Tag Archives: summer movie

War for the Planet of the Apes – Review

19 Jul

When Rise of the Planet of the Apes first came out in 2011, I didn’t really think anything of it. It took me a little while to finally get around to watching it and when I did, I was floored. The action, the story, and the superb special effects were movie magic at its purest. In 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released and improved on everything that was established in the first film. I thought that entry couldn’t be beaten, but here we are in 2017 with the third, and final, film in the trilogy called War for the Planet of the Apes. I am kind of sad to see this trilogy ending, but it’s remained a solid example of blockbuster film making and this latest entry may be the best of the new Planet of the Apes trilogy.

Years after the Simian Flu infected and wiped out a large portion of humanity, the apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) struggle to survive in the woods that provide limited isolation from vengeful human survivors. After their camp is attacked by a military faction called Alpha-Omega, Caesar decides it’s time to move camp for good, but disaster soon strikes which escalates the need to move but also ignites a vengeful spirit hidden deep within Caesar. Along with his trusted friends Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), and Rocket (Terry Notary), the ape leader sets out to find the base where Alpha-Omega is located. The group finally arrives and sees that AO, along with its vicious leader Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson), has taken the other apes captive and are forcing them to build a wall to protect Alpha-Omega from arriving military forces. As Caesar comes face to face with an enemy like this that he has yet to encounter, he must look at his actions and the needs of his clan to determine how to proceed and get everyone to safety once and for all.

The first thing I have to talk about with this movie is the special effects. I honestly believe that these new Planet of the Apes movies are the shining example of how to use motion capture and computer generated effects to tell a story and make a movie feel more complete. Remember the old Planet of the Apes films and the costumes that were used for the apes. Looking back on them they look kind of odd, and this coming from someone who adores the original series, even at its cheesiest. The motion capture effects for Caesar and the rest of the apes instill them with a level of reality that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise, and I can say this for every film in this trilogy. There are a few close up where the eyes of these apes look so real that it’s hard to believe they just don’t have actual apes playing these roles. While I’m on this topic, can Andy Serkis just get an Oscar already. The emotions and movements of Caesar are all Serkis and I feel like he doesn’t get the praise that he has deserved for years.

With this being the final film of the trilogy, I expected this to be the largest and most epic in terms of scale. This really isn’t the case. Rise of the Planet of the Apes has a huge finale on the Golden Gate Bridge, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has Koba and his followers attacking the humans in an all out battle, but War for the Planet of the Apes has a climax that is relatively smaller in comparison. This doesn’t make it more intense, however. When the major conflict of the film is finally addressed, which is the tension between Caesar and the Colonel, it’s a devastating scene that completely reinforces the themes that this movie is presenting and the moral strength and beliefs of the characters. There is a lot less action here, but Caesar’s war to free his apes and lead them to freedom is a continuing struggle that will leave your eyes glued to the screen for the nearly two and a half hour long runtime. There can be a lot of adjectives used to describe this movie, but boring would not be one of them.

The story to this film isn’t just a leave your brain at the door kind of narrative. In fact, I feel like I need to watch this movie again to fully see everything this movie had to offer. From beginning to end, there’s Biblical symbolism sprinkled throughout which can be both obvious and subtle. While there’s also clear hero and villains in this movie, writer/director Matt Reeves is interested in also showing the flaws of both. Caesar starts to see a lot of Koba in himself which frightens him, and the Colonel has motivations to do what he does other than just pure evil and sadism. This makes the story and the outcome feel heavier and puts it a step above the average summer blockbuster. I will say, there are a few moments of this movie where the suspension of disbelief is taken to the most extreme. One scene in particular actually pulled me out of the cinematic trance I was in and prompted me to turn to my friend, who was equally confused, and just ask why the film makers would make this choice.

War for the Planet of the Apes is one of the strongest summer blockbusters to come out in quite a while and is certainly the strongest film in this new Planet of the Apes trilogy. It explores themes of leadership and morality in such deep ways while also telling a science fiction/fantasy story of highly intelligent apes fighting for survival. With a story like that successfully tackling themes that deep, you know this film has to be something special. It also works as an intense action/adventure film that has plenty of exciting moments to keep the viewer on the edge of their seats. One more time for the people in the back, GIVE ANDY SERKIS AN OSCAR. In all seriousness though, War for the Planet of the Apes is an excellent film, and this entire trilogy shouldn’t be missed out on.

Final Grade: A

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Spider-Man: Homecoming – Review

15 Jul

It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached our 16th Marvel movie, and it’s finally one that stars my favorite superhero of all time: Spider-Man. In Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland was introduced as Peter Parker, also known as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. It was really exciting to see a new iteration of the character that wasn’t awful (Yes, I’m looking at you Amazing Spider-Man). Now, Holland’s back and he’s front and center in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I have to say, I love the Web Head, and this was a really good movie that’s here to kickstart his own series of stand alone films. In that way, it works really well and I can’t wait to see it again, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in the end result.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) seems like a mild mannered teenager just struggling to fit in at school. His best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), is socially inept but lovable, but what Parker really can’t get his mind off of is Liz (Laura Harrier), the girl of his dreams who he fears he doesn’t stand a chance with. Seems like pretty normal stuff for a guy his age, but after school he also fights crime in anyway he can as the superhero, Spider-Man. He can’t seem to get too far in his crimefighting endeavors with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) constantly on his case about his safety and how his abilities have progressed. Things get even riskier when Spidey finds out that Chitauri weaponry is being sold on the streets of New York, and the culprit is one Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture (Michael Keaton). Peter is determined to get these weapons off the street and stop Vulture, but despite his good intentions and will power he still doesn’t have the full range of his powers nor his suit, which will make this particular mission very difficult to accomplish.

I had really high hopes going into this movie just because my favorite superhero was finally getting a proper MCU treatment, but also because of all the rave reviews I was hearing about from screenings before the official release date. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me and think I thought the movie was bad. That’s simply not the case, and I’d go so far as to say it was really good. Let’s get the negatives out of the way immediately so we can get into the good stuff later. My biggest complaint is that a lot of the story focused on Peter’s school. I understand that Spider-Man is a younger hero, especially compared to some of the other Avengers (that means you, Cap), and it is a good idea to show his interactions with kids his own age. All of the actors were very good, but it just wasn’t nearly as interesting as what was happening with Vulture and the Chitauri weapons. I’m also not thrilled when superheroes in their films don’t have full control over their powers. I know this is Spidey’s first film in the MCU and he has a lot of growing to do, but it was such a tease to see him webbing all over New York while I was thinking he was capable of so much more. I will say, however, that I’m excited to see the character evolve more in the movies to come.

Now that we got the negatives out of the way, it’s time to have some more fun. Let’s start with the cast. Tom Holland is clearly the best choice to play a young Peter Parker. He’s full of the nervous energy that defines Peter, but once you get him in that Spider-Man suit, he all attitude and brimming with that lovable arrogance that only the Web-Slinger could pull off. There’s also scenes that get pretty heavy on the drama and Holland also manages to pull those scenes off with relative ease. At this point, there really is no one else for this role. He completely owns it. Michael Keaton as Vulture was also unsurprisingly great, but what is surprising is just how well rounded Vulture was. The MCU doesn’t always have the strongest villains, especially since Loki in the first Avengers movie. Keaton gives what could be the best villain performance since Hiddleston. His character has some real depth and understandable motivation, but that motivation could have certainly been explored just a little bit more. Who surprised me the most out of the whole cast was Jacob Batalon as Ned. He had some of the funniest lines in the movie but he wasn’t there solely for comedic relief. He actually got into the adventure with Spider-Man/Peter Parker and it made his character all the better for it.

Let’s get to the action, since that’s something these movies rely so heavily on. Is the action in Homecoming fantastic? Sometimes. It definitely has its moments, but like I said before, Spidey doesn’t have complete control of his powers yet. Vulture’s suit does look awesome in these sequences though, and Jon Watts does have a good eye for directing large action set pieces, which is certainly not an easy thing to do. Adding to the pleasing aesthetics of this movie is Michael Giacchino’s excellent score that fits every piece of action, drama, and comedy perfectly. I’ve always liked Giacchino’s work and this entry into his catalogue is extra impressive. Finally, we have to take a look at how this movie fits in with the others of the MCU. Well, to put it simply, it fits very well. Tony Stark being in the movie works great, but the character that really pulled me into the world building even more was Happy. He provided some excellent comedic relief and also helped push the overall story of the MCU forward. This movie doesn’t just get me excited for more Spider-Man movies, it also gets me pumped for whatever comes next in this universe we’ve all gotten so attached to. Finally, and without spoiling anything, keep an eye out for some of Spider-Man’s most iconic villains that share some screen time with Vulture.

Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t quite the movie I wanted it to be. It focused a lot on Peter’s high school life while I could’ve used a bit more with the villains and their evil schemes, and even some more time with Tony and Happy. This is Spider-Man’s first feature length movie in this universe, so I understand the character building, but it didn’t excite me the way I wanted it to. Luckily, Tom Holland and Michael Keaton’s performances were outstanding and the action sequences along with the music were as thrilling as they could ever be. The Wall-Crawler definitely has a good future in front of him in terms of the big screen and I can’t wait to see the next installment.

Final Grade: B+

Star Trek Beyond – Review

26 Jul

Let me just say this right off the bat. I love Star Trek, and by “love it,” I mean to say it’s one of my favorite things in the entire United Federation of Planets. That being said, I’m completely fine with admitting that it is certainly not a perfect franchise. A perfect case and point would be the 1989 stinker, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. But that was a long time ago, and now we have movies in this continuing series made with a much bigger budget and newer, younger actors playing the iconic roles. The reboot of Star Trek was pretty good and Star Trek Into Darkness was great. So where does that leave Star Trek Beyond? To put it simply, this is not a perfect movie, but it’s a more than adequate summer blockbuster and a nice fit with the previous lore that was established in the original series.

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After passing the two and a half year mark of their five year mission, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is starting to lose sight of this mission’s purpose. While the USS Enterprise is docked at the Federation’s most technologically advanced starbase, Yorktown, a distress transmission and escape pod is received which prompts Kirk, Spock (Zacahry Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban) and the rest of the team to travel to the source of the distress call. While en route, the Enterprise is attacked and destroyed by Krall (Idris Elba), a vengeful being looking for something of high importance on board Kirk’s ship. Now stranded on the planet’s surface and on the run from Krall and his army, the crew of the now destroyed Enterprise must band back together after being separated and stop Krall from unleashing his master plan upon the Federation.

The first thing I noticed after the movie was over and I began thinking about it was that it felt like a really long Star Trek episode, and isn’t that really what it’s all about? If the formula of something is so good and malleable that it has lasted 50 years, why change it now? There have been countless episodes with people stuck on a planet with some sort of antagonist, and it usually ends up with their clashing and Kirk’s shirt ripping. This takes that premise and ups the ante by a lot. The budget for Star Trek Beyond was obviously huge and it shows in some of the more impressive action set pieces. One scene in particular involving a Beastie Boys song on full blast kind of stole the show for me. This is a very exciting movie, and might be the most action packed of the rebooted movies thus far. That being said, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Star Trek Into Darkness because of some key reasons that bothered me a little.

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Right from the trailer, I knew that most of this movie would not take place on the Enterprise, and it turns out that I was correct. This is a little disappointing for me because a lot of the joy I get from Star Trek is watching these incredibly skilled characters work and operate as a team on their starship. The team work is still there in this movie, of course, but most of it happens on the planet’s surface instead of on the bridge of a ship. This is quickly rectified in the last third of the movie, which is stunning to say the least, but I would’ve like to see more on the Enterprise. Also, I feel like some of the characters were underutilized. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) are pretty much held hostage for a large chunk of the movie while McCoy and Spock are just walking around trying to find people. The characters that get to see most of the action are Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), who really seem to be at the center of the action for most of the film, and Scotty (Simon Pegg) who meets a really cool character named Jayla (Sofia Boutella) and helps her repair her ship. Krall doesn’t even have much to do until the very end, but like I said, that third act is a real wild ride.

It’s surprising that it wasn’t very widespread that year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that this film was pushed back so it could be kind of a celebration for the franchise. Star Trek Beyond, and really all of the movies in the rebooted series, pay a lot of respect to the original television show and movies. For one thing, Leonard Nimoy has been in them, and even is given plenty of recognition in this film, which was great to see since Nimoy passed away early last year. I already mentioned that this film felt like a long episode of the original series, and in a way that’s the perfect homage to a show that changed t.v. and get people talking. There’s one scene in particular near the end that recognizes the original show and pays tribute so well, it plastered a great big smile on my face.

Despite some mild disappointment with certain aspects of the story and characters, it’s impossible for me to say that Star Trek Beyond was a bad movie. In fact, it was a very good movie, and I liked it way more than I thought I would. All of the actors really know who their characters are and play them really well, while also interacting with each other very well. The passing of both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin does add some sadness to the experience, but nothing is lost because of it. Star Trek Beyond provides fans and newcomers alike with some great action, entertainment, and drama while the franchise keeps succeeding at its mission of boldly taking audiences where no one has gone before.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Review

31 Aug

Hollywood seems to be in a very nostalgic mood these past few years, what with all the remakes and reboots of movies and shows that newer generations may have never seen or heard of. It’s a nice idea, but it’s kind of being overloaded. Probably the strangest choice I’ve seen recently is Guy Ritchie’s newest film The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I say this because it was a show that was deeply rooted in the Cold War paranoia of the 1960s, even though it was a very light hearted, tongue in cheek kind of show. Of course, I trusted Ritchie’s skill with making this movie, and while it is far from being his best, it’s still an entertaining ride that breathes some colorful life during the end of the summer blockbuster season.

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The movie wastes no time getting started with American spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) on a mission in East Berlin to extract a woman named Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) and bring her over the Berlin Wall. During the mission, and unbeknownst to him, a KGB agent, Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is hot in his heels to stop him. What the two soon realize, is that they are being set up by their respective governments and soon Solo and Kuryakin are teamed up to stop an even bigger threat to both the Soviets and the Americans. This threat is a nuclear bomb being manufactured for a family of Nazi sympathizers, and the physicist building the bomb is Gaby’s estranged father. Now it’s up to Solo, Kuryakin, and Teller to gather all the information on this family as they can and stop them before they do serious damage to the world, and possibly start a war.

In 1963 when the television show was aired, it was pretty crazy to have an American and Soviet spy working together. It’s actually a really cool idea and made the stories seem more global. That being said, the show is incredibly dated, and while it is a lot of fun, it can be just as silly. What is really cool about this new adaptation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is that Guy Ritchie doesn’t try to make this a dark story with life ending drama and suspense that is almost too sharp. Negative. This film actually feels like a 2 hour long episode, but with different people of course. That may be a problem for some people who want to have something deeper to watch, but that’s just not going to be found here. This is light hearted summer fun.

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With Snatch and the Sherlock Holmes movies and the rest of Ritchie’s filmography, there’s one thing that is always present in every single one of his movies. Style. Lots and lots and lots of style. Then some more style, probably enough for three movies. Really, who best to mush together the vibes of the swingin’ sixties and the paranoia and fear of the Cold War? The colors in this movie really pop, but never does it feel like an exaggeration. There are certain scenes, however, where the style is exaggerated. The camera flies all over the place, the pictures spin and blend together, there’s split screen shots, and all of this combined with the music that any Guy Ritchie fan knows all too well.

Now, while this is a spy movie, it’s also a comedy. Cavill’s and Hammer’s chemistry is great, and it’s fun to see the two start their mission hating each other and grow closer to the spies that were scene in the original television show. The actors also have their characters down perfectly. Solo is pompous and snide, but also certainly likable while Kuryakin is a tough as nails Russian who’s weaknesses are revealed throughout the course of the movie. Seeing both of these people in scenes where they’re out of their element provides some of the most enjoyable parts of the film, even though some of the more straightforward jokes fall flat.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. feels like a much smaller blockbuster than most of the other movies to come out this summer, but it still provides a few hours of serious fun and a lot of laughs. Compared to SnatchSherlock Holmes, and even Rock ‘n’ Rolla, this film feels like one of the weaker movies made by Guy Ritchie, but that’s not to say that it isn’t quite good. It’s not necessarily action packed or thrilling, but it’s a fun ride into the vintage world of Cold War espionage, and one that doesn’t take itself to seriously.

Inside Out – Review

26 Jun

There’s movies that come out once every so often that grab you by the head and makes it loud and clear that you are watching a work of greatness. Fortunately for Pixar, they’ve done that quite a bit with the Toy Story films, Monsters Inc., and Up.  I’m proud to say that they’ve done it again with their latest film, Inside Out. I didn’t know a lot about what the movie was about going into it other then the basic idea of it, nor was I extraordinarily excited about it, but this movie completely blew me away and will have me thinking for weeks.

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Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is a normal young girl with loving parents who one day has to undergo a move from her house in Minnesota, leaving her hockey team and friends behind, to San Francisco. While normally keeping things under control in her mind’s control room, Riley’s emotions begin spiraling out of control not being sure on how to handle something like this. Joy (Amy Poehler) is getting increasingly worried that Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is going to turn all of Riley’s “core memories” into sad ones, which she doesn’t need at this point in her life. This clash of interests sends Joy and Sadness on a journey through Riley’s mind, leaving Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) in charge. While Joy and Sadness work to get Riley’s life back on track, the other emotions may inadvertently cause her to do something drastic.

While Toy Story and it’s sequels appealed to kids who obviously love their toys and Monsters Inc. let kids face their fears in a humorous way, I’m not very sure that Inside Out will stay with kids as much as it will teenagers and adults. This movie deals with complex human emotions using different personifications and metaphors to explain them, that I feel only people who is of the age to wrap their head around these ideas are going to feel the overwhelming happiness and appreciation that I have for this movie. Like the emotions and processes of though that it is personifying, this is actually a pretty complex film.

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What other movie can you say actually had its characters ride the Train of Thought? That’s only one example of the fine creativity that is at work here. There’s another great scene where a few of the characters enter the realm of abstract thought, resulting in some great animation but also unusually intelligent psychological banter. Really, the whole world of Riley’s mind is a place to behold. It’s so colorful and full of movement and different mind employees that there are plenty of things to laugh at and enjoy onscreen at any one moment. It’s no surprise that this movie looked so beautiful, considering Pixar has never really made an ugly movie.

Once again, like all of the emotions of Inside Out, your own emotions will run the gauntlet. This is promise you. Remember the first 15 minutes or so of Up? The movie doesn’t quite hit you that hard, but the sadness that you feel is a kind of nostalgic sadness. There are moments in this movie where you’ll look back on your own childhood and remember feeling a way that is shown in the movie. In that same vein, however, this movie will make you laugh, and laugh a lot. How extreme the emotions act with each other is such a joy to watch along with all of the mental puns thrown throughout. Also, the fact that Anger is always reading a newspaper can’t be a coincidence. It’s a perfectly casted movie with nearly perfect writing.

Simply put, Inside Out is probably going to be one of the best films I’ll see this entire year, and definitely one that’s destined to be a classic. I don’t mean that just for animated movies, but for movies in general. While I can’t say it’s exactly for kids, I’m sure kids will really enjoy the movie, but adults are going to have the times of their lives with this movie. It’s undeniably smart, highly emotional, and just completely beautiful. It would be a sin to miss out on this film, so please don’t.