The True War For The Planet Of The Apes Is Within Caesar’s Soul

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The third film in the Planet of the Apes reboot/prequel, War for the Planet of the Apes, is a fitting conclusion to this unexpectedly great film trilogy. The film series follows the emotional journey of Caesar (motion captured by Andy Serkis), the super intelligent chimpanzee capable of speech who fights to defend his kind, while while he grapples with intense moral questions. In this film, Caesar is an embittered and weary leader who finds himself fighting a very different kind of war.

Taking place 15 years after the first film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this film opens with Caesar and his band of super smart apes besieged by human military forces in the thick forests of the west coast U.S. During the trilogy a deadly virus wiped out most of humanity and apes rapidly evolved to have human-level intelligence. Both humanity and apes are in dire straits. Caesar only wants his kind to be left alone, while the desperate humans see the apes as a threat to their dominion of the Earth.

Tragic events lead to Caesar undergoing a dark metamorphosis where he has come to hate humanity as vengeance rules his heart. He sets out on his own to hunt down the human responsible for his misery, a crazed soldier known as the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) that leads a rogue military unit. However, his closest compatriots, which include the gentle and wise Maurice (motion captured by Karin Konoval), an orangutan,  refuse to leave his side. During their journey, they come across two new and interesting characters, Nova (Amiah Miller), a young mute human girl, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn in a motion capture performance), a nearly hairless and humorous chimpanzee who is also able to talk. Both characters in their ways represent the downfall and promise of both species. While both Nova and Bad Ape’s arcs were fascinating to watch, Caesar’s emotional turmoil is the heart of this film and that is where the real war rages.

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Without giving too much away, the film’s title is misleading. War for the Planet of the Apes isn’t an action-packed military film with epic battle scenes boasting large armies. There are some well choreographed battle scenes, but this film is more of a meditative drama that makes viewers think about the moral complexities facing Caesar. It is disheartening to see Caesar’s arc from the wide eyed and innocent ape in the first film to an angry and dark soldier in this film. He is not some bloodthirsty savage and deep inside he is a good being. It is just that sad circumstances have challenged Caesar and he questions how he has changed for the worse. That is the true war in this film, where his soul is the battlefield and prize and it is not clear how this inner battle will conclude. This spiritual conflict define Caesar and makes him seem so…human and is the true highlight of War for the Planet of the Apes.

Of course, the film has so much more going for it than Caesar’s soul searching. The other characters are just as engaging as the lead ape. The Colonel is a truly frightening beast of a man who wants to ensure the survival of his species. What is disturbing to us is that we can relate to his point of view and wonder if we would be as desperate as him if we faced the same dilemma. Unlike the past films, there is less emphasis on the humans as the apes dominate the film. So as a result the human characters are not as nuanced as in past films. There are some other drawbacks to this film; mainly that the plot features some biblical allegories that are a bit heavy handed and telegraph how some stories will play out. But the film’s merits make up for the flaws.

The film boasts the best special effects of all the Apes films. By now, the CGI apes look flawless. There were many instances where it is easy to believe that real apes were used. The motion capture and the special effects are completely convincing. The film is beautifully shot with rich colors and perfect composition as we witness a richly textured post-apocalyptic world that is being reclaimed by nature and the apes.

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However, these merits would not mean anything without the brilliant performances of Serkis and the others. It is a crime that Andy Serkis has not won an Academy Award for his work and he certainly deserves one for this film as it’s his best work. The Academy just has to get over its hang up about motion capture and recognize its powerful artistry, which is this film exudes.

So, how does War for the Planet of the Apes compare with the other films in the trilogy? It is hard to say at this point, but this film holds its own compared to the earlier films, although Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best one in the series. Nevertheless, War for the Planet of the Apes is a powerful and thoughtful finale to this trilogy that should not be missed.

José Soto

 

 

The Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2017 & More

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By looking at the 2017 films coming out, it’s clear that we fans are in a golden age of genre films. There are many sci-fi, superhero, fantasy, animated and horror films coming out this year that are quite tantalizing. These are the most promising looking of the bunch. However, it’s a guarantee that some of the films on this list will be colossal disappointments while there will be films that weren’t even mentioned that will defy low expectations. With that said, let’s look at the coming 2017 films; remember the release dates are still subject to change.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7): Marvel Comics’ flagship superhero has his first solo film in the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Fingers crossed that this Spider-Man reboot will resonate.

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9. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21): Director Luc Besson’s adaptation of the French space opera comic book looks as colorful as its printed counterpart. Based on this teaser, Besson’s directorial eye for the grandiose and colorful could augment this film and prove that space opera films are back.

8. Kong: Skull Island (March 10): King Kong returns to the big screen and we can’t wait to see the gigantic ape on a rampage as pesky folks arrive on his island. We’re also eager to see the big fight scenes between Kong and prehistoric beasts and oversized animals.

7. Wonder Woman (June 2): Frankly, after the mixed results of last year’s Extended Universe (DCEU) films, DC and Warner Bros. need a DCEU film to hit it out of the ballpark. With Patty Jenkins directing and Gal Gadot starring as the Amazonian superheroine, perhaps this will be the one.

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6. Justice League (Nov 17): The only reason why this DCEU film is more anticipated than Wonder Woman is because of its potentially epic nature. The major players in the DC universe team up for the first time…can director Zack Snyder pull this off and turn the film into the DCEU version of The Avengers?

5. Blade Runner 2049 (Oct. 6): The teaser released last month wasn’t the most captivating trailer. But this long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic is being directed by Denis Villeneuve, the next hot genre director, who directed last year’s acclaimed Arrival. His visual flair should be a good match for this film.

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4. Logan (March 3): Hugh Jackman’s swan song as everyone’s favorite mutant looks like it will be a fitting conclusion to Wolverine’s saga. Taking place in the near future, Logan is now older, battered and bitter but still up for one final fight against the forces of evil.  The trailer promised a film full of woe, violence and reflective character moments, hopefully that will be the case when Logan finally premieres.

3. War For the Planet of the Apes (July 14): The third film in the reboot/prequel Apes trilogy looks just as spectacular and provocative as the first two films in the series. Andy Serkis returns to mo-cap Caesar the ape leader defending his kind against antogonistic humans. The winner of the conflict will inherit the battered Earth. We know who wins (it’s not called Planet of the Apes for no reason!), but getting to the conclusion is half the joy of these recent Apes films.

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2. Star Wars Episode VIII (Dec. 15):  No subtitle, footage or even a publicity photo are available at this time, yet the episode number is enough to get many of us excited. The next saga film will feature the further adventures of new Star Wars heroes like Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron, as well as old favorites like Luke Skywalker and General Leia. While many questions will be answered about the characters and situation, hopefully Episode VIII won’t emulate Star Wars: The Force Awakens and be a rethread of previous films.

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1. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 5): The eagerly anticipated sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy looks like a blast as director James Gunn and the original cast return to play the MCU’s beloved and whacky space pirates. This time around Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord meets his father who is Ego, the Living Planet and played by genre legend Kurt Russell! What’s been shone so far of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2  with the too-cute Baby Groot, Quill and Drax’s hysterical interplays and space opera visuals promises the same dazzling action, thrills, and comedy that the original delivered back in 2014 and won many fans’ hearts. BTW, can’t wait to buy the Baby Groot toys!

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Other Films: The Space Between Us (Feb. 3), a Martian teen comes to Earth, finds love, goes on the run, perfect for tweenies, The Lego Batman Movie (Feb. 10), after his scene stealing antics in The Lego Movie, the Caped Crusader gets his own solo film, Beauty and the Beast (March 17), Disney looks to extend its winning live-action adaptation streak with this one about the animated classic, Life (March 24), astronauts aboard the International Space Station discover alien life, what can go wrong?  Power Rangers (Mar. 24), well there are fans of this property and it looks better than Transformers: The Last Knight!

alien-covenantGhost in the Shell (Mar. 31), Scarlett Johansson stars in the live-action version of the manga franchise,  The Circle (April 28), Tom Hanks and Emma Watson headline a star-studded cast in this film about a nefarious Internet company with futuristic technology,  Alien: Covenant (May 19), Ridley Scott returns to the Alien universe with this horror-themed prequel,  The Mummy (June 9), Tom Cruise stars in this horror/action remake which hopes to launch Universal Pictures’ shared monster universe films.

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 The Dark Tower (July 28), Stephen King’s epic saga about a mythical gunman finally comes to life, It (Sept. 8), is another Stephen King adaptation of his epic horror classic featuring Pennywise the killer clown,  Geostorm (Oct. 20), producer Dean Devlin makes his directorial debut in this action piece about weather controlling satellites, God Particle (Oct. 27), interest in this film went up after it was revealed to be the third film in the Cloverfield film series, Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3): the third solo film for the MCU’s God of Thunder will actually be a buddy flick as Thor teams up with the Hulk to fight the forces of evil, Coco (Nov 22), this Pixar entry about a magic guitar and the world of the dead sounds unique.

José Soto

 

Dawn Rises Above Other Planet Of The Apes Films

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The newest Planet Of The Apes film, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a direct sequel to the surprisingly great and captivating Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. That film introduced audiences to the wonder of Caesar (mo-capped by the great Andy Serkis), the first speaking, super intelligent ape and his struggle against humanity. That strife continues with this new film that takes place ten years after the last one. Anyone who saw the last movie knew that in the wake of Caesar’s simian uprising, a genetically engineered virus accidently began to spread throughout humanity and this new movie shows us the aftermath of the pandemic.

Half the human population is gone, but remnants of society are struggling to rebuild. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes takes place in a ruined San Francisco, where a colony of humans plan to use a dormant hydroelectric dam to restore power to the broken city. What the humans didn’t realize is that a burgeoning civilization headed by super intelligent apes (consisting of chimps, gorillas and orangutans) occupies the land where the dam is located.

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During a scouting trip, a group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) encounters the apes. A tense standoff ensues that is ended when Caesar commands the humans to leave the primeval forest. Back in San Francisco, the leader of the colony, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) wants to take an army and decimate the apes, but Malcolm recognizes Caesar’s intelligence and reason. He manages to buy time from Dreyfus to return to the forest and negotiate for permission to work on the apes’ land and reactivate the dam. Malcolm and his group return and manages to convince Caesar that they are peaceful and so the ape leader allows them to work on the dam, though he is very distrustful towards the humans.

There is a thick tension that hangs throughout this film as audiences wait for the fragile peace to break. But there are moments of quiet contemplation and reverence as Malcolm and the humans connect with Caesar and many of his apes. Of course, while many humans, especially those in the city, strongly dislike the apes, so too, do many apes harbor hostility towards the humans. Leading this contingent is the brutally ugly Koba (Toby Kebbell), who was briefly seen in the last film as a victim of lab experimentation. Koba with his ghastly scars has an unquenchable hatred towards humans and as Caesar’s second-in-command, cannot fathom why the simian leader is so lenient towards the humans. Shockingly enough, this distrust also extends to Caesar’s own son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), who provides an intriguing sub plot where he grapples with his own feelings towards humans. This is part of a spiritual tug of war between Caesar and Koba, as the latter ape uses deceit to bring Blue Eyes to his point of view. Continue reading

Ten Films To Look For In 2014

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Even though next year promises to be a mega-tsunami in terms of mind-blowing cinematic genre releases, this year won’t be a slouch. Superheroes, sequels and some original productions all look promising. These are are some of the most anticipated releases for 2014. Of course, some of them may wind up being major disappointments, while other films that weren’t even listed may turn out to be some of this year’s best. We’ll see…

10. Robocop

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Yes, many genre fans are ripping this remake of the 1987 classic a new one. They point out the production problems and hate the monochromatic look of the redesigned Robocop suit. But in the end, at least from the trailers, it looks pretty badass. A lot will depend on if director José Padilha can deliver the action and somehow repeat the dark humor from the original and maybe add some humanity. (Release Date: Feb. 12)

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans reprises his role as Marvel’s capamman out of time, Steve Rogers/Captain America. This sequel takes a decidedly different slant than its World War II-based predecessor. Now set in modern times, the film takes on more of a spy thriller vibe as Steve struggles to adjust to the new world and is embroiled in a plot that involves the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. and his old partner, the deadly Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). (Release Date April 4)

8. The Hobbit: There And Back Again

Unless Peter Jackson plans on directing The Silmarillion, this is his final Middle Earth installment. Even for those that aren’t fans of Jackson’s interpretations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, this final film in The Hobbit trilogy is an event to celebrate. Now once and for all, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his dwarf comrades have their final confrontations with the evil orcs and the dragon Smaug. (Release Date: Dec. 17).

7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

First of all, the trailer for the newest Spider-Man flick looks amazing (pardon the pun) with all the spectacular (ahem) action scenes involving our favorite Wall-Crawler (Andrew Garfield) fighting Electro (Jamie Foxx). However, can this movie avoid the curse of other superhero sequels that have too many supervillains? Along with Electro, there’s a mechanized version of the Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and the most intriguing villain of the bunch: a rebooted Green Goblin (either Chris Cooper or Dane DeHaan). (Release Date: May 2)

6. Interstellar

interSteven Spielberg was supposed to direct this movie about scientists and explorers sent on a mission to study a newly discovered wormhole. However, he let it slip through his hands and now acclaimed director Christopher Nolan has taken over. The teaser trailer released last month perfectly captured that feeling of humanity desiring a new challenge and to push past our limitations of space travel. Given Nolan’s track record for thought-provoking and titillating fare, Interstellar should be one of the year’s best films. (Release Date: Nov. 7)

5. Guardians Of The Galaxy  

This superhero/space opera mash up from Marvel Studios is one of the most anticipated upcoming releases. From the casting (Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord) to the fact that the studio and director James Gunn had the gumption to include Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a talking tree, in this film, Guardians Of The Galaxy has to be seen. It can be the next big sci-fi hit or the new Howard The Duck. Hopefully it won’t suffer the fate of other misunderstood films that failed recently in the box office like John Carter and Pacific Rim. (Release Date: Aug. 1)

4. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

The 2011 reboot/prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was an unexpected surprise hit with audiences and critics. Prior to its release, few predicted that it would reinvigorate the Planet Of The Apes franchise. This sequel takes place eight years after the 2011 film after a plague has decimated humanity and given genetically enhanced apes a chance to take over the world. Humanity’s remnants led by Gary Oldman head into a fateful confrontation with their competitors, who are led by the now-embittered chimp leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). (Release Date: July 11)

3. Godzilla

Our favorite kaiju finally gets the top treatment godzillathat he deserves from Hollywood! Forget that bastardization that came out in ’98 with that wimpy reptile and that geeky Ferris Bueller dude! After all these years, director Gareth Edwards and the producers have promised this take will be the Godzilla film that we’ve been waiting for; where the behemoth is an indestructible force of nature and is treated as one. Toss in Bryan Cranston, one of the best actors around, scenes of chaos and destruction, and this has the potential to be a bonafide classic. (Release Date: May 16)

2.Transcendence

First-time director Wally Pfister, who worked as a cinematographer for Christopher Nolan’s films presents this cautionary film that capitalizes on our fears of A.I.s.  Johnny Depp stars as a scientist trying to create a true A.I. but is mortally wounded by an anti-tech group. Before dying, his consciousness is uploaded into a computer and the world’s first A.I. is born. There is a chilling aspect in the trailer released for Transcendence as the A.I. begins to take over the world. Think of it as an updated version of Colossus: The Forbin Project but with the A.I. being able to control matter itself. In a film calendar flooded with sequels and reboots this original work stands out. (Release Date: April 8)

1. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Finally, a big-screen adaptation of one of the greatest comic book stories ever done. In a post-apocalyptic future, mutants face extinction at the hands of out-of-control Sentinel robots. In desperation, one mutant time travels to the past to prevent the mutant holocaust. Director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men film franchise in this followup to X-Men: First Class. The key cast members from that film (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence), plus those from Singer’s era of X-Men films (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman) return in an all-star lineup. Bryan Singer and company are promising a major epic, and from what has been seen, it looks like Singer will deliver a high-quality superhero film that could be one of the best ones yet. (Release Date: May 23)

Bear in mind that the release dates are subject to change, even to the point of a film or two being pushed back a year. Other highly anticipated films include Big Hero 6 (Disney Studios presents its first animated film based on Marvel Comics superheroes),  edgeEdge Of Tomorrow (Tom Cruise stars as an inexperienced soldier who repeatedly dies fighting aliens and is continuously resurrected into his past with more combat knowledge each time), The Giver (A teenager in a future perfect society finds out that to achieve perfection his world gave up on humanity), Home (Dreamworks Animation effort about a girl who befriends a misfit alien that is part of an Earth invasion force), How To Train Your Dragon 2 (One of Dreamworks Animation’s best films about a boy and his pet dragon gets the sequel treatment), The Hunger Games: Mockinjay, Part 1 (the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy is getting the Harry Potter and Twilight treatment and is being cut into two parts), I, Frankenstein (delayed from last year, it stars Aaron Eckhart as the title character in modern times fighting for humanity), Jupiter Ascending (The Wachowskis attempt another comeback with this sci-fi action piece starring Mila Kunis), and Welcome To Yesterday (a found-footage film about young adults discovering time travel and its disastrous consequences).

José Soto

Looking Ahead To Next Summer’s Films

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Even though summer doesn’t officially end for another couple of weeks, the summer movie season is basically over. Gone now are the blockbuster genre releases. It’s been a mixed bag frankly for this summer. Many of this year’s summer movies were entertaining but were riddled with plot holes or had pacing issues. So without the glow of a recent movie release, we fans can only look forward to next summer’s planned schedule. These are the movies to get excited about as we count down the months.

spideyThe Amazing Spider-Man 2 After successfully rebooting the Spider-Man movie franchise, Marc Webb returns to direct the latest Spider-Man movie, which features Jamie Foxx as Electro, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn and Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone also reprise their roles as Spider-Man and Gwen Stacey. May 2

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was one of the best reboots that reinvented the Planet Of The Apes franchise with a captivating yarn about an ape with enhanced intelligence. Andy Serkis, who stole the last film with his mo-cap performance of Ceasar the super-intelligent ape, returns as apes and humanity battle for dominion of the planet. July 18

Edge Of Tomorrow This was originally called All You Need Is Kill but some marketing genius probably thought the new title was catchier. Anyway, Tom Cruise stars as an alien-fighting soldier in the future who is forced into a time loop where he is killed over and over again. June 6

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Godzilla Director Gareth Edwards hopes to banish those dreary memories from the last American take on the giant Kaiju. The director promises that the iconic monster will be presented as a true destructive force of nature; plus there will be epic monster battles! May 16

The Good Dinosaur Even though the film’s director was recently removed, Pixar’s latest offering sounds terrific. Some of the studio’s recent releases weren’t too impressive but this one may be one of their better efforts. May 30
UPDATE: We just learned that The Good Dinosaur has been delayed until Nov. 2015. Bummer.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Will this Marvel film be their version of Star Wars or next year’s Pacific Rim? The clip we had on our Facebook page that was taken down was very intriguing and the brief glimpses of Rocket Raccoon captured our attention. Aug 1

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Dreamworks has proven lately that they are an animation studio to be taken seriously. The original film about a Viking boy and his pet dragon was a surprising, rousing success and the recent teaser of the sequel looks just as enthralling. June 20

Jupiter Ascending The Wachowskis, famous for The Matrix films, are looking for a big comeback. This film, which stars Mila Kunis as a futuristic cleaning lady who has a great destiny, may or may not be that coveted comeback vehicle. Too soon to tell. July 25

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Having decimated the Transformers film franchise, Michael Bay is now aiming his sights on the ’80s’ other big toy phenomenon. Only he isn’t directing the film, however it stars Megan Fox as April O’Neil.  Aug 8

Transformers: Age Of Extinction The fourth film in the reviled, yet popular franchise already sounds better than the others since it doesn’t feature Shia LaBeouf, but it’s still directed by Michael Bay. Let’s hope the shaky-cam is under control. June 27

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men film franchise with an epic tale involving time travel that bridges many of the franchise’s most popular characters like Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy) and Magneto (Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender). May 23