Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Andy Serkis should already have an Oscar for his performance
as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films. Since it's too late for that, it'd be nice if the Academy would honor
his work as the simian star of Rise of
the Planet of the Apes.
Sadly, a motion-capture performance, covered in layers of
CGI "make-up," is still not deemed worthy of such awards. Serkis is
mesmerizing as Caesar, the test subject of a medical researcher (James Franco),
whose possible cure for Alzheimer's has the side effect of boosting ape intelligence
to a spectacular degree. While the drug ultimately fails in its original
purpose, it gives the ever-smarter Caesar a chance to liberate himself and his
fellow primates from human dominance.
Director Rupert Wyatt throws in lots of references to the 1968
Charlton Heston version of Planet of the
Apes, right down to the font used for the title. That said, he doesn't lose
sight of the fact that the original film is over 40 years old, which means many
viewers will be entering this universe for the first time. He cleverly sets up
the larger storyline, while still providing an energetic, stand-alone science
fiction adventure. Even if the series doesn't continue, Rise of the Planet of the Apes would still rank as one of 2011's
best genre offerings. If it does continue, maybe Serkis will finally get his
on "Apes" mythology and Serkis' performance; deleted scenes; the
Blu-Ray also has separate commentaries by Wyatt and the screenwriters; features
on scoring and special effects; a multi-angle scene breakdown; a concept art
gallery; an educational feature on apes. (PG-13) Rating: 4 —LL
There have been several movies that have tried to capitalize
on the growing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Unfortunately, most of
them have been like the abysmal Never
Back Down, which wound up demeaning the sport and its fans with wooden
acting, bad writing and, worst of all, poorly staged fights. It’s a little too
obvious nobody got hurt in these bouts.
That’s why it’s refreshing that Warrior is a good movie. It’s not a great one, but handing the
reins to director Gavin O'Connor (Miracle) was a smart move as was casting
brawny performers like Tom Hard and Joel Edgerton.
The former plays an Iraq war vet trying to make up for his
transgressions on the battlefield, and the latter is a high school teacher who
returns to the ring because the bank is getting impatient for his next mortgage
It’s a given that these guys are going to eventually kick
and punch each other in a final bout, but O’Connor and his co writers Anthony
Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman overload the film with plot twists. After a while,
the startling revelations aren’t that startling.
On the plus side, O’Connor does capture both the rush and
the horror that come from watching two guys who punch and kick each other
senseless. It also doesn’t hurt to have Nick Nolte as Hardy’s alcoholic father
and coach. Yes, his off screen problems with substance abuse make it seem like
typecasting, but he’s just about perfect for the role, as are Hardy and
Edgerton. It’s also worth noting that both as convincing as Pennsylvanians
despite the fact that Hardy is British and Edgerton is Australian.
commentary track by O’Connor, Tambakis and Edgerton, and another by Nolte. A
gag reel called “Cheap Shots” as well as a slew of making of featurettes. (R)
Rating: 3.5 —DL
The Hangover Part II
The raunchy joy of The
Hangover came from its fundamental simplicity: Bachelor-party attendees
wake up in trashed Vegas hotel room, then try to piece together how they got
there and why they can't find the groom. Add a talented cast willing to do
literally anything for a laugh, and you've got comedy gold.
Coming up with an interesting sequel to this kind of premise
is much more challenging so the makers of The
Hangover Part II didn't even bother. They just took the original script,
changed the setting to Thailand, and switched a few names around (this time,
it's Ed Helms' Stu getting married). The actors are still funny together
(especially Helms and Bradley Cooper), and a Capuchin monkey named Crystal
steals the whole movie, but they don't seem any more interested in what's
happening than the filmmakers are.
Director Todd Phillips gets plenty of mileage out of
Bangkok's seedy reputation, but it's basically just an excuse to push the R rating
past the breaking point. When a movie is this lazy, even full-frontal
transvestite nudity seems kind of dull.
Extras: A couple
of fake comedic documentaries; gag and action mash-up reels; a feature on
Phillips' directing style; a profile of Crystal the monkey. (R) Rating: 2 —LL
C. Chandor’s sure-footed debut had an all too brief run in theaters so
its debut on DVD is worth celebrating. This claustrophobic nail-biter follows a
one-day period in 2008 when a Wall Street investment bank discovers their
assets aren’t assets at all. A disgruntled employee (Stanley Tucci) and his
subordinate (Zachary Quinto) discover that if the bank doesn’t unload their now
worthless securities quickly, the firm will go belly up.
The bank’s CEO (Jeremy Irons) obviously didn’t rise to the top because
he’s a nice guy, but what makes Margin
Call chilling is that almost no one in the film raises much of an objection
to the bank committing widespread fraud. While some in the firm might have
qualms (particularly an auditor played by Demi Moore), the lack of any sense of
outrage is actually more dramatically powerful than a series of heated clashes.
Apparently, Chandor figured the audience didn’t need to be told that this was
worth a bit of anger.
Chandor makes all the financial jargon accessible. He also does
something daring by painting these white-collar crooks sympathetically. Kevin
Spacey is terrific as a mid-level manager with a failed marriage and a dying
dog. It’s almost tempting to forgive the guy because he’s one of the few who
feels regret of the scheme. That ends when you realize these folks steal far
more than a typical bank robber with a shotgun.
Seeing people who aren’t obviously monsters committing such heinous
acts is actually more shocking than seeing monolithic villains foreclosing on
people. Some people find slasher films with larger-than-life bad guys scary. To
me, a world where ordinary, even likable people flagrantly cheat each other
with hardly a hint of remorse is much more frightening.
Extras: A commentary
track by Chandor and producer Neal Dodson, deleted scenes and a featurette. (R)
Rating: 4 —DL