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Everything an apes fan could want.
The ALZ-113 virus causes the collapse of civilisation. Ten years later, Caesar leads a new generation of apes and an out of the blue encounter with the humans causes hostility between his ranks and the human survivors.
All the ape action one could hope for and more. It's very rare a sequel can equal it's predecessor but Dawn is an exception, it not only pays homage to the classic original series it successfully incorporates emotional throw backs to Rupert Wyatt's Rise notably when Caesar returns home.
The effects trump the first instalment and director Matt Reeves's film has a better pace than Rise. Using elements from the limited budgeted classic's follow ups from Beneath, Escape through to Conquest and Battle it also sets new ground in-terms of execution thanks to Reeves skills.
There's plenty of action set ups from Reeves and there some truly tense scenes notably from a menacing Koba playing a dumb chimp routine or the first human contact with the apes compound. The emotion oozes from Caesar thanks to Andy Serkis and some ingenious effects. With great sets and a real location feel coupled with the music score, immense sound design and some great acting from Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman (slightly under utilised here) it meets entertainment expectations. There's not just spectacle for spectacles sake, like Rise it feels very much grounded.
Dawn gives apes fans both new and old a fantastic cinematic experience. Granted the story by a handful of writers may not have a lot of twists and turns but Jaff, Silver and Bomback offer an intriguing enough script with both subtle subtext and blatant warnings of both past and present to the viewer. Dawn has plenty to say.
With no time travel loop story element required (as in the original) lets hope the Icarus astronaut's (from Rise) return thread doesn't raise it's head too early and is handled with as much care further down the line as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has. Yes it's good. So good in fact you kind of feel guilty for not missing the fantastic Roddy McDowell, bless him. Recommend.
Mientras duermes (2011)
A finely crafted thriller.
An apartment concierge Cesar has a personality disorder unknown to the tenants of the building. Cesar goes extremes to make himself happy, drugging a young woman each night to be close to her with murderous consequences.
Alberto Marini's screenplay is reminiscent of The Resident however whereas The Resident was a satisfying stalker film, Mientras duermes (Sleep Tight) elevates tension to another level without a sell out Hollywood ending.
Thanks to Luis Tosar's great delicate performance as Cesar and Marta Etura's likable Clara Sleep Tight is a rounded thriller. It's character driven and is as chilling and infatuation creepy as they come. From a school girl blackmailing Cesar, and Clara's boyfriend turning up, to Cesars intense and nasty conversation with an ageing dog owner and boss to name few there are moments littered throughout to help keep the picture on edge not just him hiding under a bed, and using Clara's tooth brush reminiscent of The Resident. It has an on location feel (the look of the apartment is that of REC and REC2) with a naturalistic supporting cast of actors. Although elements have been done before,the insect infestation for example Jaume Balagueró delivers a crafted chiller, possibly one of the best of its sub-genre.
It's a twisted psychological tale with some great acting and directing. Recommended.
Perfect cinema experience.
A troubled antiques collector inherits a house from his estranged mother only to discover she was devoted to a mysterious cult. As they try to commune with each other a horrifying creature begins to reveal itself.
In the vein of the likes of Ti West's Innkeepers and House of the Devil, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is an old school chiller that works on a psychological level even more so than the aforementioned. Director Rodrigo Gudiño's slow burner explores lose belief and faith to name a few and takes it's time to build up the characters. Aaron Poole gives an outstanding subtle performance as Leon Leigh and Vanessa Redgrave's voice-over throughout as Rosalind Leigh adds a poignant touch.
Gudiño's camera work gives the impression that Leon is not alone in the house and the camera seemly acts as Rosalind's spirit at times. The house itself with the interesting location, prop and set design are the real star of the film, this coupled with the music and sound design deliver an atmospheric and immersible eeriness experience. The brief special effects are executed fittingly and add to the creepiness of the production. Rodrigo Gudiño's offering is wonderfully crafted and his restrained screenplay along with with Pooles' performance help build the tension of dread nicely.
Overall it's an original slow burning touching mystery that doesn't rely on shock tactics to create unease and successfully puts the view in the mind of its main character. Highly recommend.
Bay transforms Transformers into something else.
The Transformers are being hunted down by humans with the help of an interstellar bounty hunter. Optimus Prime aided by a human inventor set about to stop another annihilation by a device called the seed.
There's no doubt that the action set ups, sound design and special effects are fantastic. However, any trace of characterisation from the original TV series is all but extinct. The Transformer characters once again are given little dialogue nor interaction with each other, with the Dinobots not even getting a line of dialogue.
The Transformers on screen are as empty and soulless as the transformer copies created by an entrepreneur inventor/military contractor played by Stanley Tucci in a subplot with his company having the ability to create their own Transformers. Kelsey Grammar is on form but his evil Harold Attinger motivations are as interchangeable as his ties - queue disgruntled, unappreciated, shady CIA character. Sophia Myles talents are simply under utilised.
With a vast world of 1980's characters at their finger tips that could be updated/developed writer Ehren Kruger and director Michael Bay fail to use any of these typesets or even any basic personality dynamics from the series. Bring back Star Scream, Jazz, Soundwave and the others that prompted the people to make these movies in the first place - Glavatron (voiced by Frank Welker) is wasted. Age of Extinction borrows plot elements from Prometheus and Man of Steel to name a few instead of using anything Tranformer-esque.
T.J. Miller's likable character Lucas Flannery is disposed of in the first 20 minutes and its remaining few redeeming features Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz battle on trying to avoid cliché after cliché, also Optimus Prime has some character development. Actually if Shia Labeouf's Sam had been by replaced Wahlberg's Cade Yeager it may have been a better film series, that said, if Sam returned with Cade it would make some good character interaction but I digress, it's a one man and robot show with everything else falling short and brushed over thinly with new elements being added needlessly. Age of Extinction makes Dark of the Moon look like the Godfather.
Given its lengthy running time its themes and plot are never fully developed. Should the writers and producers have gone back to the source material the fans and film goers would have thanked them for it. This instalment once again banks on viewers desire to see a Transformers film and of course we come in masses but are once short changed as it doesn't deliver - it's like a shiny brand new convertible without an engine, looks good and cool but it is vacant.
It's clear that the talents behind of Age of Extinction have no love for Transformers but are great the movie business - sadly not recommended.
Deja Vu (2006)
Compulsive time travel entertainment.
A man attempts to prevent a terrorist attack and save a woman with whom he has falling in love with.
Satisfying science fiction that handles time travel more subtle than most. Tony Scott's Déjà Vu is a very rounded well constructed piece of entertainment. Although the closing ties things up a little too nicely in terms of Doug Carlin's 'duplicate' it still manages to inject some ambiguity into the end.
Déjà Vu has plenty of heart and is more thriller than scifi, it's not too gadget/techie driven and Scott's realistic style of filming and the New Orleans setting draws you in from the off, it's quite compulsive viewing right up to the conclusion. With a great supporting cast actor Denzel Washington is on his usual fine form, Paula Patton is convincing and Val Kilmer gives a great performance (even with his limited screen time).
Scott slightly drops the ball with the chase scene and a few plot points don't appear air tight. Even though much of the time travel dialogue may have your eyes rolling the acting is great. Would could have been a B-film yarn is pleasingly given a A-list makeover thanks to Tony Scott's visual prowess.
Solid time travel entertainment.
Far more enjoyable than it should be
After a young boy's family are murdered and his village destroyed, he becomes a slave. Later as an adult and accomplished fighter he is taken from Britain to Pompeii's arena (on the backdrop of Mount Vesuvius rumblings) to compete where he falls in love with the city rulers daughter.
If you took a mixing bowl, added one part Conan the Barbarian (1982), two parts Gladiator (2000) and one part Titanic (1997) you'd come up with something pretty close to Pompeii. Sadly there is no Frankie Howerd which may have made some of the clichés more palatable. That said, Pompeii is fast paced, with some wonderfully realised visuals by director Paul W. S. Anderson.
There are some interesting historic titbits in Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler and Michael Robert Johnson's screenplay. The word 'savage' is continuously used, like it's going out of fashion as if another adjective could be found. The characters are functional and the secondary players are likable. Kit Harington while a good actor and even though ripped his casting is questionable given the gladiator angle and his stature. It's good to see Kiefer Sutherland bang his lines out in an English accent and have a ball as evil killer and philanderer Corvus. Strong actors, Sasha Roiz Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris add some back bone to the investment sub-plot. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is notable and really steals the show as the gladiator Atticus due his freedom after his final fight.
Even though a derivate mix it is entertaining throughout. And to its credit compared to Renny Harlin's, The Legend of Hercules (2014) this is an historical epic. Anderson's take on Pompeii's disaster is far more enjoyable than it should be.
Apt Godzilla for serious fans
Godzilla comes out of monster retirement to dispose of some unearthed nasty MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), and an officer in the United States Navy must get to his family after aiding his work obsessed father.
There are no one liners and gags, this appears to have been made for Godzilla fans and fans of film as the tone isn't that of the usual mainstream popcorn flick, with this take on Godzilla being reminiscent of the original films. There are some fantastic visuals on show,the special effects are exceptional and the music and sound design are excellent. Director Gareth Edwards creates some tension and atmosphere and successfully gives the much needed scope and scale to battle scared Godzilla when he is finally revealed midway through.
The MUTO designs appear to unavoidably borrow elements from Starship Troopers; Star Wars Episode 2; Pacific Rim to name a few and the influx of creature films over the years slightly takes the edge off the spectacle. In addition, Godzilla's emotional functional storyline borrows a pivotal plot point from Gareth Edwards' own film Monsters (2010), which is odd considering Dave Callaham wrote this offering.
All the actors are on fine form, Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston are notable. Effects aside the everyday detail is unprecedented, the Las Vegas, tsunami and battleship helm segments to name a few are meticulously created, the film feels very real at times in terms of look and background activity aided by the excellent sets and locations. The designed sequences of movements between the MUTOs and Godzilla in the showdown fights are choreographed and executed finely giving mass and character to the unidentified terrestrial organisms.
Overall, a visual treat and apt Godzilla entertainment.
The Frozen Ground (2013)
Best of its kind.
An Alaska State Trooper partners with a young woman who escaped the clutches of serial killer.
Based on a true story about a 1980s Alaskan hunt for a serial killer, director Scott Walker captures the period and tension of a town successfully. This is a return to fine form for Nicolas Cage, reminding the causal viewer why he's a A-list actor. Reliable John Cusack is subtly effective portraying real-world serial killer Robert Hansen. Vanessa Hudgens plays against type cast as Cindy Paulson.
Even though a true story it has a well filmed filmatic feel. Walker's offering is gritty, chilling and resonates after the credits role due to its real life story aspect.
A must see for those interested in the genre.
Passenger 57 meets a cellular Agatha Christie
On a non-stop flight from New York to London an Air Marshal receives a text message informing him that someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into a specific bank account.
In this Die Hard, Passenger 57 mixed with a cellular technology Agatha Christie murder mystery Liam Neeson delivers the gravitas and action prowess required even though he can probably do these roles in his sleep. Julianne Moore's role sadly gives her little to do, a part which may have been suited to an unknown but it's good to see an A grade actor bringing some credibility to such a mediocre part. There's solid performances from the array of passengers that makeup the supporting cast. However, talented actor Scoot McNairy feels slightly miscast.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra offers some great special effects, action setups and creates in the first half of the film genuine tension and intrigue. Despite the character development and a conscious effect to avoid stereotypes Non-Stop feels to run out of jet fuel before the end. Illogical points aside, hidden within the John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle's screenplay are some intriguing nuances about alcoholism, security and government cover ups although it never fully explores these interesting points.
Overall an entertaining film but not as compelling as you'd like it to be.
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
A fine return to Muppet caper form
The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his sidekick Number Two.
The last film put the Muppet's back on the the map, director/writer James Bobin and writer Nicholas Stoller corrects Bobin's own previous instalments niggles, gone is the focus on a new Muppet character and less focus on (real) human actors, here there's more Muppets, more songs, comedy and action.
Packed with one-liners gags and with the obligatory cross section of famous cameos including Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Frank Langella and Ray Liotta to name a few there's all you'd expect from a Muppets musical comedy, caper. This offering even excels it predecessor and brings the Muppet's even more to life with some CGI (footwork) but without taking away any of the puppet characteristics of the Muppets we've grown to love along side the human leads Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey who are on fine form.
This is another proper big budget outing set in the 'real' world and not cheap TV movie nor is it based on a classic story. Most Wanted is a fine return to form and sits well with the classic Muppet capers. Highly recommended.