Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Apes will rise!

You know, when this film first made news, with the announcement of it being produced, I thought it was kind of strange. There hadn’t been any talk of it, so the announcement caught me off guard. I’m probably one of the very few who enjoyed Tim Burton’s film, the remake of the 1968 film, and I thought they should’ve made a sequel to it. I mean, come on, how did the apes take over Earth? How did Thade get out of that control room and get to Earth in the 1800s? Did he figure out how to open the door and hijack a jet-pod? I hoped for a while, but that hope died down when it was clear that no sequel, from Burton or any other director, would be made.

So, I was pretty excited when they announced the production of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With the exception of James Franco, each cast addition made me more and more excited.

No offense to Franco, but when they proclaimed that he was going to play a scientist who is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease…basically, they lost me at ‘scientist.’ At that point, I just saw him as Harry Osborn from the Spider-Man films or Saul from Pineapple Express. So ‘scientist’ kind of scared me. However, after seeing his performance in 127 Hours, I had hope.

The one cast addition that had me locked into this film was the announcement of Andy Serkis. You may know him as the man who brought Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or for bringing the giant ape to life in King Kong. Serkis has actually played bit parts in some movies like The Prestige and a little known horror flick called The Cottage, but it’s clear that he’ll be forever known as the motion-capture go-to-guy. With already a bunch of trailers and clips on-line regarding this film, there was a marvelous featurette that showed how they filmed the motion-capture scenes involving the apes. Many people have mentioned in the past, and are already talking about it for this film, that Serkis should win an Oscar for his performances. I agree.

So, without further ado, let’s get into Rise of the Planet of the Apes, shall we?

The film opens with poachers on the hunt to trap chimpanzees in their habitat. A sad sight to see, but it shows us the realistic side to how these chimps come to be in experimental labs for testing. The film, then, moves to Gen-Sys, the facility where Will Rodman (James Franco) is working on the latest cure for Alzheimer’s disease called the ALZ-112. As he’s setting up a presentation with the board, the handlers try to get a chimpanzee—treated with the new cure and showing increased high intelligence—ready for the demonstration. The chimp, however, shows signs of aggression and attacks the handlers when they try to get her out of her quarters. She goes on a rampage and is shot dead by security right when she jumps into the boardroom and in front of all the members.

The ALZ-112 appears to be a failure as the CEO of Gen-Sys orders the handlers to destroy all the test chimps, citing their exposure to the ALZ-112 has them contaminated. As it turns out, after all the test chimps have been put down, the reason the female chimp went on her rampage was because she had given birth and was protecting her young.

Rodman decides to take the baby chimp home and take care of it temporarily. As Will comes home, we see his father is really stricken by Alzheimer’s as he, an accomplished musician (we see the many certificates framed on the wall), has a tough time playing a simple song on the piano. When Will shows the baby chimp to his father, he sees that the chimp brings something out, seemingly helping his spirits. The chimp, named by Will’s father as Caesar, ends up staying with them and even gets his own room up in the attic. But, without giving too much away, things go bad as Caesar is court ordered to be placed in an ape sanctuary where an ape upheaval will soon start.

There were so many things that I loved about this movie. The movements of the apes—especially Caesar’s—were just enough to show us what they were thinking and feeling. At times, it was very heartfelt as we saw how much Caesar loves Will and Charles Rodman. Other times, you felt Caesar’s pain, like when he’s left at the ape sanctuary. The messages were loud and clear regarding the testing of animals and how cruel they can be treated at these labs.

One thing that hit home for me about the story is the subplot about how Will Rodman is driven to find the Alzheimer’s cure. As I watched John Lithgow play his ill father, suffering from the disease, it reminded me of what I went through with my mother. I can definitely relate to Franco’s character throughout this movie and it really moved me.

Again, I’m surprised that a movie of this caliber wasn’t forced to be filmed in 3D by the studio. Although I’m not a fan of 3D and feel it’s just a gimmick running its course (getting old, if you ask me), the visuals that you see in this film would’ve been perfect for it: Caesar climbing the giant trees in the Muir Woods, the apes swinging above and below the Golden Gate Bridge, the make-shift spears and manhole covers thrown…this seemed like total 3D fodder to me. But I guess Rupert Wyatt didn’t want to go the James Cameron route and wanted to get people in the theater to see the movie’s story and not the movie’s 3D.

Even though the acting is good from the cast, it’s the performances from the apes that you’ll be paying attention to—especially Andy Serkis’s Caesar.

Throughout the whole film, I had nothing negative to say or think about. The whole flick is believable and made me think about it long after leaving the theater. But if there’s one thing that I can nitpick about is at the very end. I don’t want to say or give away too much, but I felt myself about to say, out loud, “Oh, come on.” However, later on, it made me think a bit more, so I’m still pondering on it. Your thoughts?

Anyway…my final bit?

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in my opinion, is the best film of 2011. Unless Fright Night kicks ass, Final Destination 5 pulls out an Oscar-worthy performance, The Thing prequel or Real Steel blows me away, my money’s on Apes as my favorite of 2011.

See it!

CaptainAmerica: The First Avenger

The title says it all, the one movie leading up to what can possibly be the single most greatest comic book movie ever! There’s a lot riding on Josh Whedon’s superhero assembly next year, what with all the great origin movies coming out to lead up to The Avengers. And there’s no turning back now!  Captain America: The First Avenger’s title character is the leader and heart of The Avengers, so to bring him in now is the final step in setting up the ultimate movie next year.
But, again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Captain America is a comic book character I didn’t follow, but was always interested in when they tried to bring him to life on screen. He was first brought to the screen in the 40s in serials, then they tried in the late 70s when they cast Reb Brown running around in a motorcycle helmet and doing nothing with the shield. But in 1990, they almost had it right with a good-looking costume and a nice make-up job to depict Scott Paulin as the Red Skull. However, the movie was kind of boring and had the typical dialogue you hear in 1990s movies that will make you laugh today.

Yes, we knew it was coming, since we caught a glimpse of the shield in the first Iron Man film and a deleted scene from The Incredible Hulk supposedly showed a body frozen in the ice that may have been Mr. Steve Rogers himself. So all us comic book geek brethren waited with baited breath as the release date drew near.

The only news I was concerned with when keeping track of the production news was when they announced Joe Johnston was directing it and that Chris Evans was cast as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America.

Johnston was a worry because he had some downers, in my opinion, under his belt. He directed Jurassic Park III and, most recently, The Wolfman. I enjoyed both of those movies, but for the upcoming Avengers film, all these inaugural films have to be stellar in the box office to be sure of the beginning ensemble extravaganza. However, he did direct The Rockateer a while back, which captured the feel of the era, so I felt there was some hope.

Evans concerned me because of how he constantly made quips and jokes in every movie I’d seen him in thus far. But I held faith and heard in an interview that he was going to take the character in a serious path, so I thought it might work with him in the lead.

So a few weeks ago, I went to the local cinema complex and sat down to watch Captain America: The First Avenger.

I loved it.

The origin truly showed how much love this individual had for his country and his drive to join the military as he went to every recruitment office he could venture to, seeing if there was one that would accept his weak, frail body.

It wasn’t until he went with his friend, Bucky—already in the army and about to head off to fight the Nazis—at the Stark Expo (where we see where Tony Stark gets his eccentric personality as Dominic Cooper portrays Howard Stark, Tony’s father, perfectly) and Steve decides to try to enlist again at the recruitment station inside the expo. Bucky tells him it won’t work and tries to get Steve to come with him with a couple of girls to go dancing and forget about joining. Steve tells him how important it is for him to join, that he wants to be over in Germany to fight along with all the other soldiers who are giving their lives for him and his country. He tells Bucky that he feels he owes that much and wants to do his part. This is where we first see Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, overhearing the conversation intently. Bucky doesn’t talk Steve out of trying to enlist and says goodbye to Steve as he has to deploy the following day. Next, Steve is going through his rigmarole of trying to enlist and Erskine intervenes, gettingRogers accepted. He gets Steve to take part in an experiment and a Super Soldier is born.

The beginning of the film is quite an origin story, taking a while to get to Captain America getting in to fight in the war, but quite awe-inspiring as the story gets there. The introduction of Howard Stark, Colonel Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and other familiar characters from CaptainAmerica’s universe keeps the film interesting. We’re also introduced to Johann Schmidt (the Red Skull) and how Thor’s world is intertwined there, which is pretty awesome. The start of the movie will leave you wondering how the heck they were able to make Chris Evans look like a little runt, but you forget about it quickly as the story progresses. The cinematography captures the feel of the era just like The Rockateer did and you really feel like this took place in the 40s. Overall, Joe Johnston did a great job in the director’s

And, of course, the shield was pretty awesome and used perfectly. It wasn’t something that Cap carried around to shield him from weapons, but used as a weapon itself as he sliced it through the air boomeranging and ricocheting off walls—and villains—back into Cap’s hands.

Ofcourse, no spoilers here, but stick around after the credits for an added scene, which leads to a nice surprise afterwards.

My final “bit” on Captain America: The First Avenger? Chris Evans did a wonderful job, putting on the straight face and showcasing his talent to become a leading man who was believable in every scene. He made me wish I’d joined the military when I was younger and made me love my country even more than I already had. The film was a great patriotic film and it’s a shame they didn’t release it during the Fourth of July weekend. It would’ve been a perfect film for that time. Along with the two Iron Man films and Thor, this film will definitely take a high space in my DVD and Blu-Ray collection.