July 31, 2014

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.   Shakespeare said that in Henry IV.  And he could just as well be talking about Caesar;  that would be the Ape Leader Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.    The new film is a marvel of technology and filming in CGI.   Having re-watched Rise of POTA, before seeing this, it is quite remarkable how the stories continue on but are stand alone entities.  You do not need to see one really to watch the second.    Some characters are interactions, true, and stem from the first one (Caesar who freed all the apes from the testing facility) but otherwise a fresh story.     Fresh but not new.

As a story we have a leader of a fledgling society who looks to want peace and harmony.   Family and a life of calm is the desired situation.   Caesar is the leader of the apes in the redwoods outside of San Francisco.   The virus started at the company where his “father” worked has spread throughout the globe and killed most of human kind.    There is a small group of human survivors who have a settlement there.   They are running quickly out of power and need to get their technology working again.   They set out to turn on a dam in the woods and run into the apes.

From there the story gets Shakespearean with the two leaders and underlings trying to work an uneasy truce, where many are suspicious and distrustful and have their own agendas.   Leaders cannot always control their underlings, nor know what they do.   There is family here too, and the son of Caesar who is influenced by others around the leader who have their own life experiences to rationalize and operate under.

I liked this film but I confess that I had a pre-disposition to WANT to like it.   Still it also means that I have higher expectations and hope that they don’t “screw it up”.   In fact, I think that they have done an admirable job here.   Worthy of a second viewing.   Part of me wishes that MORE of the original series and intent would get translated here but that simply is not the case.

Originally Caesar (the son of Zira and Cornelius) is a leader of apes who had been made slaves by the humans.  They were initially pets, because dogs and cats inexplicably died off,  that eventually became slave labour.   All of this began of course when astronauts went out into space and returned to a planet ruled by apes.   As we later found out, the planet had been destroyed by nuclear war by the same humans.   There was plenty of political satire and the judiciary (a court case with ape laws ruling “humans have no rights”) as well as the Minister of Science who doubles as the Minister to Keep the Faith (Dr. Zaius).    I also miss the music of the original.     There is more of an adventure feel with more gun fights and battles.   That’s not necessarily a good thing, but here it works.

Of the movies I have seen so far this summer, this is the one that I like the most.   I am pleased that it lived up to the hype and expectations.

This weekend it was the RedBox rental of The Hobbit 2: the Desolation of Smaug.

I purposely had avoided this movie in the theatres and chosen to wait for when my investment would not be as harsh as a theatre ticket.  Spending $2 for Mr Jackson’s second installment of the slim book was better than $12.

First off, I find this very slow.  It takes forever to get things moving.   As much as the first one drags, and lingers far too long in scenes that could be characters putting on their shoes or cleaning out ear wax, this one continues in the plodding nature of the plot.    There are interminable scenes of walking again.  Or riding horses.   Moving from place to place.   The added bonus was the barrel ride in a rapid river with Orcs all on the sides shooting arrows and trying to kill these dwarves riding on a barrel (I can foresee the amusement park ride already!!!).   Yet amazingly I remember none of this, or even much in this film from the book.   There is much added.   Backstory to tie this one more to the LOTR (the albino Orc talking with the Master and speaking of impending war).    But also the Romeo and Juliet budding romance of dwarf and wood elf!   Poor Orlando Bloom (Legolas), he simply just can’t get the girl and will lose out to a guy half his size (now there is a blow to the ego!).    It is an overblown couple of hours, including the distracting part in the seaport with the slovenly leader who has overseen the erosion of a great City which the dragon took down years ago.   Ah, and then there is Smaug, who FINALLY shows up in the film after 90 minutes.   I never recall him speaking in the book.   But here he is full of conversation and bravado!   The visuals are impressive, but the conversations are not.     I do note an inconsistency in the story where Bilbo when wearing the ring, can hear the spiders talking in English amongst themselves, but not when he takes it off.   Curiously, he can hear the dragon with and without the ring.    In the end, an unsatisfying middle frame with the dragon heading off to destroy the sea city once again and Bilbo saying “What have we done?”    Suffice it to say that I will not rush out to see Hobbit 3.   I really preferred the book over the book series LOTR.  It was everything that LOTR was not; short, and moved along well, with a plot that was focused.   Sadly, it has been made slow and overly descriptive with unimportant sidebars that make it clumsy and weighed down.

Getting back into TV.   Can’t say that I feel the same compulsion as you.   Yet, you always seem  to find these quality foreign series that are intriguing and interesting.    Can’t say that much on this continent is worthy of that.   After Breaking Bad and seeing that in a marathon of sorts, I have not been back to TV, although I would like to catch up on HomeLand, which I do enjoy.   I also would like to follow up (if it has been produced) to the UK series with Gillian Anderson about the serial killer (The Fall).    I did catch the first episode of Turn with Billy Elliot and enjoyed that.  Missed episode 2.   NHL Playoffs are consuming much time!

You mentioned X-Files, and I saw quite a few of those episodes.   I think it was well put together with intriguing stories.  I think that Anderson and Duchovny both were excellent in it.  Played their roles well and were convincing.   There are people not doing enough work (Daniel Day Lewis, Edward Norton, Ryan Gosling) and Anderson comes to mind as well.    She is likely reaching that “over 40” mark which usually means an end to a career for an actress (unless your name is Streep or Dench).   Paging Debra Winger!

On to the review.  I went to see Transcendence in the theatre on Saturday night.   This is the Johnny Depp movie where he plays a brilliant computer engineer (A.I. prophet of sorts) and then has someone take an attempt on his life.   Turns out this person (a small cameo role by the Dumbo-eared actor kid from Witness) is part of a group that has led a well planned terrorist attack on A.I. labs and facilities.     Depp’s close Wife and friend eventually are determined to save him by “uploading” his brain waves/consciousness/thought patterns onto a powerful computer that he had worked on.   The rest is the developing story that pits the competing forces in this modern technological life examination that was explored in Her.   What is consciousness?   Can a computer become self-aware?    What makes us human?   Is there another level of evolution or development available for the human race?     The story is muddled and not terribly focused.   There is a romantic aspect of what is going on, but the real trouble for me is that you don’t really know who the “good guys” are.     Perhaps that’s the point in that there are no black hats to be worn, and all well-intention people who can take a good thing is morph it into something more sinister.    Sinister from a status quo point of view.    One group’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.   People fear what they do not understand, and after the credits role here, perhaps most people should fear this movie.

There were unexplored and unexplained aspects of this film.  For the most part you had an existing government that turned a blind eye to what was occurring, even when they were offered an open invitation to come inside and look at what was occurring.   But like About Time, there is a point at which that level of disbelief and looking for rational and reasonable explanation should be turned off.    It hurts the brain too much.

Post movie I read some of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and have to concur.   This is a subject matter clearly worth exploring (Her, Terminator and now this) yet I think it deserves a better story.   The issues are real.   They are timely.    And despite the movie, they shouldn’t be as confusing nor boring at times.

Last weekend I ended up see The Impossible with Naomi Watts and Even MacGregor.   An interesting side story there – we have a guy working at the Bank who has done work in Hollywood (acted in Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and done plenty of stage and screen work.   He hates Donny Osmond from working with him on Joseph and Amazing Dreamcoat.  He says that McGregor and Nicole Kidman got it on during a filming and she got pregnant from it – while she was with Tom.   Then she later had “a schmush-mortion”)  For what it’s worth!  Here in this movie we have the true story based upon a Spanish family, parents and three kids who survive the Tsunami in Thailand at Christmas time a few years back.   I was amazed to see that they used ‘real water’ and not CGI for it.  Impressive and wild getting that on film.   Quite a story – incredible that Buddy would leave his two boys with strangers to watch over while he looked for his Wife.   Remarkable!!  It is a compelling story with some major coincidences.   Still I wonder why the acting couldn’t have been done with Spanish actors?    Why on the Extras do they say that Naomi was “perfect” for the role of the Mom??!

Last night I rented About Time.   This is the (somewhat) romantic comedy about the red headed young man who has men in his family that can travel through  time.   His Father tells him matter-of-factly on his 21st birthday.   It is a casual conversation that trivializes the gift that he has been given.   In many ways you would think that the gift would be better served on something better than “getting a girlfriend”.    There are some decent comedic moments (one in particular is an Extra that was cut from the film about Abbey Road).   You need to suspend your disbelief almost from the beginning.   Things like the Butterfly effect doesn’t get explored – one little change in one place significantly altering everything that happens around it.    Not sure about the chemistry between the leads here with Carrot Top and Rachel McAdams.   Perhaps there is a part of me that thinks she is still with Ryan Gosling.    Anyway.   The last 30 minutes of the film get more serious.  There is an exploration of helping out other family members in various forms.   Ah the troubles with time travel and what happens if you mess with things, or try and press the reset button.   Even if it just for a few moments.   I think that you will find that last section fairly compelling.    The overall message is interesting, yet I still think that such a gift could be better utilized for the greater good.

Last night I saw Lovelace, with a cast that deserved a better movie.   $1.50 rental at Red Box.   Amanda Siefried willing to go topless.   Peter Skaarsgard playing Ike Turner pretty well as the young charmer who turns out to be an abusive controlling guy.   Ironic twist in cameo role with Eric Roberts playing a guy giving Linda a polygraph (Star 80 anyone) and his issues with Hugh Hefner.    Sharon Stone is almost unrecognizable as Linda’s Mom.    Robert Patrick plays the Father.    Other notables sprinkled throughout the cast.    Here is a muddled story that jumps around from  time to time and then back again.  Almost playing itself out as the fairy tale and then the more deep and dark and sinister bits thrown in.   Porn is an ugly business where only the top of the house is making money.   Others would argue this is the same for the entire movie industry.   Here we have darkness and this story, yet no real showing of the BJ ability that had everyone aghast (but no kidding on that front).     Can’t recommend this.   I am going to seek out Senna and see about maybe seeing Noah tomorrow.   Unsure if that is a good idea or not.

As an aside, Traynor in the movie who was married briefly to Lovelace, was later married to Marilyn Chambers who was almost as famous as Lovelace in the same industry.   He must have quite the connections in the business.     Certainly he did not take his own life after Lovelace left him.

Divergent.  I went and saw this last night.  To say that it is looking to springboard off the successes of Twilight and the Hunger Games would be entirely accurate.   Take a young female lead and put her into a futuristic story that involves worldwide domination.   Here, more like Hunger Games it is a futuristic world, where there is Big Brother/1984 organization for a post-war New World where conformity is the societal mantra.

Star Shailene Woodley is very good, but here she has very little to work with.  I like her and think that she was excellent as the eldest daughter to George Clooney in The Descendents.    The story here is pretty basic, yet unexplained for the most part.  As in many situations, you have to put aside logic and just go with it.   Or you are left with questions like:  so they put a wall around Chicago and set up this secular society (in houses much like Harry Potter, here called Factions) but then you don’t have yourself as the leader of all these factions.   Much of the history is foggy.   Or, why as part of this coup that is being undertaken is it necessary to wipe out an entire faction who has shown no weapons nor any aptitude for aggressive tactics?   Where are the adults in the more aggressive and protective faction?

Romantically, there is virtually no chemistry between our two lead performers.  He is channeling Keanu Reeves very well in playing dim and monosyllabic.    The relationship hinted at not-so-subtley early becomes more full blown as expected, and as a father of a 16yo girl I was very happy to see that our heroine actually utters that she does not want to “rush things”.   Thank God!!!   She’s 16!!!!

In the end, the movie as a first installment does not have me clamouring for more.   I feel no  compulsion to buy the books, and will let my daughter read them if she chooses.    I feel no need to see another one, except with the hope that our heroine is put through some more interesting challenges.

In the Trailers, there is the new Shailene movie called The Fault in Our Stars which mirrors it seems A Walk to Remember with a presumably dying young woman with a terminal illness who finds love when she feels it is something that she should not have.   Miss Woodley has cut her hair, but it seems like quite the tear jerker.

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