Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Hey everyone! This week, we’ll take a look at the newest fixture in the reboot series of the original Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Directed by Matt Reeves and starring Gary Oldman, Andy Serkis, and Jason Clarke, it is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.

Following the events of the first film, a nation of intelligent apes led by Caeser (Serkis) grows as the human survivors of the devastating virus attempt to rebuild humanity. The humans, attempting to reach a dam to supply their city with energy, instead threaten the apes and are forced to form a fragile truce. However, once that peace is broken, both sides are forced to fight  to determine which species truly reigns superior on this new Earth.

9.5 out of 10

Andy Serkis is incredible.

I feel like The Academy has got to give him some sort of recognition for his work. From Gollum, to King Kong, to Caesar, he is the master of motion capture. I don’t want to discredit his ability to play human characters but his work in motion capture is justso incredible. It is so believable, which is the most crucial aspect of all these fantasy characters, one that Serkis nails every time. His outing as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is no different.

andy serkis motion capture

Caesar is a character who I cried for, cheered for, and cringed for. Andy Serkis played him with such realism (as realistic as you can get with a talking ape). As an audience, we really fell in love with Caesar. For that matter, we really fell in love with all the apes… Except for the “antagonist”, if this film really has one, Koba. But the same logic applies. We really HATE Koba. Through all his actions, we start to feel legitimate anger towards him. It’s a great feeling to be so invested in a film, which is a big part of this movie’s success.

Part of what contributed to that realism and investment is the incredible CGI. Excuse me if you disagree, but I think that is perhaps the best CGI I have ever seen. Excessive use of computer-generated imagery has been a problem of late in the film industry, but not in Apes. They were so f-ing realistic. How could they not have used real apes? Every single detail was nailed in it’s entirety. Fur, scars, the lines in their hands: everything was so well done. Major props to Matt Reeves and the entire visual effects department on this one. Not only did their work contribute to the entertainment value of this film, but also its realism. Please let this film a technical Oscar, pretty please.

However, I will say that the humans presented very little, especially when compared to the apes. Most of their characters were slightly boring and made their moments really unwanted. We always wanted to go back to the apes. They had more heart and character than the actual humans. I thought Jason Clarke was pretty solid, but apparently I’m one of the only people in that department. To be frank, they were just pretty boring, and it certainly did help to have to be compared to the apes, who were anything but boring.

The plot, while kind of reminding me of The Lion King, was pretty strong. It never really dragged and never stalled. It was always moving forward. There was always some sort of conflict in the film that allowed the movie to progress. However, if I were to have one complaint towards the plot, it would be that it was very repetitive. There were several occasions where the unease between the apes and humans was evident, and it seemingly took too long for war to break out. On the other hand, this could also be seen as a measure of Caesar’s patience, *SPOILER* a reason why Koba ends up betraying him, so it works both ways.

In the end, this is a must see. You may be tempted to skip this one because the initial concept of talking apes seems stupid, but once you see this movie you will realize how wrong you are.
~Vig

8 out of 10

Just who is the villain in this movie?As a moviegoer, it is exceptionally awesome when the antagonist is someone or something that is very different from the main character we’re presented with. They’re unrecognizable, we totally, don’t understand them, and we don’t get how they tick: it makes them very interesting to watch.Yet even more interesting, in my humble opinion, is having somebody who’s extremely similar to our protagonist. That way, the lines get blurred (Sans Robin Thicke), the character development is catalyzed and the morality of everyone is clutched and thrown straight into question thus drawing the audience in.

That’s always been the appeal of Planet of the Apes at least. Its primates are 60% the latter and a conclusive 40% of the former with just the right dash of CGI and motion cap. to bring them to life. In this instance, so much so that the filmmakers trust a solid twenty minute focus on just the lead ape, Caesar, and his family to draw us in. They also fill in a lot of the downtime of this movie with ape politics (Yes) and Caesar’s personal life….and goddangit was I invested.

Remember that question I asked, like, three paragraphs ago? I honestly don’t know the answer. There are more exclusively ape scenes than I have let on and many of the human-focused scenes are about or include apes. I went in to the movies looking to root for the home species but I ended up almost leaning toward the hairy primates. I had been had!

Yes, plenty of time is spent getting acquainted with the apes but what about our human leads? Don’t think I have forgotten them. Notice I just used the word “almost” . The human race in this movie have less but equally compelling characters. Without spoiling too much, a few bad apples ruin things for both sides.

This is straining my brain too much, let’s go over a simple conclusion now: the special effects are excellent. When you think about it, it’s very challenging to occasionally etch out that line between ape and human using expressions and fluid movement but then quickly draw it back with more animalistic faces and predatory gestures.

All of this really brings the conflict to life for me, the conflict that the last movie reeled me into so well. Well it’s actually several: what’s the real difference between humans at their worst and apes at their best? How much space would humans give if another species were to grow? How do societies crumble or get propped up just as easily?

poa opening

It’s all really hilarious that a bunch of CGI gorillas can be so thought provoking but maybe that’s that beauty of Planet of the Apes. Sci-fi is all about (Mostly about) exploring humanity’s reactions to the most outlandish of scenarios and, boy, does Apes embody that.

So that is a definite “Yes” on Apes. Although I kind of missed Harry Osborne in this one.
~Zach

IMDB: 7.8
Metacritic: 79
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

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How To Train Your Dragon 2

Up next, a look at the sequel to the hit 2010 animated film How To Train Your Dragon.  Starring Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett and Gerard Butler, it is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.

Five years after the events of the original, Hiccup (Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless journey across the skies, charting unmapped territory and exploring new world. However, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace after one of their adventures leads them to the insane Dragon Hunter, a.k.a Drago Buldvist. In order to preserve the future of both man and dragon, the dynamic duo realizes that they must stand up for themselves and their cause.

7 out of 10

I distinctly remember watching the first How to Train Your Dragon. It was really late at night, I was out of the country, and I was sitting on a very uncomfortable couch. Why am I telling you this? I don’t really know.

I guess my point is that the first film was extremely memorable. I remembered watching it. It was something I didn’t expect to like, but now it’s one of my favorite animated films. A combination of impressive animation, an enticing story, believable voice acting and strong characters is what allowed the first one to be so great. The sequel was unable to improve upon on these areas, and actually regressed slightly, but still resulted in an above-average, enjoyable film.

The animation for this is like most other Dreamworks films: very good. It’s not overly cartoonish and the action sequences are aesthetically appealing, no doubt about it. When the action sequences are at maximum excitement, they look fantastic because of how all the animation is so perfect. Additionally, the exaggeration in the characters (aka the girth of the vikings or the lack of it on Hiccup) provides the comedic effect that it the movie is really going for. So in that sense, the animators of the film got the most important aspect of the film right and actually made it look pretty damn good. Yay!

I also think that the voice acting was pretty solid. If we’re being honest, I am one of Jay Baruchel’s biggest haters. I think he has no talent, but even he didn’t do that terribly! Blanchett and Butler weren’t too bad either. But undoubtedly, America Ferrera, as Astrid, was the most impressive voice actor. Her character was far and away my favorite and that’s largely because of Ferrera’s performance.

Jay Baruchel as Hiccup

Jay Baruchel as Hiccup

However, there is a lot to be dissatisfied with. The general premise is good enough, but takes a bit long to get to that point. There are way too many parts to the story, which is so excessive considering this is a child’s movie and it doesn’t need to be so complicated. There was a part with him meeting his mother, him finding new land, him fighting this dragon hunter, him having to become chief, him and his girlfriend, him and his dragon, him and his dad, him and… I don’t know at this point. There was just so much, and it just got so convoluted. The only thing we really care about is the story about him and the dragon hunter, so everything else is just excessive. Not to say that it shouldn’t be in there, it just shouldn’t be nearly as relevant. The movie got to be way too mushy, and at times, very boring. Like I said, we were just waiting for something to happen and it took a while for it to actually happen.

My friend dubbed this as “How to Fail a Sequel”. I think that is a bit too harsh, as this is definitely an enjoyable, acceptable film, but it definitely fails to live up to the original.
~Vig

8 out of 10

Dreamworks had a bad rap.

S’right. You heard me. “Had”. There was a time when Dreamworks endlessly churned out heartless sequels and where its rival, Pixar, constantly upstaged it. Dreamworks got a couple of good hits in (Shrek, Shrek 2, and maybe Madagascar come to mind) but always stayed in Pixar’s shadow. After a decade long battle, in 2010, Pixar slammed the nail into the coffin with Toy Story 3. It was over. Dreamworks collapsed under its sequels and half-baked ideas.

Then 2011 came along.
For those of you who have forgotten (I don’t blame you, man), Pixar released Cars 2. It was bad. Really bad. It was the antithesis of all the heart and hard work Pixar had injected into its movies before. They barreled down all of the mountains they had previously scaled and, since then, they have not made it back.

So what was Dreamworks doing? Milking its cash cows? A little, but Dreamworks did something Pixar never got the chance to do: it learned. Victory and praise cushioned and defeated Pixar. Dreamworks has come out with some solid hits since mid-2010. How to Train Your Dragon being one of them.

So, of course, everyone groaned when plans for a sequel were announced. Dreamworks was ready to drive another winner into the ground. That’s what I thought also. So what did I think of the sequel?

Goddang, was this film awesome. It delivered in a way barely any animated sequels have before. I would say it matched the original and then some, in fact. Let’s start with the animation:

3D is generally gimicky and an excuse for the theatre to get three more dollars but there are some movies that genuinely utilize it for good. How to Train Your Dragon is one of them. The animators know they have a vast universe to explore and they just dive into it with some great flying scenes and action sequences.
The film also uses motion capture without any creepy side effects. Mo-cap can get a bad rap but its actually great for showing expressions as the recent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Another great summer movie) has also demonstrated.

There’s also the story. Its pretty dark and true to the norm that sequels should get more serious than the original. I’ve got to admit, there were some pretty surprising moments in this movie that showed a lot of maturity and trust in its audience. I won’t go much further than that for the sake of making it surprising but there are plenty of plot-points to look forward to.

htyd2

So Dreamworks has the upper hand this round. It may lose it if Pixar’s planned sequels pan out spectacularly but I find that unlikely. But who knows? A decade from now, the animation wars could still be raging. Hopefully, with dragons.
~Zach

IMDB: 8.0
Metacritic: 72
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

22 Jump Street

All hail the return of Korean Jesus! Up next is the highly anticipated 22 Jump Street, sequel to the popular 2012 comedy 21 Jump Street. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, it features Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and Ice Cube. It is rated R for strong language, sexual content, drug material, brief nudity and some violence.

After the events of the first film, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) take on their next task when they go deep undercover at a local college. However, the two begin to question their partnership after Jenko befriends a kid on the football team, and Schmidt invades the Bohemian art major scene. Now, before solving the case, they have to figure out whether they can even have a mature relationship.

6 out of 10

I came to this movie having just sat through, or perhaps more appropriately, suffered through the James McAvoy film Filth and was thus in serious need of an amusing experience to lift my spirits. Fortunately, that is exactly what I found in 22 Jump Street, a movie that although it does not hit the same heights as the original, is a very suitable follow-up full of gags. 22 Jump Street is a movie made completely for the viewer. You may reasonably question what I mean by this: aren’t all films made to be watched? Yes, but sometimes, especially during my viewing of Filth, I question whether the director is really doing this for the viewer or is simply indulging his or her own artistic fancies. There is no question of this in 22 Jump Street. It delivers exactly what you want, comedy, while filling in the rest with serviceable plot and character development and some bold action sequences. Whereas in the first film the best comedic moments came from the parody of modern high school culture, here I found the biggest laughs in the jokes parodying the original and the film itself. This gave the film a refreshing lighthearted mood. The director seemed to be saying that yes the premise is ridiculous and everyone knows it, so let’s just enjoy the ride.

22 jump

That said this was not a classic movie. Sure you could argue it wasn’t ever trying to be, but even within the realm of lighthearted comedies this is not a standout entry. It does everything fine, but it doesn’t do anything amazingly or even particularly cleverly. To be fair, I was chuckling throughout but no single joke took longer than a split-second for me to fully grasp. This is just standard fare for Hill and though the setting and characters may be different, this is effectively the same humor he has been dealing in since Superbad 7 years ago. Honestly, Hill. Rogen and co. could probably have written the script for this movie in a single afternoon.

Another grievance I have with the film is that it doesn’t really say anything important. One trend that I really admire in modern cinema is seemingly simple movies with some moral message. Pixar has done this for decades but now every studio seems to be getting in on the moral action. But beyond the obvious truth that modern sequels tend to be derivative of the original, this movie lacked a basic message.

But I do not want to disparage this movie too much. It is a fun ride and if you enjoyed the first entry you will find more than enough to entertain you. And arguably more importantly, it didn’t ruin the legacy of the great first entry even if it could not reach its heady heights.
~Nic

8 out of 10
Here’s the short version:
I like 21 Jump Street. 22 Jump Street is 21 Jump Street. Therefore, I like 22 Jump Street.Ah, damn! I still have to write a whole review though so here’s the four to five hundred word version:The very best part of 22 Jump Street is that its shining moments are not exact, carbon-copies of 21 Jump Street. There’s definitely a bit of originality there. But the worst part (And its not exactly awful) is that a lot of its jokes use the same blueprints as 21 Jump Street.21 Jump Street (The drama) was about two narcs solving crimes at schools (After agitating them, of course). 21 Jump Street (The movie) was about making fun of the old T.V. show and then some. It expanded its horizons into the movie industry in general.22 Jump Street is about…making fun of the old T.V. show and then some. Its (Right down to some hilarious cameos and satisfying meta-humor) the same concept. Same plotline. Mainly the same characters and some of those “Have I seen that before?” jokes that comedy sequels are unusually good at churning out.

But I still laughed. And, by God, that is what I’m measuring this by. It may have the same designs but it has just enough variety in its execution that comedies like The Hangover 2 don’t have. It’s also self-aware. Self-awareness really carries this one: this movie knows exactly what it is versus what it’s expected to be. The very best example of this comes right before the end credits when we get hit with a barrage of potential sequel clips; each plagued with the usual cliches that we’ve forgotten we’ve all (Regrettably) paid to see before.

Yet another thing that carries this movie is the relationship between our two stars: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. If I’m not mistaken, these two are actually friends in real life which doesn’t surprise me very much. I’m just as invested in our leads as ever and you oddly continue to care about their friendship (But not too much that it oversteps its bounds).

And because you’re so invested, there’s another thing that (Again, surprisingly) works: the action. I swear to God that I care more about the action that happens in 21 and 22 Jump Street than 90% of the blockbuster action films I have seen in between the two. The action is actually good. It’s not the whole movie but it’s entertaining enough so that you don’t stop caring.

In conclusion, 22 Jump Street is worth it. If you’re willing to cope with the deja vu and the same structure as before then you’ll certainly enjoy the bits of original execution it has to offer. Would I like to see a sequel or two? I know better than to trust Hollywood with such a daunting task as making a good comedy three-quel but why not?

Just keep Ice Cube involved somehow.
~Zach

IMDB: 7.2
Metacritic: 71
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%