Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Maddening

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Year: 2014          Runtime: 130 min

Director: Matt Reeves

Writer: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Mark Bomback

Starring: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis

Synopsis (from the official website): “A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.”

I left the theater gritting my teeth. I was frustrated, but not with the movie. I quite enjoyed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. So far the series has been a good reboot. What I was experiencing was something else, a petulance gnawing at me. It was like riding a slow elevator to the 100th floor that’s quietly playing the muzak version of Justin Bieber. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was angry.

And then I realized it was the movie. Or, more specifically, the pig-ignorant characters. Both human and ape. What a shower of bastards. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes the world’s population is a plague of thick idiots who are indifferent to anyone other than themselves. This is obviously a transparent metaphor for the radical jackasses fucking up society today: Palestine and Israel, Democrats and Republicans, terrorists (religious, eco, or otherwise) and the entitled, etc.

But their jackassery goes beyond simply putting fingers in their ears and chanting “la la la la la la la la!” Both sides deliberately work to undermine the one shaky shot that could save lives, simply to settle a score. It’s acutely ironic because the eye for an eye policy is usually aimed at something completely innocent—but isn’t that always the case? For instance, the simian flu killed people, so the humans need to kill the apes. This is conveniently forgetting that humans were the ones who made the virus. Humans tortured apes, so apes need to kill the humans. This is conveniently forgetting most humans died from the simian flu and resulting anarchy, meaning the torturers are long gone.

Truly different sides of the same coin.The movies ends with the set up to war between the humans and apes. The war will decimate what’s left of both man and ape. The film seems to suggest the only way to achieve peace is through the total annihilation of one or the other. And here’s the truly maddening part, as a metaphor for the world today, annihilation is exactly where we’re headed.

I suppose that by firing me up the movie achieved it’s goal, assuming that’s what it wanted. Or perhaps I’m just a cantankerous fool and I completely missed the point. The film is definitely worth seeing. If you have heart disease, or high blood pressure, just be sure to take your medicine first.

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Deliver Us From Evil: The People Are Strange Story

Edgar Ramirez Tagline: You haven’t seen true evil

Year: 2014          Runtime: 118 min

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writer: Scott Derrickson (screenplay), Paul Harris Boardman (screenplay)

Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn

Synopsis (from the official website): “In DELIVER US FROM EVIL, New York police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), struggling with his own personal issues, begins investigating a series of disturbing and inexplicable crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest (Edgar Ramírez), schooled in the rituals of exorcism, to combat the frightening and demonic possessions that are terrorizing their city. Inspired by the book, which details Sarchie’s bone-chilling real-life cases.”

One can’t make a demon possession film and not have his/her movie compared to The Exorcist. How does Deliver Us From Evil stack up? Like gooey legos left in the sun on a hot summer day—not very well.

Deliver Us From Evil is an A&E true crime version of The Exorcist. While more entertaining than actually interacting with your crazy Aunt Jolene when you’re forced to dinner at her house, it’s only mildly entertaining if you’re out for an evening at the cinema. And at the current prices “mildly entertaining” isn’t worth it.

But it’s based on a “true story.”

Because a film is a true story, or based on real events, or whatever similar bullshit wording, isn’t impressive. It’s just another cheap gimmick like 3D, or smell-o-vision, or “from Academy Award winner…” How about spending your time and efforts on making the good film and not buzz worthy marketing?

More than being based on the real-life cases of Ralph Sarchie, this is the dramatization of The Door’s song, “People Are Strange.” Whoever secured the rights to use the song also decided to use the FUCK out of the song. It worked as an allusion the first time it came up, but then they kept using it, putting it in just loud enough to pick out from the rest of the sound, at inappropriate places (like in the middle of the big exorcism), so much so that it becomes an earworm that will drive you crazy for days to come.

“Faces come out of the rain…” And it’s ALWAYS raining in this movie. Aaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh!

And while that’s distracting enough, then there’s Joel McHale. You know, the host from The Soup. I’m not saying he is bad actor. As the smart-ass partner he is great. As a knife fighting bad-ass always looking to get into a scrap… Eh. That’s a stretch. He’s like the chartered accountant who wants to jump right into being a lion tamer. There’s a couple in between steps which are necessary that one needs to take. Unfortunately the casting director was no vocational guidance counsellor and threw him into the den before he was ready.

There is a good suspenseful atmosphere, and some good horror moments, and Édgar Ramírez’s flawed priest is really good, but taken in total Deliver Us From Evil falls well short of the bar set by The Exorcist. At best, Deliver Us From Evil should be relegated to watch “if it happens to be the only thing starting” when you’re flipping through the channels. Or if you’re stuck with Aunt Jolene.

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Transformers: Age of Extinction: McSupersized Is Not Always Worth It

Transformers Age of Extinction

Tagline: Prepare for extinction.

Year: 2014          Runtime: 165 min

Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Ehren Kruger

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor

Synopsis (from the official website): “As humanity picks up the pieces, a shadowy group reveals itself in an attempt to control the direction of history… while an ancient, powerful new menace sets Earth in it’s crosshairs.

With the help of a new cast of humans (led by Mark Wahlberg), Optimus Prime and the Autobots rise to meet their most fearsome challenge yet. In an incredible adventure, they are swept up in a war of good and evil, ultimately leading to a climactic battle across the world.”

I don’t know if it is natural, or just natural to Americans, to want the most you can get for your money. Though not necessarily bad, per se, super sized for the sake of super size can be problematic. Transformers: Age of Extinction is a perfect example of this.

First off, it’s a summer blockbuster Michael Bay film about giant robots, based on a line of toys. To expect anything other than spectacle is self-deception of the highest calibre. The action is insanely over the top, but someone going to see this film is expecting action so we can cut it some slack here.

Second, Transformers: Age of Extinction has a 2 hour and 45 minutes runtime. This is the movie’s biggest problem. There was a young boy, maybe 5 or 6, literally bouncing in his seat the majority of the movie. Thing is, I didn’t notice him because he was distracting me. I noticed him because I was fidgety, too. If Bay would shave an hour off this movie it would be a great summer blockbuster. As it is, it’s just too much.

I have a running theory that filmmakers are making movies longer to give the audience their money’s worth. That would be why the plot has so much going on. So much so that it fails to give the audience an enjoyable experience. What it does is more akin to Alex’s forced viewing in Clockwork Orange. At least Alex got eye drops to sooth his sore eyes.

That said, Transformers: Age of Extinction isn’t terrible. I like Mark Wahlberg more than Shia LaBeouf. This, I suppose, is debatable, so take it or leave it. As for the story, this time around the plot wasn’t as contrived so as to get to the action like in the second and third movies. Actually, the start of this movie is probably the most believable of the franchise. Finally, while there was too much action, it was better than being disappointed with the lack of Godzilla in the recent Godzilla movie.  If you like the franchise, it’s worth watching. Just do so somewhere you can pause it and take a break.

One thing I did miss this time round was Bonecrusher, the mastiff, which was in the first three films. I’m a sucker for big dogs and his presence is missed, even if he was just a very minor character. I hope his absence is because he’s living the good life on some isle with all the bones he can crush.

Trailer:

Edge of Tomorrow: Groundhog Day with Zerg

Edge of Tomorrow

Tagline: Live, Die, Repeat

Year: 2014Runtime: 113 min

Director: Doug Liman

Writer: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay), Jez Butterworth (screenplay), John-Henry Butterworth (screenplay)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

Synopsis (from the official website): “Major William Cage (CRUISE) is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously dropped into what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop—forcing him to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again…and again.

But with each battle, Cage becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside special forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Blunt). And, as Cage and Rita take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets him one step closer to defeating the enemy.”

Edge of Tomorrow delivers exactly what the marketing portrayed: a fun summer sci-fi movie. It’s not too long, in an age of 2 and a half to 3 hour marathon movies. The pacing is good, action is a bit over the top, but manageable. The feather in Edge of Tomorrow’s cap is Bill Paxton. While he starts off as his usual douche bag soldier, after a couple of rounds, and the fact the audience knows what’s coming, makes his character quite amusing.

Speaking of the actors, in talking with friends and co-workers about Edge of Tomorrow, I found there were quite a few people who have an irrational dislike for Tom Cruise. I, too, have my prejudices, but  I’ve never had the Tom Cruise aversion. Except for The Last Samurai, but that was a casting issue based on race, not his qualifications as an actor. This is a long way round the barn to say that if your one of the Cruise haters, you’ll like this movie because he gets his ass handed to him, a lot. Quite a few time in pride-crushing ways. It’s not normally a metric I use, but schadenfreude is what it is, and us bastards are what we are.

In essence Edge of Tomorrow is Groundhog Dag with the Zerg, well worth checking out in theaters. One final note, a friend reminded me that the plot of Edge of Tomorrow is strikingly similar to an episode of Stargate SG1, “Window of Opportunity.” This doesn’t hurt the movie in the grand scheme of things, I just bring it up to give sci-fi nerds something to grouse about.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past: Not Feelin’ It

X-Men Days of Future Past

Tagline: Every hero, every power will unite.

Year: 2014     Runtime:  131 min

Director: Brian Singer

Writer: Simon Kinberg

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman

Synopsis (from the official website): “The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. The beloved characters from the original “X-Men” film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from “X-Men: First Class,” in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future.”

Eh. I want to like this movie. I really do. Technically everything works. The acting is good. The special effects aren’t overpowering. The story is compelling. Overall it just failed to connect. It fails because the Days of Future Past story is too big for one movie.

The plot points that are most poignant are passed over too quickly. There’s the reconciliation between Professor Xavier and Magneto. Bridging that gap could be a movie in itself. There’s the pain and suffering of the dark future, everything that’s been lost on both sides, that’s merely hinted at. Most unsatisfying is how easily the paranoia of “us versus them” are changed, considering this is Nixon’s 70s. None of these are insurmountable as far as the overall story is concerned, just highly unsatisfying when crammed into a 2 hour movie.

And that’s not to mention the usual deus ex machina that comes with movies involving super powers and time travel. Not nit-picky Comic Book Nerd gripes (I’m not even getting into any comparisons with how well/horrible this is compared to the comics). I’m talking about some of the things Magneto is able to do which has nothing to do with his power. This could probably be overlooked if the story was more engaging, but since it’s not it’s just one more thing to add to the gripe pile.

There is a bit of comic relief, which I’ll not spoil, which is fun. Again, it doesn’t help the movie resonate with the gravity of the story, but it was entertaining. That’s not saying much, is it? Exactly. And that’s pretty much X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Trailer:

Godzilla: Ang Lee’s Hulk All Over Again

Godzilla

Year: 2014          Runtime: 123 min

Director: Gareth Edwards

Writer: Max Borestein (screenplay), Dave Callaham (story)

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston

Synopsis (from IMDb): “The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.”

When one goes to the theater to see a two-hour movie titled Godzilla, one expects to see more than 10 minutes of the titular character. Sadly, if you plan on seeing the new Godzilla prepare to be greatly disappointed.

What little there is of Godzilla is pretty awesome. At least the special effects won’t let you down. Thing is, most of the action runs about 30 seconds then it’s back to the other story, namely Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) making good where his father, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), failed. Either of these would be entertaining, Gozilla or Ford Brody’s story, but when spliced together, they leave the audience wondering, “WTF?”

Yes, there needs to be some story, not just mindless death and destruction, but only so much as to get the audience to the point of basking in the awesomeness that is Godzilla fighting other equally devastating kaiju.

The problem is the movie mainly tells Ford’s story, and Godzilla’s place in the tale is, at best, contrived.  Joe’s loses everything because of his frantic search for the truth behind a melt-down at the nuclear plant he oversaw. Ford’s struggle mirrors his father’s, albeit set in different circumstances. As far as stories go, is a great plot—that is, for a different movie, NOT one about a giant monster that wrecks shit. Making said kaiju the impetus for the father/son story is weak. Really weak.

What in the hell is wrong with Hollywood? Seriously. How can Hollywood not get A GIANT MONSTER THAT WRECKS SHIT right?

As my title states, Godzilla is Ang Lee’s Hulk all over again. The good parts are so few and far between. Worst of all, after all the disappointment of the movie, it ends with everyone smiley and happy because Godzilla has saved the day. Are you fucking kidding me? AS IF Godzilla gives one squirt of piss about us. Moreover, as if ‘Merica would be cool with a giant monster that just destroyed most of one of our major cities running loose in the world.

Give us a break. There’s only so far anyone can suspend their disbelief.

So. Disappointing.

Trailer:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Eh

The Amazing Spider Man 2

Tagline: His greatest battle begins.

Year: 2014          Runtime: 142 min

Director: Marc Webb

Writer: Alex Kurtzman (screenplay), Roberto Orci (screenplay), Jeff Pinkner (screenplay)

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx

Synopsis (from the official website): “We’ve always known that Spider-Man’s most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2™, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead.

It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp.”

The Amazing Spider Man 2 is a $200,000,000 ad for all the toys, books, games, collector’s glasses, etc. that are for sale now at your local shopping centers. As far as the kids for whom these products are intended are concerned, the movie is great. There were quite a few in the audience at the screening I attended and they were all hyped after the movie. For the parents in the audience, or comic book fans like myself, we were less enthused.

As I was headed to my car a line from They Live came to mind, “That’s like pouring perfume on a pig.”

The problem is the movie is too damned long. A friend posited the thesis that the Summer blockbusters are so long as a way to justify the ever-increasing price of admission. The more I see, and The Amazing Spider Man 2 fits the mold perfectly, the more I’m beginning to agree.

The second act drags heavier than a emo’s emotional baggage. Ultimately it’s all about how Peter Parker deals with loss. There’s his tormented love affair with Gwen, the loss of his parents, of Uncle Ben, and as a juxtaposition (i.e. how to deal with life’s tragedies unhealthily) there’s Harry Osborn’s loss of his father and his fall from grace. All of this builds to a very critical moment for Peter. Thing is, all the pathos is so heavy-handed that when the big moment happens your glad to see things play out the way they did. It’s supposed to be heart-breaking. Even a sentimental audience has had enough when the runtime is two and a half hours.

All things considered, it’s not a bad movie. It does everything a Summer popcorn film is supposed to do, and does it well enough. Unless you’re interested in getting your very own web shooters and playing ‘Pider Man, it only amounts to $10-$15 bucks spent and two and a half hours lost. Still, it does have it’s place. Namely, if you’ve got children and need a couple of hours to decompress, The Amazing Spider Man 2 is your ticket.

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