*NEW* WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES REVIEW *NEW*

The best one of the bunch?

Let’s ask our pal Caesar . . .

Not quite. BUT a decent effort all the same.

After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar (Andy Serkis) wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

I remember my reaction when I heard that the Planet of the Apes franchise was being rebooted/remade (again). It was very similar to ol’ Caesar’s.

However, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a welcome addition. I was completely surprised and engrossed. Completely caught up in the origin story of the super intelligent ape.

BUT Dawn of the Apes on the other hand . . . NOT so much. A complete misfire. Bar Caesar’s fractious relationship with the ultra-violent Koba, I felt the sequel was hampered by poor pacing and a flimsy plot line.

Needless to say, I was a little anxious on watching War. Wondering if it would suffer the same flaws and ruin what could have been an impressive trilogy. Luckily, I’m not saying that today.

A visual masterpiece.

Andy Serkis was fantastic. How the hell that man hasn’t received an award for all the work he’s done surprises me (I mean, come on. Gollum, Kong and now Caesar!).

It takes a lot more than wearing a green leotard and making monkey noises to bring life to these creatures.

The movements, the expressions. I know it’s CGI BUT for two to three hours, you could almost believe they were real. The effects were impeccable. The detail. They deserve an Oscar nod for that alone.

The first person PoV perspective as Caesar makes his introduction was brilliant. All his various monkey brethren bowing down and raising their hands in respect to their leader.

The slow burning pace actually worked for the (majority of the) film and allowed the characters to develop quite nicely as Caesar fought against the advancing troops. Desperate not to cause a war. Only wanting to exist in peace.

BUT of course, the humans have another plan in mind. There were a few twists and turns I didn’t expect as Caesar seeks vengeance.

However, his clan won’t let him go it alone. And what a bunch of characters. Or should I say monkeys? Maurice the orangutan. Caesar’s overbearing conscience and protector. Forever keeping the angry ape in check.

There was such a great dynamic between the group. I loved how the conversations flicked back and forth from sign language to talking.

With Caesar as the only ape that can speak. Or so he thought . . .

Steve Zahn, take a bow! Sorry, Mr Serkis BUT there was one little chap that nearly stole the show and that was Bad Ape.

It was at the 90 minute marker that I could feel my patience wading BUT once Bad Ape made his introduction. I was back in the mix.

A loner chimp that escaped one of the compounds during the start of the outbreak. Picking up words in order to survive.

A much needed comic relief to the sombre affair as he struggles to understand why Caesar would want to face the Colonel.

I could easily watch a Maurice/Bad Ape spin-off. Those two were a fantastic duo.

Things took a more interesting turn when Caesar and co stumbled across a mute girl named Nova (Amiah Miller). Flagging up all sorts of questions; why can’t she speak? A side effect of the virus? Will Caesar show mercy?

And what a game changing performance from Woody Harrelson. I wasn’t sure if the Cheers star would be able to pull it off BUT once Caesar and The Colonel come face to face, I was on tenterhooks.

There was a striking contrast that developed between these two stubborn leaders as they fought for their kind. Both suffering losses.

BUT the Colonel (or Colonel Kurtz as I call him) was a man truly on the verge. Deluded in his own mission for finding the cure by wiping out all the apes.

The action set pieces were exhilarating to watch. I just wish the length could have been cut by 30 minutes. The elongated Great Escape style compound sequence was too drawn out for my liking.

There was only so much of Caesar wallowing in self-loathing that I could take.

Don’t get me wrong, it set up a fiery finale BUT after all the build up, it all ended a bit flat. Almost abruptly.

It was a fitting one BUT I still had questions that were hinted in the other efforts. For those who have seen it, I will impose my SPOILERIFIC question further down.

I don’t think it goes without saying that you might need to watch Rise and Dawn to appreciate the little nods.

BUT in all fairness, my mate got the gist and he chose to watch this one without seeing the others. So take your pick.

It may have fell short of Rise BUT this was still a riveting visual masterstroke with some stellar turns. One of the better ones.

3.5/5

I was just glad that I fought the urge not to sing this little gem.

 

NOW *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* After Rise introduced the Liberty 1 expedition (Well, Icarus 1 – a reference to Heston’s spaceship in the original Planet of the Apes), will that still fit into this story line? Is there going to be another one? The girl was called Nova. A hint, maybe?

Advertisements

*NEW* ZOOTOPIA REVIEW *NEW*

zootopia-573f3f2c6d6ee

A fun and clever little family flick.

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin – Once Upon A Time) and a cynical con artist fox (Jason Bateman – Arrested Development) must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

From the people that brought you Wreck It Ralph and . . . the better seasons of The Simpsons. A star studded and wonderfully animated little affair that cleverly tackles racism and delivers a nice message that anyone can be anything. Awww . . . Yuck.

It was a clever concept how the writers made up this metropolis of mad animals. The animation and detail on the numerous regions within Zootopia was breathtaking to look at. Once we accepted the crazy spiel that animals have evolved and live in peace (NOT to mention dress up in clothes too), the film got down to business.

We followed the young and excitable Judy Hopps (voiced perfectly by Goodwin) as she defied every obstacle and perception to become the first bunny cop of Zootopia. Tackling bullies and stereotypes to achieve her dream. Unaware that her biggest challenge was yet to come.

Breaking free from the overanxious paws of her panic-stricken parents in Bunnyburrow to help change the world and make a difference. It wasn’t long before our heroine’s rose-tinted outlook was crushed by her insensitive boss, the miserable Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) refusing to take her seriously and assigning her parking duty as a meter maid.

The pace did lag in parts and the 108 minute length might have the adults fidgeting, let alone the little ‘uns. However, things picked up once Hopps crossed paths with the sly hustling fox Nick Wylde. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bateman to take on the role.

It was fun enough watching the fractious relationship between slick Nick and the determined Judy blossom into the inevitable as they unwittingly team up to solve a missing animal case.

The case delivered enough laughs and crazy chases to keep the little ‘uns (and the bigger kids. Yeah, I’m talking to you) entertained. One of the best gags involved a number plate search at the DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles). With Judy pressed for time, it didn’t help knowing that the whole place was . . . run . . . by . . . a . . . load . . . of . . . sloths. Brilliant.

The case wasn’t too bad with the missing creatures in question turning into feral predators without explanation. BUT as always its the journey NOT the destination.

“Haven’t you got a fox ice cream store back in your own district” – I loved how Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush subtly tackled racism within the piece; especially with Nick’s treatment. Never being trusted because of his “people”.

It was perfectly balanced against the fun chases and silly humour as Judy must address some of her own fears and assumptions, branding predators as a “minority” that should be monitored and carrying fox repellent despite telling Nick everyone should be treated the same.

I couldn’t believe the stars that popped up in this; J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk. Even Shakira had a cameo as political activist and media personality Gazelle.

Tommy Chong was hilarious as bohemian hippie Yax. But it was two of the lesser known actors that stole the show for me; Nate Torrence’s (She’s Out of My League) overenthusiastic Clawhauser and Jenny Slate’s (The Secret Life of Pets) bumbling Mayor’s aide Bellwether.

The metatextual references were brilliant; there was a fantastic Breaking Bad reference involving some rams dealing some illegal herbal substances and a Godfather-esque encounter with a Mafioso rodent called Mr. Big that was ripe for the pickings with gags and little nuances.

Disney have worked their magic to deliver another fun family movie but one that will rank with the greats? Not so much.

The pace was a little long and the middle act did stumble with the case solving getting repetitive and predictable. But it was still fun enough and left a nice message to never judge a book by its cover.

3.5/5

TED 2 REVIEW

I wasn’t quite picking up on those good vibrations with these funky bunch of gags, Marky Mark.

The filthy mouthed fluffster is back. BUT better?

“OH MY GOD, DÉJÀ VU!” You got that right. Too much of the same isn’t always a good thing.

I loved Ted. I thought it was a return to form from MacFarlane. Family Guy has been spluttering along for some time. The better days long behind it. A bit like The Simpsons, really. Then there was the misfire that was A Million Ways to Die in The West. Watchable at best.

Ted was crude, OTT but funny. I hadn’t laughed so much in quite some time. Wahlberg and MacFarlane made a great pairing. Inevitably, it fared well and a sequel was soon green-lit.

So here we are. It’s not all bad. When it’s funny, it’s good. BUT that’s the problem, when it’s not; it’s drawn out, repetitive and boring.

MacFarlane did exactly what he’s done for the last few seasons of Family Guy. If the jokes are running low, go for flat out disgusting or just something random and weird.

So what happens this time? Newlywed couple Ted (MacFarlane) and Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law.

Ridiculous. I heard some people say. BUT a talking bear smoking a bong and fornicating isn’t?

I found Barth a lot more likeable this time round. I couldn’t stand her in Ted. She was irritating and her voice was nauseating.

Her shouting match with Ted (That went on far too long) didn’t set up high hopes BUT she had (I can’t believe I’m writing this) good chemistry with the bear. It may have been schmaltzy but it added an layer to her Boston skank.

I mean the story line was never going to be the focal point of this film. Although MacFarlane did give a reasonably nice explanation for Mila Kunis’ absence (I know. I was gutted too).

Instead, we had Amanda Seyfried (who more than held her own). She clicked with Wahlberg for their inevitable coupling and certainly wasn’t afraid to take some jibes from the fluffy fiend. Seriously, the Gollum jokes. I was in stitches.

There were a number of old and new faces BUT surprisingly they were all a little dull. Sam J. “Flash Gordon” Jones was completely unnecessary and just did the same old thing to much more disappointing results.

Regular MacFarlane stalwart Patrick Warburton’s repressed gay man was a good recurring joke in the first one. Now he’s “out” with his demented partner in tow. It just wasn’t funny. Beating up nerds in a Comic Con event? Is that the best he could do? The only titter I got was Warburton’s costume choice.

And Giovanni Ribisi’s Donny made another return. A desperate move? There was only a couple of titbits that got a little laugh. His appearance did get a little more relevant as the film carried on BUT it was the same old guff just in a different setting. Sigh.

I really hoped the new faces would provide a little more. They played it much too seriously and didn’t bring anything to the mix. John “Mad Men” Slattery, the slick silver haired Sterling was surprisingly unmemorable. Anyone could have played him. And Morgan Freeman. It was just a lazy excuse to hear his beautiful dulcet tones waffle through some mindless exposition.

The court scenes went on far too long. If it wasn’t for Ted’s one liners, I would have been in a mini coma. Ted and John (Wahlberg) were still very much on form (Thankfully). Their stupid banter, drug induced theorizing and stupid escapades delivered yet again. From Ted’s TV theme song improvisation to John’s sperm lab incident.

Disgusting, cringeworthy but oh so funny! Where was this throughout the rest of the film? I thought this was supposed to be a comedy?!

Okay, the Google theory about how everything is two clicks away from taking you to a web page of a man’s appendage was typical MacFarlane but it got me!

However, the sequences in which Ted was looking for a sperm donor were very hit and miss. Despite John’s lab incident delivering a cracking Facebook slogan gag; MacFarlane and co. soon tooks things too far with the dimwitted duo seeking “super semen” from a renowned American sports celebrity. It was just weird. Talk about overkill.

A Liam Neeson cameo involving a simple purchase of kids cereal was unexpected but brilliantly done! BUT then we had the running length filled with endless bong and smoking weed gags. They got old really quick. Come on, even Seth Rogen is trying to break away from that old spiel. Trying.

Wahlberg tripping out once. Hilarious. Two or three times after? Meh. There was one scene that got me and all it needed was the iconic score of a prehistoric masterpiece. “Breakfast Clubbing” in the lawyer library however? Not so much.

It’s certainly watchable but just wasn’t even on the same level as the first one. I wasn’t even trying to make comparisons but when the gags were sparse, I found time to. MacFarlane chucked in his relentless musical song and dance numbers yet again and if anything they hampered the film. Seyfried has a lovely voice but I came for Ted not Les Mis.

It relied heavily on retreading old story lines and gags to pick up where the film couldn’t. Shame. Plus there were several clips I saw in the trailers that got my interest and didn’t even feature in the film.

The fiery fluffbag has enough in his stuffing to kill the time BUT you may be left wanting.

2.5/5

LONE SURVIVOR REVIEW

lone_survivor_xlrg

Marky Mark bosses it with the Fuzzy Bunch in this mixed bag of a military drama.

Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in late June 2005. However, they are soon left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

I was a little hesitant when Peter Berg’s name flashed across the screen. At his best; the highly entertaining TV series Friday Night Lights. At his worst, Battleship. Yikes.

However, the film opened with an intense training montage (featuring real archive footage) of SEALS enduring all sorts of intense situations and physical conditions. My attention instantly grabbed.

We were thrown straight into the mix with a bloodied Wahlberg being operated on. His voiceover throwing us back to the build up before the cursed operation. Unfortunately with such a poor choice in film title, you have a gist of what’s going to happen, it’s just the how.

The pace took a hit as we had 30 minutes of cliched exchanges and muscle bound machismo as the team bonded and “hazed the new guy”. Berg had a great cast at his disposal and the leading SEALS played their parts well. The camp shenanigans should have added extra depth to the characters BUT if anything, it made them quite stocky and one dimensional.

The running contest between Hirsch and Kitsch was corny as hell. We even had a wonderful Powerpoint presentation explaining the . . . plot. It was great to see Eric Bana BUT his passive role was a waste of the actor’s talents.

Once the SEALS reached the checkpoint surrounding the Taliban compound; things finally livened up. The tension mounted as Hirsch’s Dietz struggled to maintain signal as the team got closer to their target.

“That’s not a knife, that’s a f*cking duck!”. Where Berg excelled in suspense and action, he struggled in keeping the tone of the film. The aforementioned line was a perfect example. Berg implored humour in all the wrong places in an attempt to lighten the severity of the situation BUT it just came off hammy. I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.

The accidental ambush by Taliban farmers was nail bitingly tense with the SEALs apprehending them to maintain their cover. Berg tackled the moral and ethical dilemma that soldiers face in such dangerous situations. The brewing argument between Axelson (Ben Foster) and Luttrell spoke volumes as they discussed killing or releasing the civilian farmers.

I was happy to see Foster given a bigger role. I’ve been impressed with his acting since the (incredibly underrated) TV movie, Bang Bang You’re Dead.

The film got better with the action coming thick and fast. The POV sniper shots and slow motion were executed brilliantly. The Taliban, for most of the film, were portrayed as ruthless menaces relentless in their attacks, never giving the SEALS a moment to recover.

However, although exhilarating, it soon dragged on with one sequence, involving the team rolling down a cliff to evade capture, coming off unintentionally comical. I lost count of how many times the SEALS were shot, crushed and battered. And the death toll on the Taliban was bordering Rambo 3 territory. Oh and the roll, my goodness, it was like Homer’s cliff falling scene in The Simpsons. There were actually a few titters in the audience.

Thankfully an unexpected explosive moment brought a passive Wahlberg to the forefront. The first 90 minutes was the story of the unit. The final 30 minutes was Luttrell’s story as he evaded capture and hid with some Afghan farmers who were just as anti-Taliban as the SEALS.

Shah and Tarik, the lead terrorists, were incredibly passive and weak. They really were one dimensional, if not for a discouraging decapitation scene. The real depth was provided by Ali Suliman as Gulab, the sympathetic farmer who did everything to save Marcus at the risk of his and his son’s (Nicholas Patel) lives.

As the film came to its explosive finale, the closing minutes packed a sobering punch with a fitting tribute to the men that lost their lives in that unfortunate operation. Berg highlighted the bureaucracy of the US military and the poor organisation in which the unit were left stranded for so long with poor technical equipment.

Luttrell’s heartfelt gratitude to Gulab really hit home. Unfortunately, Berg had too many faces flying about, that I had to remember who was who, when they showed real footage of the people they had portrayed. It was great to see Marcus and Gulab’s reunion.

All in all, a mixed bag. The tone of the film, like the ambush, was all over the place but what can be commended was what these men went through.

An engaging affair that could have been cut by a good half hour and been better for it. Great acting and good action set pieces save a muddled biopic riddled with unintentional jokes and mixed messages.

3/5