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Movie Review Monday: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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Mike Finkelstein likes monkeys.  They’re cute and cuddly and he wants one as a pet.  Before he bought one, his mom told him to go see a new movie about monkeys, and then make his decision.  He didn’t get the monkey…but here is his review for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

PLOT: Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist looking for what he believes is the cure of Alzheimer’s and many other neurological diseases.   When his main test subject, a chimp named Bright Eyes who has developed super-intelligence, is killed, Will discovers that she’s been hiding and protecting a baby son that’s also shows signs of increased intelligence.  For years, Will cares for the ape, lovingly named Caesar by his father (John Lithgow), until a series of misunderstandings and  violent incidents begin what will lead to the revolution, and the Planet of the Apes.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  When people first heard of PLANET OF THE APES getting rebooted, they were shaking their heads.  Yet another remake/reimagining of a classic film series that no one asked for or needed, and in this case, it was tried once before in 2001 with Marky Mark and horrific results.  But then, a trailer came out, and we were intrigued.  And then more previews and TV spots with some excellent CGI and that had us thinking, “Maybe this could actually be good…”

Fans can breathe a sigh of relief: this isn’t Tim Burton’s vision.  RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is actually pretty damn good.  More of a reimagining of the origins than a remake, the film tells its account of how apes came to rule.  That’s the most intriguing part: while there are facts that stay true to the original (and some great shout outs and callbacks to the original series sprinkled throughout), Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver took care in molding a logical and thought provoking reasoning for the apes’ conquest.  There are no bad or good guys here…only a downfall caused by fear, curiosity (damn dead cats…) and good intentions.

Now, some may say that this downfall caused by technology, experimentations and good intentions may be too preachy.  (Don’t worry…you could see what’s coming from miles away, so I’m not spoiling anything for you.)  It’s not…it’s just a valid scenario for something that could happen in this day and age.  Filmmakers and writers have always used analogies and metaphors to remark on real world issues because they are the important matters at the time.  I’d prefer the commentary over something mindless, like apes with machine guns, any day.

I think what everyone is really wondering, though, is how were those damn dirty apes?  I have bad news and good news.  The bad: I was a little put off by their look.  Yes, they were amazingly detailed, and almost looked real enough to be one of Frank Oz’s muppets, but during fast movements, like Caesar running through the Redwood Forest or the final battle on the Golden Gate, something still looked unnatural and fake.  The residue of CGI work was there, like an annoying poke that wouldn’t stop.

The good: we saw the emotion.  Despite whatever poking I had to swat, we were able to discern every ape’s personality and feelings without a single word being spoken and minimal captions.  We know Caesar from birth, changing from a loving infant to a curious adolescent and then a jaded, angry adult, and know exactly what he’s going through every step of the way.  The same goes for all the apes in captivity. Rupert Wyatt and Andy Serkis (as Caesar) have given us fully fleshed out characters that we cared for.  We wanted Caesar to get back to his window, and we wanted all the apes to see the real sun from the top of the Redwood forest.  That’s a pretty impressive feat for some motion capture and computer generated images.  I left that movie knowing the apes better than I did the humans, and when you can’t stop discussing each one’s individuality, you know the filmmakers pulled off something magnificent.

Which brings me to the humans: amusingly enough, the real actors felt like the supporting cast in their own movie!  Yes, everyone did a satisfactory job with what they had to do (and that includes James Franco), but there was no real depth, and you could basically sum up every person’s motives in a sentence.  The only two worth mentioning were Tom Felton and John Lithgow.  While Felton was essentially Draco Malfoy with an American accent, he still can play sadistic beautifully, and it was great to see him in some normal clothing.  John Lithgow is a legend, and despite having some of the least time on screen, he brought tears to my eyes as Will’s Alzheimer’s inflicted father.

While it has its flaws, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has earned my vote as one remake/reimagining/sequel that deserved to be.   Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver gave us a world of plausible possibilities on paper, and Rupert Wyatt took that and showed us reality.  You make be talking about a few of the bad (“Why Cookie Rocket?”), but I guarantee you, the characters and the world they live in will stay with you for much longer.  Definitely better than apes with machine guns…

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) JOHN LITHGOW: The man is a classic actor of the stage and screen.  He may have had only a handful of scenes, but I felt so much for this once brilliant man decaying before our eyes.

2) TOM FELTON: The kid may be Draco Malfoy, but he did an awesome job here just being a cruel, sadistic prick.  And did I mention that he had an American accent?

3) NO!: It may have followed the oddest sounding line in the entire movie, but when this was said, everyone in the theater froze.  Woah…

4) TIE INS: For anyone who has seen the original films, you’ll be smiling at all the moments of paying respect…it’s just fun

5) NO BLAME: The background as to how the apes came to control the planet may have changed, but in a beautiful way.  In the end, everyone is innocent, and it was the hope for a better future that destroyed the humans.  Tragic, yet poetic.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) CGI: Yes, you got to give Andy Serkis credit for all his work on Caesar, and the animation on all the different apes and the fight scenes was pretty impressive, but there were moments where I just couldn’t get KING KONG out of my head…

2) DAMN DIRTY APES: While it may have been cool to read again the script, such an iconic line just sounded weird coming out of Felton’s mouth.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Tom Felton’s character Dodge Landon speaks two of Charlton Heston’s most famous lines from the original PLANET OF THE APES – “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!” and “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!”

2) Shipped to theaters under the code name “Salad”

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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