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.

The Wolverine

July 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima
Written by: Mark Bomback (“Live Free or Die Hard”) and Scott Frank (“Marley & Me”)
Directed by: James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line”)

When we last saw Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, it was in the dismal “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (if you don’t count his hilarious cameo in “X-Men: First Class,” that is). Marred by a dumb, continuity-shredding storyline and crummy special effects, Jackman’s first solo turn as the mysterious mutant fell flat, disappointing X-fans and shelving what had been a planned series of origin stories for other mutants. Yet with comic book heroes ruling the box office and Jackman’s absolute ownership of the Logan/Wolverine role, the character’s solo adventures continue with this latest entry, simply titled “The Wolverine.”

In a prologue set in the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, Logan is being held prisoner, trapped underground in a well. When the atomic devastation awaiting the city becomes evident, Japanese soldiers start performing harakiri. One young soldier, Yashida, is stopped by Logan before plunging a sword into his belly. Using his mutant healing factor to withstand the nuclear assault, Logan shields Yashida from the blast, saving his life. Sixty-plus years later, a dying Yashida, now the head of a huge technological corporation, requests a visit from the troubled, near-immortal Logan, offering him something the mutant could never attain on his own: mortality. After telling the old man no thanks, though, a strange doctor and a clan of ninjas look to take Logan out of the picture in order to get to Yashida’s daughter.

Directed by James Mangold, “The Wolverine” is the freshest, most satisfying X-movie since “X2” hit theaters a decade ago. For most of its running time, it feels nothing like the comic book movies that pop up every summer. While it pays to know what happened in previous films in the series (“The Wolverine” picks up after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand”), the film isn’t beholden to plot points and table-setting put in place by what came before it. This is the real Wolverine solo film fans have been looking for, packed with high-energy action sequences that stretch across Tokyo city blocks or, most impressively, on top of a speeding bullet train. “The Wolverine” loses steam toward the end, unfortunately, when sweet ninja fights give way to robots and lame mutants, but leaves fans on a high-note when the obligatory post-credits sequence sets up Logan’s, and the X-Men’s, next adventure.

Total Recall

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel
Directed by: Len Wiseman (“Underworld,” “Live Free or Die Hard”)
Written by: Kurt Wimmer (“Salt”) and Mark Bomback (“Live Free or Die Hard”)

Remakes of movies people remember fondly are a tough sell from the start. Not only do you have to engage the audience with the story you’re telling, but you’ve got to do so in a way that doesn’t have the audience mentally checking off plot points from the DVD they have sitting on the shelf at home. Recently, the filmmakers behind the updates of “Footloose,” “The Karate Kid,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” have tried, with varying degrees of success, to strike the right balance between satisfying the fans of the original who are drawn to the name recognition a remake brings and the need to put a unique spin on the story to justify the existence of the new version.

The latest modern classic to receive the remake treatment is “Total Recall.” This new spin on the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi/action film stars Colin Farrell as Doug Quaid, a post-apocalyptic factory worker suffering from vivid nightmares. In an effort to change his life, Quaid pays a visit to Rekall, a company specializing in implanting fake memories into the minds of their clients such as dream vacations or wild sexual fantasies. Quaid’s procedure is aborted, however, when the staff realizes that his memory has already been erased and a commando team blasts its way in, guns blazing. Upon escaping, Quaid returns home to find his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is out to kill him and that their marriage is a lie that has been implanted in his head. Escaping for the second time, Quaid encounters Melina (Jessica Biel), a resistance fighter he shares a past with bent on bringing down the evil Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).

This version of “Total Recall” suffers from a fatal flaw: not getting its ass to Mars. Director Len Wiseman (“Underworld”) has crafted a slick, lens-flared world torn in two by chemical warfare, but keeping the action Earth-bound turns the film into a dull, anonymous sci-fi slog. The futuristic cityscapes populated with flying cars zipping through canyons of neon signs are never as effective as the papiermâché Martian caves from the original and feel like they could have been lifted wholesale from “Blade Runner” or “The Fifth Element” or even “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.”  Outside of the clearly-enjoying-himself Cranston, the cast doesn’t fare any better. Farrell’s Quaid is a bland, less tormented Jason Bourne, Beckinsale is merely playing an evil version of her acrobatic hero from the “Underworld” movies, and Jessica Biel is just a pretty actress wearing frumpy military-style clothing and shooting guns.  Implant a positive memory and watch the original version on DVD instead.

Race to Witch Mountain

March 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig
Directed by: Andy Fickman (“The Game Plan”)
Written by: Matt Lopez (“Bedtime Stories”) and Mark Bomback (“Godsend”)

If former WWE entertainer the Rock, er, Dwayne Johnson is really serious about becoming an accomplished actor now that his wrestling career is behind him, he needs to quickly turn around because he’s already taken a few steps in the wrong direction.

After family-friendly, safe, and overall meaningless fare like “Gridiron Gang,” “The Game Plan,” and “Get Smart,” Johnson has decided to stick with the mind-numbing screenplays, this time with “Race to Witch Mountain,” a reimagining of the 1975 Disney movie “Escape to Witch Mountain” adapted from the 1968 book by Alexander Key.

In the film Johnson plays Jack Bruno (you won’t forget his name since it is annoyingly repeated throughout the film), a Las Vegas taxi cab driver who is a former muscle head for a group of mobsters. Now working as a cabbie, Jack (Bruno, that is) spends his days picking up passengers and trying to avoid his former colleagues who he owes money.

A big payday comes when Jack (Bruno, that is) picks up Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), a couple of teenagers with a wad full of cash and an unspecific destination. Jack (Bruno, that is) has no idea, however, that his most recent customers are aliens from another planet who have crash-landed on Earth.

With clueless investigators from the U.S. Department of Defense on their trail, as well as an assassin who has been sent to kill them, Sara and Seth are on a mission to find their confiscated spacecraft and save the planet from total annihilation. Actress Carla Gugino is an afterthought as Dr. Alex Friedman, an expert in all things geeky, who is reeled along for the dull sci-fi ride.

There only so many tough-yet-sensitive guy roles any actor can accept and Johnson has definitely reached his limit. It’s too bad he plays a hockey player-turned-tooth fairy (seriously) in his next movie. Donning a tutu is a surefire way to lead him to the same ranks Hulk Hogan found himself in with “Mr. Mom” or Arnold Schwarzenegger with “Jingle All the Way.” And from that point, there’s really no turning back.