Andy Serkis

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Year: 2011
Directed By: Rupert Wyatt
Written By: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

RYAN’S REVIEW

I specifically remember getting mad about this movie before ever seeing it. I remember following the production, as I do with so many films, and I remembered when it changed from simply being an original film and into a Planet of the Apes film. That disappointed me as the trend was beginning to emerge wherein nothing seemed willing to try unless it could tie itself to an older successful franchise. We are fully into the era of remakes and reboots now and I hate it. I considered the switch in direction of this film and the assimilation it sought into a successful franchise as a cop out. It does not sit next to the original film in my collection simply because it does not belong there. Planet of the Apes was an awesome franchise that needed to be left alone and shouldn’t be touched again after the terrible effort by Tim Burton almost 15 years ago. I see this movie and franchise as an altogether different thing and see its intentional effort to include itself as simply a marketing ploy to make more money.

After seeing the film for the first time I found that I enjoyed it so much I was only more frustrated by the efforts to make it a psuedo reboot. Simply because it didn’t need to do that. It’s a good movie and good enough to stand on its own. There are certain similarities it bears to the original story but that does not make it the same. I have and will always say it is ridiculous to remake or reboot Cold War themed films. The conflict is gone and over and the movies that were about it don’t have any context to be remade today. Whether it’s a movie about high school youths who suddenly have to defend themselves from invasion (Red Dawnor a film about the consequences of self imposed destruction by fighting one another with doomsday weapons. The reality of that situation does not exist today and remakes about the situations do not translate. This movie however is neither a remake or a reboot despite what the title suggests.

This movie has its own social problem the story revolves around. An important one at that being the search for a cure or treatment for Alzheimers. Such a wicked disease is the one that robs us of the very thing that makes us who we are. It is even worse for those who love the afflicted. The husbands and wives who have to watch their spouses deteriorate and disappear after decades of union. It’s an illness that has been around forever but even today there is not enough effort being made to combat or cure the disease. If nothing else this movie is great for bringing more awareness to a problem that needs more money and more research.

This movie has a really good story and excellent special effects. Andy Serkis is an incredibly talented one of a kind actor. I love this franchise because it gives him the opportunity to display his exceptional skills performing in a motion capture suit. The next generation of actors that utilizes technology more and more will turn to the efforts of Andy Serkis when they study their art. Serkis in this movie works his magic in the suit as Caesar. These movements came easy to him this time around because he performed as an ape before in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. The rest of the cast is good enough. The only other one I’d deign to mention would be John Lithgow. Watching a second of his films in a row is a rare opportunity and it’s interesting because the roles are so different. Of course he is great in both of them because he is such an exceptional actor.

There are scenes in this movie that echo the original Planet of the Apes franchise but I remember reading somewhere along the way that they did that in re-shoots after production had wrapped. I could be wrong about that but it is the impression I have been under for 5 years and I stubbornly hold onto the idea. I think this movie is great, so long as it is separate and its own thing away from the original franchise. I think this story of one genetically mutated ape building and leading an uprising is really cool. I read somewhere that in the original ending James Franco was supposed to die but they changed it at the last minute. I actually think that might have made for a better ending to the movie but the movie is just fine the way it is.

This movie is a really cool start to an ongoing franchise that has plenty of potential to end well with a third film. The film builds a powerful story while setting up the sequel along the way. If you haven’t seen it you are missing out on a fun franchise. This movie is easily worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

 

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The Prestige

Year: 2006
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Priest (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

After Christopher Nolan knocked our socks off with the start of a brand new Batman franchise in 2005 he immediately followed it up with this little nugget. A film with a spectacular cast, a story that kept us guessing the whole time, and an ending that blew us away. This movie, more than any other at a time when I was just learning who Nolan was, convinced me that this guy was for real and somebody to keep an eye on. I had yet to see Memento at that time, and while I had seen Insomnia I gave it little thought and made no connection. In 2006 I was young and eagerly looking for a new favorite filmmaker two years removed from both Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino disappointing me in the worst of ways. There were the Coen Brothers of course, and I liked several others as well but this movie officially ushered in a new player to the ball field.

Christopher Nolan is not my favorite director today but he is part of a handful of directors I am always excited to hear have something new coming out. Nolan is a smart director who keeps his filmmaking crew together for most of his films. That continuity, as much as his mind and capabilities, goes a long way in making his movies a head above the rest. I have recently been disappointed by Nolan as I thought Interstellar was painfully awful. However I still have faith in him despite that long and uneventful film I anticipated so much. There are people out there who have the audacity to call Interstellar great but they are only lying to themselves. That movie was garbage, but Nolan’s prior track record speaks for itself. This movie was awarded to Nolan over others because Christopher Priest, the author of the book, specifically wanted him. Nolan took it and hit the ground running to produce another good film in the downtime between the groundbreaking and moneymaking giant of his Batman franchise. Aside from his Batman films, Nolan’s movies are typically the type that make you think and will keep you guessing. What better story to do that with than one about magic and illusion? As we come to the actual prestige of the movie what we find is not only shocking and surprising but a haunting reality for both magicians.

This movie also played a big part in my becoming a fan of Christian Bale. Bale had been around for some time but I had never given him any credit until after I saw Batman Begins for the first time. I still wondered then if he was just good in that particular movie but this film proved he could do more. Bale has since gone on to achieve even greater success over the years but I will always remember this role as the one that officially caught my eye and made me realize his potential. In this film I couldn’t get over how awesome it was simply to see Batman and Wolverine on screen together. This movie came out the same year as the ultimately disappointing X-men Last Stand, but it wasn’t Hugh Jackman’s fault that movie sucked. Jackman is always great as Wolverine and I thought he was great as the charismatic side of the two feuding magicians in this film.

The rivalry between Jackman and Bale in this movie progresses into darkness early on. Their hatred and competitiveness drive the intrigue of the movie as much as the mystery of their magic does. As each man raises the stakes the audience edges closer to the edge of their seats. Ultimately the climax of this feud is satisfyingly dark and perverse with neither of the two winning but only destroying one another. Magicians and showmen who become what they practice are such interesting men. The pressure on the showmen like Jackman to continue to impress and keep the audience interested can drive them to dire straits. Then there are the true wizards, like Bale’s character, who have an early understanding in how to fool the entire world with an act that is always on. Magicians have to keep you guessing and a movie about them has to do the same.

As good as Jackman and Bale were in this movie their performances are made even better by a stellar supporting cast. In the sunset years of his career Michael Caine only seems to shimmer brighter. An obvious favorite of Christopher Nolan, Caine has been able to stay in the spotlight with great parts in most of his films. I am a huge fan of Caine and love every opportunity to see him on screen. He has an aged dignity and air of respect to him that often reminds me of my own grandfather who is very endeared to me. They are the exact same age and while they don’t look or sound anything alike it’s about the way they carry themselves and the presence that they hold that make me connect the two.

Andy Serkis plays an important part in the film and for once we actually see him, as opposed to simply his movements and voice via motion capture suit. Serkis is one of the most talented actors out there that nobody ever actually sees. He has an extraordinary talent for acting in the advanced technologies of the modern movie era. Among his resume are roles like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series, King Kong in the 2005 remake, Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes franchise, and he will be adding a new one at the end of this year with a role in J.J. Abrams new Star Wars film. I once saw a behind the scenes look at Serkis performing in the motion caption suit as Gollem on the set of the second Lord of the Rings film. It was like more than ten years ago when I saw it but to this day I still marvel over watching him perform that scene. An incredibly talented actor who has such unique skills. It’s nice to see him in the flesh now and again though. In this movie he brings an eerily creepy character to the film that adds to the intrigue of it all.

The part Serkis plays is the main assistant to a real life man of mystery, Nikola Tesla, played by a man who himself is oddly mysterious, David Bowie. As an undertone to the movie is the battle of minds that went on at the time between the electrical pioneers of Thomas Edison and Tesla. I know little about both of these men in truth but this movie does motivate me to look into the real history. Seems like there is a really interesting story there that I missed out on along the way.

I suppose it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Scarlett Johansson plays a significant role in the film. She is a very beautiful actress but I have never really felt there was anything that set her apart from say Piper Perabo who plays a smaller yet equally as important part in the movie. Johansson has found much more success than Perabo but I tend to think this is the work of agents more than it is talent. In the movie industry pretty faces are a dime a dozen and at the mercy of whatever popularity they can mustard in the years given to them. The window is short when time is the enemy of what keeps you in the spotlight. I find most people consider me crazy when I mention not being a big fan of Johansson. I don’t really know what it is but I just don’t see it. I tolerate her in the Marvel films as Black Widow but I can’t even get behind her in a role like that. There is nothing wrong with her performance in this movie, but I just don’t see her as anything more than a pretty face. However, that being said, this film can only be considered a success for her.

This is a really cool movie but I don’t love it with multiple viewings like I do most of my favorite movies. I don’t think that has anything to do with the film though and everything to do with its content. Magic and illusion is an art that is only really effective the first time. The more you see it the more you figure it all out and the excitement is gone. This movie is a terrific film to watch for the first time. The intrigue will draw you in and the climax will knock you back a few steps. This movie is important to me because it got my attention and encouraged me to see more from Christopher Nolan. It’s not his best but at par with what he is capable of and the par for Nolan is a step above the norm for the rest. This is an interesting movie with terrific performances and great all around effects. It is more than worth your time to see and I think it’s one anybody will enjoy.

NEXT MOVIE: The Princess Bride (1987)

 

 

 

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Year: 2002
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, and Peter Jackson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s been a while since I have taken the time to sit down and watch all of these movies.  In truth it is difficult to find the time to watch them even when life wasn’t so busy but these days it’s nearly impossible. When I was in college I would watch them often or have them playing in the background while I worked on school.  Today is different, with all the responsibilities that come with adulthood and kids it’s just so difficult to find the time. If anybody has noticed the drop off in published reviews of late you need only to consider the movies we have reached in the collection. These movies add up to more than 12 hours collectively and we have had to settle for watching the series in pieces.  It’s a long process but it’s been nothing short of exciting.  I’m happy to know that these movies can still excite me.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I am learning again just how much I enjoy all of these films.

When reviewing the first film of this series I regarded this one as the slowest of the bunch and the retarding point of the collective story.  I feel differently now.  After making it through this film in its entirety I found that not only was I engaged all throughout, but I didn’t think any part of it was slow.  I think I let myself forget a lot about these films beyond the incredible battle scenes.  When they came out on video and I watched them often I really just focused on the battles that I found so entertaining.  Somewhere in my memory the richness of the story was lost and I was really happy to reconnect with it.

I think the biggest talking point for this film has to be the role Andy Serkis played.  The creature Gollum made a couple of appearances in the first film but wasn’t really a big time character until this film.  Andy Serkis, the motion capture suit man, was nothing short of amazing.  If I remember correctly Peter Jackson unsuccessfully lobbied to get Serkis a Academy nomination for the part.  I am with him though because Serkis deserved it.  The scenes in which we see conversations between Gollum and Smeagol can be chilling.  That has a lot to do with how well the character was written in the base source, but Serkis brought the character to life. The effects that put him on screen were incredible but equally as incredible were the voices Serkis used for the two personalities of the character. I remember seeing one of the scenes from the film as it was being shot and couldn’t get over Serkis.  It was the scene when Faramir threatens to have him killed if Frodo doesn’t admit the truth.  Seeing Serkis in the motion capture suit moving as Gollum and speaking in that voice left an impression on me.  Serkis has a rare talent that he doesn’t have the opportunity to utilize enough, but when he does he does it perfectly.

The battle at Helm’s Deep in the climax of the film is hands down one of the greatest battle scenes I have seen in any movie.  The climax to the story in the third film was better and more exceptional but this one still edges it out in my opinion.  Maybe it’s the dark or the rain but the situation seemed so much more dire. I like the foes better too.  While all the weapons of Mordor were dispatched in the final showdown this one had the baddest of all those enemies and a great number of them.  When the Uruk-hai start climbing over the walls I feared for the men in the battle.  It’s like a never ending horde of NFL lineman size monsters that will chop you in half or possibly even take a bite out of you. What hope could any of these men have against such an aggressive and intimidating foe? After countless views even until today I still find myself glued to the screen during this battle and won’t look away even though I know exactly what is going to happen next.

There are a few random thoughts that come to me every time I watch this movie.  First being the leader of the Elf force that comes to the aid of Rhohan at Helm’s Deep.  This guy was in the first and second film and despite watching these movies many times I still had to check the listing on IMDB to even know what his name was.  Have I missed something every time I watch these movies? Do they ever say this guys name in any of the films? Also, could anybody in Rhohan really be surprised that a guy named “Wormtongue” was an agent of Saruman? How exactly does a guy that looks like that with a name so poorly created get into a position to manipulate a king? Maybe there is more back story to him in the books but it has always needled at me when watching the films.  For Tolkien to be so creative with these books and come up with so many unique names I really just feel like he gave up when it came to naming this guy.

I’m going to stop here because I went on forever in our review of the last film. As of now I have only had time to watch the first hour of the final film and again find myself sucked in and surprised by how much I am enjoying it again.  In time I hope to have the reviews of all these films published and be back on track with the journey through our movie collection. Finding time to watch our movies isn’t always easy these days but we try to at least get through one a week.  These films have taken us a few weeks to get through and we aren’t even done yet!

AMBER’S REVIEW

For me, this was the most boring of the three movies. It was the retarding parts of the trilogy and I just felt like not too much happened. And when it did happen it seemed to move in slow motion.

frodo_poster

Same gold. Same deer-in-headlights Frodo. There is a feature in photoshop called “glow.” We designers hate glow. Glow, Starburst, Comic Sans….they all make us what to throw something across the room when we see it and this poster usues more glow and fading than I can even deal with. I like this poster about as much as I like this installment. Thank goodness they kept the typography the same. That is about the only thing that I like about this poster.

NEXT MOVIE: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

King Kong

Year: 2005
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Original Story: Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was Peter Jackson’s next venture after creating the incredible and historic Lord of the Rings trilogy. No matter what he had decided to do there were going to be very big expectations.  I don’t know that anything he could have possibly done could have measured up those expectations but this movie came pretty damn close.  It is another epic film that runs a lot longer than anyone likes but it’s what Jackson thrives at.  This movie does offer some of the most exciting action sequences you will ever see and the visual effects are spectacular. It took on the responsibility of rebuilding a Hollywood legend and it carries that legend to another level.

When Peter Jackson finished with his epic goldmine trilogy he could have done anything he wanted to.  He could have chosen any project on the table but to his credit, he chose to take on a challenge.  King Kong goes back to very early in the film industry being made in 1933.  It had a legacy that was going to have lots of needs and expectations to fulfill when the remake was attempted. I think Jackson lived up to those expectations and even exceeded what some of us could have imagined. He had built his name making some of the biggest epic movies of all time and chose to follow up with the first epic ever made.  There could not have been a better choice to helm the project of bringing back that epic that still stood significant after more than 70 years.

I think this was an incredible movie but I have never felt it was as good as it could have been.  I have always thought the greatest flaw of the movie was in its cast.  With a picture like this, that is going to have all the hype in the world behind it, I just really thought they should have went big with the actors they chose.  The thing is, I like most of the actors in this movie but still, they could have gotten bigger people to play the part.  I really like Jack Black. I think he is an incredibly talented entertainer but when this movie was made I didn’t think he was a great choice.  I think he played the part well, but I really don’t think he was at the right place in his career to carry a movie this large on his shoulders.  Despite this opinion, I do think he was great in the movie and I think he acted his ass off.  The same goes for Adrien Brody. I like Brody despite some of his creepier movie roles over the years, but I don’t think he was a great choice to play the hero in the movie.  He has proven me wrong as a hero before, specifically in Predators but I just don’t see him as a serious choice for that role.  I think he is a talented actor and I don’t think he was bad in this movie but I have just never felt he was right for the part.

Naomi Watts was cast as the starlet of the film, the beautiful damsel in distress that captures the heart of the monster.  I think she did an incredible job playing the part and could not say a criticizing word about her performance.  I thought she showed a lot of talent and had to do so most of the time against a green screen which makes the performance even more impressive.  Yet I still have the same feeling about Watts as I do about Jack Black and Adrien Brody.  She did a great job but I think this movie would have been more successful had a more popular actress been cast in the part.  I don’t know why I feel this way because I honestly do think she played the part to a T and did a great job.

I think the greatest role in this movie was actually the one performed by Andy Serkis.  I don’t mean the part of the cook which he also played but that of King Kong.  Just as he did for Peter Jackson in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as the creature Gollum; Serkis again donned the motion capture suit and performed the actions of the legendary ape. It is a talent he probably won’t be able to get enough out of because these types of roles are rare but Serkis really has a specifically awesome gift.  King Kong in this movie is incredible and a lot of that has to do with the work put in by Andy Serkis.  He went the extra mile studying apes and their behavior to prepare for the part and it paid off handsomely.

This movie also sported a very good supporting cast aside from the other actors I have mentioned.  When this movie came out I had really high hopes for Colin Hanks.  The son of the legendary actor seemed destine for great things but that just hadn’t happened yet.  I had hoped that this movie would put him on that path but I was wrong.  Colin Hanks has only gotten older over the years and never really stepped out of his father’s shadow to make anything significant of himself.  I liked seeing him in Mad Men a few years back but by then his part in the show only reminded me of the high hopes I had for him years before. Jamie Bell has a role in this movie that I didn’t think was that great but want to mention it simply because it came off the heels of his performance in The Chumscrubber, which I really liked.  I am not a fan of Kyle Chandler but he has continued to do great things despite what I think.  I think he fit his part really well in this movie though and it seemed to do more for his career than anyone else’s part did.

I have always been under the impression this movie failed to live up to expectations but like I said I think the expectations were insurmountable.  I may be critical of the cast myself but I don’t know that I could really be critical of the movie itself.  I think the cast could have been better but they all did an incredible job in their roles.  I think this movie offers some of the most incredible action sequences ever filmed.  The attack of the savages, the stampede in the gorge, and Kong vs. the T-Rexes just to name a few were mind blowing and seem to get better with every viewing. What’s so awesome is that even after those mind blowing scenes are over there is still so much of the movie left, so much more action to look forward to.  This movie runs way too long really, but it doesn’t stop with the intensity or the action.

This is an awesome movie and I think it packs a pay-off that makes it worth anybody’s time to see it.  That says a lot given the movie runs for over three hours but I don’t think you will be disappointed investing that much time in the film.  It is an epic movie and made by the master of epics.  Peter Jackson really knows how to make these kinds of films and he did an excellent job with this one.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is a lot of fun. It’s an adventure throughout and I usually like watching it any time I find it on television. I think the new version is a nice adaptation and has really nice visual effects.

kingkongThis poster is a little boring. I think there were a ton of ways to make this more iconic and visually appealing graphically. There were tons of directions you could go and people would have automatically known what the movie was going to be. King Kong is already so iconic. The designers could have had a lot of fun with this but they lost the chance to do that. There are weird Photoshop glows everywhere too. I think it’s just sloppy. Too bad.

NEXT MOVIE: Kingpin (1996)