A Few Weeks Ago I Watched: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Before I checked out Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I finally saw the film that most people would argue re-launched the franchise in a promising way, and I’d agree. The first two acts of ‘Rise’ were incredible, presenting us with a compelling storyline involving the humans and apes. There’s a little bit of social commentary in the mix as you see the best and worst qualities of our own species, and the most extreme consequence of experimentation that’s far beyond our control.

The human characters (James Franco, Frieda Pinto, and Tom Felton) didn’t have much depth in them, but it’s the complete opposite for Caesar (portrayed by Andy Serkis), whose actions were completely captivating from childhood to maturity (I was going to say adolescence, but I’m not sure). The final scenes were a bit generic though, and it lost its steam because of that. Still, for a blockbuster with just a $93M-budget, they sure did a hell of a good job with the special effects. And the finished product my friends, is entertainment.

GRADE: B

 

Review #469: The Rover

A post-apocalyptic drama that prioritizes characters over setting to tell a story.

With society in decline, the rule of law has disintegrated and life is cheap. Hardened loner Eric travels the desolate towns and roads of the scorched and dangerous Australian outback. When a brutal gang of thieves steals his car and only remaining possession, they leave behind the wounded Rey in their wake. Forcing Rey to help track the gang, Eric gives chase. Determined beyond reason, unrelenting in the pursuit of his prey, Eric will go to any lengths to take back the one thing that matters to him. ~Wiki

The Rover presents the idea that not everything has to be about something. As those words are reiterated by Robert Pattinson near the ending I saw how it could be used to describe the film itself. Because most of the time, nothing is happening that requires much thought. Scenes of Guy Pearce and Pattinson talking in-between the tense moments is enough to keep you glued because you’ll want to discover more about their personalities and their motivations. The movie doesn’t give away anything about the ‘collapse’ of humanity unlike other doomsday offerings, and I’m glad it stayed that way as the focus remained on what matter the most: the people.

What began as nonsense eventually became an intriguing journey of two men seeking the same person for different reasons. It works because Pearce and Pattinson make it so believable, the latter in particular pulling off a career-building performance that will surely diminish skeptics who still think of him as Twilight’s Edward. It has solid, thrilling moments that make it a worthwhile theatrical offering and the cast alone is worth the price of admission.

GRADE: B

Review #468: Transformers – Age of Extinction

A hundred minutes of entertainment and an extra hour of junk

I’m at a loss. I left the theater feeling I got my money’s worth, but I can’t get over the fact that Age of Extinction lasted two hours and forty-five minutes. In this day and age no one has the free time – or patience – to sit through a blockbuster that long. But it wasn’t boring at all. It was just too damn much.

It’s a shame, since the franchise’s fourth installment possessed some legitimately great moments, but any ounce of momentum it had heading into the finale vaporized once it became clear that the apparent ending was in fact, just the conclusion of the second act. By the time the real climax arrived, I was too tired to even care.

Yes, Michael Bay has delivered the ultimate studio offering that will please enough people to keep the series going. The effects are top-notch, as expected from a Michael Bay film. The action sequences are fresh enough and the writing more solid than before (the previous films set a low bar though). In addition, Mark Wahlberg is a huge improvement over Shia Labeouf. He has that machismo that adds a certain degree of believability and maturity to the Transformers universe. Can’t say the same for Nicola Peltz though; between her and Megan Fox the latter is the better actress. And that’s an understatement.

Bing Bings are taking over Hollywood. So which one do you prefer, Li Bing Bing (above) or Fan Bing Bing (Blink in X-Men Days of Future Past)?

But, don’t expect it to be anything other than a Transformers film. It’s better than the second, but no greater than the first and third (if you still remember them, I can’t blame you if you don’t). The scenes in China featuring the feisty Li Bingbing kept things fresh (she’s was actually good), but if I were the one calling the shots, I’d much rather cut an hour of it  than witness a marathon of chaotic Bay-splosions over Hong Kong.

GRADE: C+

Mini-Review #467: 22 Jump Street

Occasionally funny buddy comedy with a high degree of self-awareness

There will always be summer movies like this each year: outrageously self-aware, filled with ad-libbed moments and offensive quips. What ultimately makes or breaks such a film is the chemistry between its leads. In 22 Jump Street’s case, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have undeniable rapport working together, and they fire up the jokes on-screen at the right moments.

Still, I had a feeling I’ve seen all this before. Oh yeah, I have…in 21 Jump Street! But at least they’re not hiding the fact that they’re doing the same thing all over again. And when you get to the end credits you can convince yourself that you had a good time watching it. For maximum laughs though have some friends along with you, as the saying ‘the more the merrier’ applies here.

GRADE: C+