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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Review

16 Jul

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My sister’s birthday was this past Saturday. In an effort to “keep it classy” we decided to do a traditional English tea at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel followed by watching the re-imagining of a classic – Planet of the Apes. Growing up, I loved Planet of the Apes, but my love was nothing compared to my sister’s. She remembers things about the series that I forgot long ago.

When Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out in 2011 starring James Franco and John Lithgow, we were convinced it would be a disaster of epic proportions – think Cutthroat Island and Waterworld. By the movie’s end, I was openly crying and my sister was misty-eyed. The plot was surprisingly well laid out and it actually made you think a little while being entertaining. Three years later, we sat in the theatre eagerly waiting to catch up with our favourite primates.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a different tone than its predecessor. In Rise, we see Caesar’s growth, struggles and his eventual fight for freedom. In Dawn, its 10 years after the Simian Flu has wiped out almost all of humanity. Caesar (Andy Serkis) has become a leader and established a community of apes. The apes believe humanity’s extinct until they come across a group of survivors in their forest. The humans want access to a dam on ape land that can provide electricity to their small city. Caesar is forced to make decisions that could result in war.

The re-emergence of humans creates a divide between the apes. Caesar wants to help the humans and hopes that one day; they can all live together peacefully.  His second in command, Koba (Toby Kebbell), was experimented on in a lab and wants nothing to do with the humans. On the human’s side, it’s almost a parallel storyline. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell) trust Caesar, while their leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is more than willing to kill off the apes if they cause a problem. The theme that runs throughout the movie is how similar the apes have become to humans and that they’re capable of making the same mistakes in the future. Viewers have to decide whose side they’re on.

The CGI is seamless. The battle sequence where the apes storm the human city is amazing and has a bit of everything – guns, horses, fires, explosions, tanks…you name it. The apes’ faces and bodies are highly detailed and you can tell the characters apart easily.

Andy Serkis’ and Jason Clarke’s performances drive the movie. The patriarchs try to do what’s best for their communities’ despite their mutual respect and sympathy for one another. Serkis is at his finest. His movements and expressions give Caesar dimension while keeping everything subtle and subdued.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes needs a third installment since the Apes series is only getting better.

Hail Caesar!

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Godzilla – Review

4 Jun

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Ohh Godzilla. He first appeared in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 movie of the same name and has gone on to become the most famous movie monster of all time and a cultural phenomenon. There are more than 28 Japanese movies starring Godzilla and an American movie released in 1998 that was disappointing, and thankfully, forgotten.

Here we are in 2014 and an American studio has made its second attempt to reinvent the franchise. The film starts in Japan in 1999, where nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) detects seismic activity in the Philippines that eventually leads to several deaths at his nuclear power plant, including his wife (Juliette Binoche). 15 years later, Joe still investigates the strange readings that killed his wife much to the dismay of his adult son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Ford’s wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). After Joe is arrested for trespassing at the old nuclear power plant, Ford is forced to go to Japan and realizes that something strange and ominous is happening.

The first hour of the movie doesn’t show Godzilla, but director Gareth Edwards attempts to develop his characters. The most likable and relatable character is Joe. Despite having a fairly good cast, Cranston steals every scene he’s in and pulls off the confused heartbroken man very well. Second best is Ken Watanabe, who plays a scientist investigating Godzilla’s origins and believes that the monster “brings balance” to the world.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen round out the main cast. Olsen is a great actress, but she gets lost in the shuffle and destruction of the movie. Taylor-Johnson seems to be a new leading man in Hollywood. Unfortunately his performance is flat and lifeless. His reactions to the deaths and chaos around him are disingenuous and wooden. By the time Godzilla appears, you lose interest in the cast and you just want the monsters to kick some ass.

Godzilla and the creatures he fights look amazing. The special effects are awesome and they did a great job of making Godzilla new, while still maintaining elements from the original Japanese movies.

Godzilla isn’t without its problems. There are some huge plot holes and hilarious one-liners, but it’s an entertaining summer movie and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

 

Remember When…The Frat Pack was Awesome?

2 Aug

The Watch was released this past Friday. As many people expected, critics tore the movie apart and it earned an overall rating of 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yikes.

Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, The Watch follows four regular guys who discover that their town is being overrun by aliens posing as ordinary suburbanites and they have no choice but to save the suburbs from the alien menace. The movie’s premise isn’t promising, which is unfortunate since the script was penned by Seth Rogen. The only selling feature for audiences was that “Frat Pack” members were in it.

“The Frat Pack” is a group of comedians that includes Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell and Steve Carell. Some honourary members or “Junior Varsity” are Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, James Franco and Justin Long.

The term “Frat Pack” was coined after 2003’s Old School – a movie about three men (Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell) who decide to relive their college years and start a fraternity. When it was released, Old School was financially and critically successful. Thus “The Frat Pack” was born.  There’s never been a movie that starred all “Pack” members but with this group of comedians constantly collaborating, their numbers continue to grow.

For a few years audiences were treated to hilarious movies. Some of the best movies include Dodgeball: An Underdog Story, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Wedding Crashers and my personal favorite Tropic Thunder. In the last two years though, “Frat Pack” members have been making garbage i.e. Megamind, Little Fockers, The Big Year and now The Watch. I’m not saying these actors aren’t funny: I’m saying they’re lazy. It feels like they just want an excuse to get together and screw around. Since they have star power on their side, it doesn’t matter to them if their movies are good or not.

Stiller, Hill and Vaughn don’t seem to care about The Watch’s reviews because they figure it’ll be a commercial success. So it’s time to teach them a lesson. Don’t go see The Watch or any of their new movies until reviews are released. Let one of their movies flop – HUGE. It’s time they see audiences want quality, not quantity. Hopefully, one major box office failure will make “The Frat Pack” realize they have to work for our money. Nobody wants to see The Watch. I’d rather see Simple Jack.

 

The Grey: Review

2 Feb

The Grey stars Liam Neeson at Ottway, a world weary marksman, hired by an oil company to protect rig workers from predatory wolves in Alaska.  When his contract ends with the oil company, Ottway boards a plane heading out of Alaska along with other roughnecks.  During the flight, there’s a mechanical failure and the plane crashes leaving a handful of men to battle the elements and evade a pack of aggressive wolves who see the survivors as intruders.

The first thing you should know about The Grey is that despite the marketing, this is not an action movie. It’s not a 90 minute free for all of Man vs. Wolf action. There are violent encounters with the wolves, but they are few and far between.  The Grey spends more time focusing on the men’s reactions to their situation and how they cope with the constant dangers surrounding them. It’s a gritty look at death and spirituality.

What’s sets The Grey apart from other survival movies is how caring and supportive the oil workers are of one another.  When someone is injured there is no talk of leaving them behind or feeding them to the wolves.  The survivors constantly put themselves in harm’s way to save one another.  There are four main characters (other than Neeson) that prove to be well rounded and thought out: Henrick (Dallas Roberts), Talget (Dermot Mulroney), Burke (Nonso Anozie), and Diaz (Frank Grillo).

The only character to cause problems is the outspoken and angry Diaz,who creates conflict for the first half of the movie.  After a confrontation with Ottway, Diaz softens significantly and even apologizes to the other men.  The best parts of the movie comes from the characters’ frank conversations about their lives and their possible deaths. In one conversation, Talget talks about his purpose in life and God, while Diaz and Ottway openly talk about not believing in anything and that there’s nothing after death.  The conversations are refreshing because so many other survival films have people “finding religion” at the last minute.

I would say this is one of Neeson’s best performances recently, other than Taken.  Originally, Neeson’s character had been contemplating suicide, but once death seems inevitable his character fights for himself and the other men to stay alive.  Dermot Mulroney and Frank Grillo are excellent choices for the supporting cast and you find yourself constantly worrying about what can or will happen to them.

Ultimately, The Grey focuses on death and how different people approach it.  I’d highly recommend seeing it, but it is not for the faint of heart.  You aren’t going to leave the theatre feeling happy.  Believe me.

The SAG Awards – Red Carpet Judgement

31 Jan

Amber Heard in Zac Posen

I think Amber Heard was one of the best dressed ladies on Sunday night.  Sure, it’s a black dress, but it’s made interesting with the cutouts and the length.  Her hair, make-up and jewellery are all stylish and simple.  She’s a babe and she didn’t overdo it.

Cut out creation: Amber Heard donned a cut out gown by Zac Posen which she teamed with a oversized quiff hairstyle

Jane Lynch in David Myster

Jane Lynch looked gorgeous in this bright blue. The cut is flattering and considering she’s a giant, she’ll look pretty good while terrorizing Tokyo.

Jane Lynch

Rose Byrne in Elyie Saab

I don’t know how I feel about this outfit. On one hand,  I enjoy this 70s inspired outfit and haircut.  On the other hand, I hate that the jumpsuit is ivory and absolutely covered with embellishments and sparkles.  It’s a bit too much like a wedding dress to me.

Sofia Vergara in Marchesa

Sofia Vergara is slamming. We know this, but I don’t think this dress is even to close to as flattering as the electric blue Cavalli dress she wore to SAGs in 2011.  Vergara’s should play up being a bombshell: hair down, low cut and just one big piece of jewellery.

Maya Rudolph in Naeem Khaan

Everything about this dress is atrocious. It looks like someone bedazzled a white t-shirt for Maya Rudolph. Granted it makes her bosom look huge, which is the only saving grace of this dress.  It make Maya look frumpy and does nothing for her hourglass figure.

Kaley Cuoco in Romona Kaveza

Kaley Cuoco is so pretty and has a nice figure, why would she wear this dress?  The top of the dress is flattering and fits nicely, but the bottom reminds me of an octopus and meringue cookies…I suspect that’s not a good sign.

Kaley Cuoco

Tina Fey in Versace

There is nothing really wrong with this dress, but Tina Fey you are hilarious and awesome.  Why are you wearing something so boring?

Ten Best Dressed — Special Edition Best Dressed: The 2012 SAG Awards

Daniel Radcliffe and The Woman in Black

27 Jan

Is anyone else scared for Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter career? I am. He’s been playing the lovable and nerdy Harry Potter for 10 years and I think audiences are going to have a hard time seeing Radcliffe as a different character. He made a good choice starring in Equus, a play about a young man’s pathological religious obsession with horses. During his run of Equus, Radcliffe tried to shed his “nice guy” image by appearing naked on stage every night. Critics loved Equus and Harry Potter fans responded well to the play, but the majority of his fans are teenage girls.  I think we know why they liked it.

His latest movie, The Woman in Black, is a questionable choice. Radcliffe stars as Arthur Kipps, a lawyer who travels to a remote village and discovers that the locals are being terrorized by a vengeful woman’s ghost.

The trailer doesn’t look thrilling huh? Horror movies aren’t usually blockbusters and I suspect that The Woman in Black will not be a commercial or critical success.  After putting so much work into transitioning into a serious actor with Equus, I don’t know why he would pick this role.

For his next project, Radcliffe will star in Kill Your Darlings.  He’ll be be playing poet Allen Ginsberg who is brought together with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs after a 1944 murder. This role seems promising compared to The Woman in Black even if it’s only in pre-production. This will be director John Krokidas’ first full length feature film so it will be interesting to see how he does.

I think Kill Your Darlings will be the real test for Radcliffe.  He’s talented, but he has to be especially careful about his roles.  If both his post-Potter movies flop, I think he’s going to end up starring in direct to DVD movies like Rupert Grint.  Poor little ginger.

 

Creative Control and Comic Books

18 Jan

It’s confirmed!  In summer 2013, we can expect Thor 2.

For Thor 2, Chris Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston have all signed on.  Everyone is still waiting on Anthony Hopkins…but really what else has he got going on these days? One person not returning to the movie is director Kenneth Branagh.  Rumors suggest that there was a breakdown in contract negotiations and Branagh had arguments with the studio over creative control.

Apparently, Marvel is having similar problems with director, John Favreau.  John Favreau will not be returning to direct the 3rd installment of the Iron Man movies either.  Possibly due to Marvel’s tight budget, but also creative control.  In an interview with MTV, Favreau said the following about Marvel and Iron Man 3:

“In theory, Iron Man 3 is going to be a sequel or continuation of Thor, Hulk, Captain America and Avengers… This whole world … I have no idea what it is. I don’t think they do either, from conversations I’ve had with those guys.”

Generally, I think directors should have complete creative control over their movies.  When actors, studios and producers have input into a movie, audiences are forced to watch the disjointed and bland result. If the director has complete control and the movie is horrible, well you know who’s to blame.

On the other hand, the studio is trying to introduce other characters from the Marvel universe into its movies and have crossover storylines.  Sure, this is annoying for the directors because they want to focus on their movie and characters, but these characters were not created by the director and there are already existing story arcs.  As a comic book reader, if I went to see a Marvel movie and they just came up with a storyline out of thin air instead of using the comic books as a resource, I’d be pissed.

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