, hand to hand combat, and all manner of violence to keep the “action film” feel alive, but its never without a reason. Another huge nod to Weta for showing the ape action in a very real way… seeing the “monkey fights” really makes you appreciate that these are still animals in every sense of the word… its a brutal dichotomy that becomes heartbreaking at times, especially when you get to those parts of the movie designed to show you that their families may in fact be just like yours.
Finally, I would like to give the writers and directors a huge nod for utilizing the first movie in just the right way. They did not overstate the connections to the first film, nor did they ignore them. I haven’t seen a sequel nod so brilliantly to its predecessor in a very long time… maybe ever. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great summer film, full of excitement and brilliant effects, but with enough relatable material that it *should* leave you questioning if your definition of what is “normal” and what is “human” is as accurate as you previously believed. I give it 4.5 sonic screwdrivers, knocking off half for the fact that it felt really long at times, and my glowing recommendation.
22 Jump Street has now been at the top of the box office for two weeks straight. And if you haven’t seen it yet and are still unsure if you want to, I am going to give you a few reasons why you shouldn’t run out and see this movie.
Resaon #1: Dennis Booker is your spirit animal.
You’re an original 21 Jump Street, 1987 television series, fan. You loved the melodrama and lived for the action of the teen detectives investigating teen crimes, that was dished out weekly back in the 80s. You might not be okay with them turning the original idea into a comedy, making fun of the detective show and the cop partner relationships. However, you figured that out with the first movie, and have no interest in seeing the original or it’s sequel.
Reason #2: You hated 21 Jump Street.
You gave the first one a chance and really didn’t like it. 22 Jump Street is just like the first one, and it knows it, and it knows you know it, and in case you didn’t know it, it tells you. In case you’re worried you won’t know what’s going on because you DIDN’T see the first one, don’t worry, they start the movie with a “previously on 21 Jump Street” montage, and if you arrive late and miss that, still do not fret, it’s not a psychological thriller, you can catch on.
Reason #3: You want a smart movie.
Don’t go see this movie if you can’t accept it for what it is. It’s a turn your big brain off, comedy/action picture. If you’re going to the movies because you want a solid plot or mind blowing twists, this is not the movie for you. While this movie isn’t completely brainless, (there are a few witty remarks and a couple little Easter eggs for the bigger brains.) it’s definitely not a movie to go into looking for plot holes, this movie knows it’s cliche, knows it has plot holes and makes them part of the humor.
Reason #4: You hate to laugh.
This movie is senselessly silly, and is a running gag on sequels and the entire idea of the venture of Jump Street. It had me laughing from the start to the finish, (be sure to stay for the credits, and if you really want to, stay for after the credits, there is a little something there too.)
Don’t go see 22 Jump Street unless you’re in the mood to laugh and are willing to turn off that big brain and just enjoy some good satire.
X-Men: Days of Future Past had a lot of buzz leading up to it’s release. The follow up to 2011’s X-Men: First Class was burdened with enormous expectation to deliver not only a good sequel but a good X-Men movie period. Matched with Bryan Singer replacing Matthew Vaughn in the director’s chair, the idea of a terrible X-Men movie loomed on the horizon. The question of continuity hovered in the air like a bad odor, everyone noticing it and everyone commenting on it. And even though Bryan Singer had not dealt it, he certainly had to somehow sort it out.
And boy does he.
Days of Future Past does it’s predecessor justice. The sequel pays amazing homage to it’s era, never straying from the previous design book. You’ll read it in a thousand other reviews: Days of Future Past utilizes the old “what if we could go back in time and kill Hitler?” plot. Sentinels, machines created to eliminate mutants, threaten the extinction of mutants and present day X-Men send one of their own back in time to try to prevent the machines from ever coming to fruition. Time travel plots are tricky, altering-time plots are trickier. This film brings the two franchises together seamlessly. With First Class fresh in my memory, the sequel starts to feel like a Saturday Night Live sketch with alum cast members making clever and endearing cameos. However, once sending Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) present day conscious into his 1973 self, everything starts to blend together in an exciting crossover film.
Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) runs rampant, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) remains locked away in a cement prison (the brief viral marketing the movie tried to use makes it’s appearance with his imprisonment, claiming he is the one who assassinated JFK), and Charles (James McAvoy) is hidden away in his former school, relying on treatments that Beast (Nicholas Hoult) concocts that trade his powers for the ability to walk. The 1970’s drug addiction/Little Mermaid metaphor is strong, but makes for a necessary character development. We have all had moments of doubt and would rather take the easy route rather than suffer to meet our full potential. McAvoy makes you feel the struggle, makes you look within yourself and consider those obstacles we all must face but if we accept help from those who support us, your full awesomeness can be reached. His transformation from groovy and skeptical Chuck X to the Proper Charles Xavier develops through the film, and damn if it isn’t beautiful.
If I was caught off guard by anything, it was the introduction of Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters), the mutant known as Quicksilver. The comedic relief is over too soon (one would say…too fast? Ugh, sorry), but a surprising moment of entertainment. Mystique’s past is quickly touched upon, and her character is left with not much to do but follow a rigid path to assassination.
A friend of mine jokingly asked if this was the best superhero movie of the year. I reacted a little too quickly, but I think accurately: this is not a superhero movie. There are no heroes in this movie. Yes, there is teamwork. Yes, there are superhuman abilities. But no one is a hero in this film. And it is wonderful.
Finally: duh, stay after the credits.
For many of us who enjoy monster movies, the announcement of the reboot of the “god” of monsters, Godzilla, left us anxious with anticipation. Anxious and hoping for a glorious rebirth and worried that possibly the movie might be something we wished would have stayed resting at the bottom of the sea.
One of the longest running film series in history, began with Ishiro Honda’s 1954, B&W film of a 400 foot tall mutant dinosaur called Gojira. This movie previewed after the atomic bomb devastation in Japan. The immediate effect of a nuclear attack and also fear of the aftereffects of radiation, created a fear, an epic, monstrous fear. Gojira, awakened from the depths of the sea as a rampaging nuclear nightmare, complete with glowing dorsal fins and fiery, radioactive breath. Crushing ships, villages and buildings in his wake. With all of the Godzilla movies out there (some good, some bad and some so bad they are good) Gareth Edwards faced a challenge to bring back a monster created from epic devastation and fear.
When talking about Godzilla movies, especially with any monster movie devotees, it’s easy to forget, and rarely ever mentioned, that most monster movies are boring. Yes, even with multiple monsters, alien visitors, and monster battles. The movies are generally full of flimsy characters, questionable plots and plenty of laughable effects and costumes. However, like a bowl of mashed potatoes, Godzilla movies are comfort food.
That being said there are a number of things that really make this Godzilla a good monster movie.
First, there is a clear emotional through line, and a few characters you can get behind, and stay behind for the duration of the movie.
The characters are solid and more fully developed than in most Godzilla movies (which, let’s face it isn’t a hard thing to do). But, if you are going to see Godzilla because you are excited for a Bryan Cranston film, don’t waste your time. The trailers for Godzilla are Bryan Cranston heavy making it seem like he has a leading role in this film, his appearance is strong but not as prominent as one might expect.
Hands down, my favorite character in this movie is Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe),
the iconic scientist. Dr. Serizawa who has studied this monster, understands and respects the creature more than any other character in the movie. The moment when he first utters a reverend whisper, “Godzilla” it sent chills through me and warmed my soul. This was the moment where I believed Godzilla had been brought back from his glorious, monstrous and iconic existence.
Gareth Edwards’ long takes and aesthetic compositions, do most of the talking, making this film pleasing on the eyes and manna to the monster movie soul. A monster’s presence shouldn’t have to be explained. A good successful monster mover will make you feel the creature’s presence, and Edwards’ Godzilla movie does exactly that. The monster is viewed from a perspective which provides a sense of scale while simultaneously a real sense of terror.
See Godzilla purely for the monster mayhem, not because you want nuanced characters or blood-drenched reflections on the eventual end of mankind. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what the film has to offer. The creature effects are spectacular and the film beautiful overall, the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is splendid.
It goes without saying that Godzilla should be seen on the tallest IMAX screen you can find, so what I am saying is to see Godzilla find the tallest, largest IMAX screen you can find, sit back and enjoy the rebirth of the god of monsters, Godzilla.
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