We're back with what I hope is the final in the Planet of the Apes reboot. They're okay but lack imagination, although the motion capture finesse is mind-blowing. I didn't love the supposedly kiddies film A Monster Calls. I don't think the story called in an intersting enough way because my kids and their friends were bored.
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War for the Planet of the Apes ✪✪✪ Opened July 27
1968 was the first Planet of the Apes film starring Charlton Heston. I think this film was one of my favorites as a kid. I saw it at the drive-in and I think seeing Charlton Heston, in the final scene on the beach, discover they were actually on Earth but in a transformed future, was when I fell in love with the twist in a story.
The rest of the Planet of the Apes series in the seventies continued the entertaining idea and I can remember us marveling at how amazing that Roddy McDowall looked so much like an ape. Skip to 2001 briefly for a not so great reboot and there was nothing more from our hairy friends until 2011 when they rose again in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Not bad, then came Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, not good, and those of us who still held a modicum of hope for the series were actually looking forward to this film. Again I'm there marveling at the technology of motion capture and Andy Serkis's incredible performance as Caesar.
I did enjoy this to a degree but I was trying really hard to do so and I probably enjoyed the technology and concept more than the story. This is not a disaster but it's also not a triumph. If a little more thought had gone into the character arc of the humans (Woody Harrelson's leader of the soldiers is about as one-dimensional as you will get) then we might have had more to beat our chests about.
I keep coming back to Andy Serkis and his mesmerizing performance and I want to give this more than three stars but the more I think about the problems with the story and the convenient plot injections of unexplained illnesses, armies from nowhere and odd choices by main characters, the more disappointed I become. After all these remakes, the writers and director couldn't see further than bad monkeys, good monkeys, bad humans and one little girl who is a good human, who wasn't there for any reason other than she looks good on posters.
I hope one day somebody will write a screenplay that's worthy of such a neat idea, which is becoming less science fiction and possibly a distant future with our messing around with genetics just because we can.
STARS: ANDY SERKIS, WOODY HARRELSON, STEVE ZAHN
In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.
A Monster Calls ✪✪ Opened July 27
I took along my two children and three other young teenagers. We were quite intrigued to see this. The trailers make it seem as though this a darker, edgier BFG for the big kids.
Since this film is based on a best-selling middle-school book you would think it would understand its target market. The young ones like fast paced films that aren't too preachy. This delivers the opposite.
I can see the problem clearly; the screenplay is written by the book's author Patrick Ness. He just couldn't bear to kill his darlings. Then throw in the director's take and we get double lashings of being beaten over the head with a big stick demanding we understand the lessons so carefully crafted in the book.
There's also the manipulative tear-jerk factor that I despise in films, where the mother, sister, best friend, boyfriend, child is dying and we'll ring those tears out of you if it kills us. Just make the story entertaining and the character's real and, yes, we will cry for them. In this case, no, no matter how hard you try we are not going to empathize because we are falling asleep and wishing their deaths would hasten so we can leave.
Oh and Sigourney Weave, who is usually so good, has the worst English accent, but Felicity Jones gives a good performance and Lewis MacDougall does well too for a young 'un. It's the director and screenwriter who seem to need their socks pulled up and shoelaces tied. Both of them seemed to want to put their stamp on the film and therefore, we have too much stamping going on and not enough progression of story.
On the plus side, this is probably one of the most beautifully filmed films you'll see. You just need to stay awake.
A visually spectacular drama from director J.A. Bayona ("The Impossible"). 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall), dealing with his mother's (Felicity Jones) illness, a less-than-sympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), and bullying classmates, finds a most unlikely ally when a Monster appears at his bedroom window. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth. Toby Kebbell plays Conor's father, and Liam Neeson stars in performance-capture and voiceover as the nocturnally visiting Monster of the title.
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