Ep. 102 – War For the Planet of the Apes, and home video reviews of CHiPs and Free Fire

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “War For the Planet of the Apes,” while Cody tells us about home video releases of “CHiPs” and “Free Fire.”

[00:00-13:08] Intro/remembering George A. Romero and Martin Landau

[13:08-31:06] Review: “War For the Planet of the Apes”

[31:06-41:31] No Ticket Required: “CHiPs” and “Free Fire”

[41:31-48:13] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

War for the Planet of the Apes

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
Directed by: Matt Reeves (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”)
Written by: Matt Reeves (“Let Me In”) and Mark Bomback (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”)

Director Rupert Wyatt may have kicked off an adequate reboot to the “Planet of the Apes” franchise with 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and made audiences forget whatever the hell director Tim Burton did 10 years prior with his unfortunate “Apes” misfire, but filmmaker Matt Reeves has taken this re-imagining to a level we could not have predicted.

If 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” wasn’t evidence enough that Reeves had created something exceptional, “War for the Planet of the Apes” will have you hoping the 41-year-old director/writer can somehow get his hands on every action film project for the foreseeable future. “War” is compelling, suspenseful, moving, funny and an all-around epic. It’s the type of blockbuster summer movie that transcends the idea of blockbuster summer movies.

Besides “War” having Reeves’ fingerprints all over it, it’s just as much actor Andy Serkis’ film as anyone behind the camera. Not that Serkis has to prove anything to anyone any longer as the go-to actor for all things motion-capture, but his lead character in this franchise, even more so in “War,” is stunning. From the beginning, Caesar has never been just an animated primate rendered together by graphic geniuses. In “War,” however, Caesar goes beyond his anthropomorphic qualities and shatters the notion that technology is the main reason Serkis’ performance is so powerful. Caesar is king and Serkis is the puppet master.

“War” transitions from a film about combat to revenge to one centered on a prison break in seamless fashion. Picking up a couple of years where “Dawn” left off, Caesar and his army of apes are in search of a safe haven to start anew without the threat of humans who are still hell-bent on destroying them for introducing the Simian flu, which killed off millions of people. Leading the charge again the apes is a man known as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), who becomes the target of Caesar’s rage and sets Caesar on a course to seek vengeance.

With dark, atmospheric and ominous cinematography by Michael Seresin (“Angela’s Ashes”) and an incredible score by Oscar winner Micahel Giacchino, both of whom worked on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “War” without question is not only a visual pleasure, but also a complex and memorable end to an overall brilliant trilogy. If Reeves is up for it, this franchise is one of the few that has definitely not overstayed its welcome and should continue in full force.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman
Directed by: Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield,” “Let Me In”)
Written by: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and Mark Bombeck (“The Wolverine”)

The summer blockbuster season can feel like a chore sometimes. Mega-budget special effects extravaganzas heavy on action but light on compelling characters and meaningful story dominate theaters. I’m not complaining, mind you, because my love of movies in the summertime has been with me since childhood, along with all the ancillary merchandise like licensed fast food cups and original motion picture soundtracks. When the weather outside is hot, the movies inside often feel like manufactured products rather than works of art. We’ve come to be entertained rather than engaged, and it’s a position we’ve all agreed upon. Occasionally, though, the stars will align and one of those popcorn franchise films will feature wall-to-wall special effects as well as a resonant, edge-of-your-seat storyline with a depth of character that leaves you utterly amazed. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is one of those movies.

Set a decade after the events in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” humanity is hanging on by a thread after being wiped out by the simian flu seen spreading the globe as the first prequel wrapped up. Huddled up in a compound in San Francisco, a small group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) are desperate to get power restored to their small section of the city. The mission is dangerous, however, because repairing the hydroelectric dam requires them to venture deep into territory held by hyper intelligent chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his tribe of apes, most of whom have long-standing grudges against humanity.

While the 2011 film – a prequel to the Charlton Heston-starring 1968 sci-fi classic “Planet of the Apes”- suffered from the occasional subpar special effect and a climactic battle that required all humans involved to suddenly become stupid and forget how firearms worked, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is tightly-plotted and a miracle of modern special effects from start to finish. Moviegoers old enough to remember the days of miniatures and men in costumes bemoan the glut of computer-generated effects in current films, but what they’re really complaining about is bad CGI. “Dawn” is a master class in how to do special effects right, from the contemplative opening close-up of Caesar’s how-is-this-not-a-real-chimp? face to the chaotic clashes between man and ape featuring automatic rifles and armored tanks. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” isn’t just a great summer sci-fi movie, it’s a great movie, period.

The Adventures of Tintin

December 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Written by: Steven Moffat (debut), Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”), Joe Cornish (”Attack the Block”)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (“War Horse”)

If you mention “The Adventures of Tintin” in the confines of Europe, you won’t have to go far to find fans of the immensely popular comic book and TV show.  Mention it in America, and you’re just as likely to get confused looks and blank stares. Tintin is a national treasure in Europe, as evidenced by its $240 million international box office haul prior to its opening in the U.S. But for some reason, like man-purses and the metric system, it has never truly caught on in the United States. One person that did take to the comics just happens to be powerhouse director Steven Spielberg, who secured the rights to adapt it into a film series back in 1983.  Likening it to an “Indiana Jones for kids,” Spielberg has teamed with director Peter Jackson and the art of motion-capture animation to finally bring the whip-smart Tintin to life on the big screen.

When the young journalist Tintin (Jamie Bell) purchases a model boat at an outdoor market, he is immediately confronted by Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig) in efforts to buy the ship off him. After the ship is broken and a scroll falls out unbeknownst to Tintin, he is kidnapped by Sakharine and taken to the SS Karaboudjan. With the help of the chronically drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin and his dog Snowy escape. From there, they discover that there are at least two other model ships, each containing a scroll with a clue to a sunken, treasure-laden ship that Sakharine and Haddock’s ancestors were once aboard. Trying to beat Sakharine to the scrolls and the treasure, Tintin, Haddock and Snowy must travel through Europe by any means necessary.

The film wastes little time on introductions, as Tintin’s crime-solving prowess is only referenced in a series of press-clippings following an impressive silhouette-filled, spy-thriller inspired opening credits. Still, audiences young and old alike are able to grasp what it is Tintin does best.  There’s a strong sense of adventure and playful humor as we watch Tintin and Snowy try to keep Haddock under control, all whilst trying to evade Sakharine. Bell and Serkis are particularly good in their voice roles. Serkis, with a bold and boisterous Scottish accent, attacks the motion-capture role (as he does in all of his mo-cap work) with the intensity and effort of someone who is a leading actor. If there is one element of “The Adventures of Tintin” that does not work it is the Thomson twins voiced by British comedic actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Playing bumbling detectives trying to solve the case of a local pickpocket, their humor mostly misses the mark and the B-story line of the pickpocket fails to live up to the excitement of Tintin’s adventure to retrieve the scrolls.

Using Peter Jackson’s digital effects company Weta, who was responsible for “The Lord of the Rings” franchise and “Avatar,” “Tintin” boasts some of the best motion-capture animation ever produced. While still keeping a cartoon-like sensibility, “Tintin” features incredibly photorealistic faces and settings. Even smaller details like mouth movements are precisely accurate, preventing any distraction from the masterful voice performances. Since Spielberg treated the film like it was live action, the camera movements add another layer of realism to the animation. One sequence in particular that demonstrates this approach is a “one-shot” multi-character chase through the streets of a Morrocan village. It is easily one of the most fun adventure sequences in a movie all year.

While Haddock’s constant state of drunkenness, including some serious enabling by the dog Snowy, might be seen as inappropriate for some parents, “The Adventures of Tintin” is a fun adventure film spanning air, land and sea. It remains to be seen if the film can be successful in America though. If it is, we have a Peter Jackson-directed sequel to look forward to, with Jackson and Spielberg teaming up to co-direct a possible third film.  Make sure to also opt out of the 3D if you have the chance. It doesn’t really accentuate the film and the impressive animation will look best with bright and deep colors, something that 3D technology neglects.

 

Inkheart

January 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis
Directed by: Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”)
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire (“Robots”)

In terms of big-budget family adventures, “Inkheart,” based on the first part of a trilogy by German author Cornelia Funke, would be considered a footnote in the fantasy genre (Not to worry Harry Potter, you’re still more popular than ever). That, however, doesn’t mean all fantasy films that come in between the quests to Hogwarts have to be trivial and dull. In “Inkheart,” there are enough magical moments to warrant the attention of the entire family. Even someone who can’t identify all the storybook references will enjoy the fascinating characters. It’s this year’s answer to films like 2007’s “Stardust.”

In the film, Brendan Fraser (“Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D”) stars as Mortimer “Mo” Folchart, a “Silvertongue” who has the power to read a book and transport its characters into the real world. In doing so, however, each fictional character carried over from a piece of literature is replaced with someone near the reader.

Mo finds this out when he reads from a book called “Inkheart” and unknowingly sucks a diverse group of the novel’s characters from the book causing his wife to mysteriously disappear. The book’s characters who enter reality include a fire juggler named Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and Capricorn (Andy Serkis), the antagonist of the story who loves Earth and refuses to return to his narrative.

Instead, Capricorn would rather stay and force Mo to read to him and deliver riches from stories like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Capricorn’s current reader, who also possesses the same power as Mo, hasn’t quite perfected his craft. Since he has a stutter, the characters he brings from out of the books have defects. Most of them have text tattooed across their faces and bodies.

Although Mo refuses to read at first, Capricorn and his henchmen use his daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett) as collateral until he delivers what they want. All Mo wants is to find a copy of “Inkheart” so he can figure a way to bring back his wife. But since the book has been out of print for years, he must search for its author Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent) and get another rare copy before Capricorn finds out how to release some of the book’s most evil characters.

Reminiscent of last year’s “Bedtime Stories” but with an actual script that has some imagination, some of your favorite fictional characters are brought to life by director Iain Softley (“The Skeleton Key”). From the flying monkeys of “The Wizard of Oz” to the ticking crocodile from “Peter Pan” to Rapunzel and her head of long golden hair, “Inkheart” has wonderful visuals and a convincing cast that includes Oscar winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) as Meggie’s frantic aunt. While the story won’t become a classic like “The Princess Bride,” studios could always do a lot worse (and consistently do) when creating something clever enough for adults and entertaining enough for children.