“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is the second film in the revitalized “Planet of the Apes” series. Director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield” and TV’s “Felicity”) takes over from Rupert Wyatt, who directed 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
Picking up four years after the events of “Rise,” the latest film features an entirely new human cast, though Reeves brings back actor Andy Serkis (“Lord of the Rings”) to play Caesar — the leader of the genetically modified simians who are in the process of taking over the world by default, as a man made virus has wiped out most of the human race.
Full of dire warnings about the nature of humanity, the film serves to both humanize the apes and dehumanize mankind to our baser instincts.
Gary Oldman plays Dreyfus, the leader of one of the few remaining human colonies on the planet. Dreyfus struggles to maintain order among a panic-stricken colony that is short on resources and near the end of the fuel supply, while some of his humans seek peace with the apes and others want war.
It’s a fine line to walk, telling two separate stories — that of the humans seeking to restore any semblance of their former civilization, and the apes, seeking to build their own civilization — and “Dawn” does just about as good as it can.
The pacing starts slow, and then only picks up in spurts, necessarily dropping back to focus on character (human and ape) development. The human acting isn’t spectacular, though Oldman does what he’s supposed to as Dreyfus. Reeves, who spent his early career writing and directing for the small screen, brings along Keri Russell, who played the title role in the highly popular WB series “Felicity,” which Reeves co-created along with J.J. Abrams.
Russell plays Ellie, a nurse and girlfriend to actor Jason Clarke’s character Malcolm, who is the film’s most prominent human character and serves to represent the best of humanity.
At just over two hours, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” drags on at times, thanks to the long character development sequences, but still offers solid enough entertainment to warrant a trip to the theater.
The apes are set to return in 2016, with Reeves at the helm again.
Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” is this weekend’s biggest release, and it’s more than worth waiting in line to see. Easily the most outrageous of Marvel’s big screen blockbusters, “Guardians” might be missing the star-power of Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson or Chris Evans and their “Avengers” alter-egos, “Guardians” does more than expected with an animated tree (Vin Diesel as Groot) and a cartoonish raccoon (Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon).
WWE’s Bautista joins the ragtag band of misfits, who end up with little choice other than to save the world, playing bulked-up alien Drax the Destroyer. Zoe Saldana (“Columbiana”) is another alien — a half scary, half sexy, assassin with green skin called Gamora — and between the bunch, it’s difficult to say which does the best job of portraying their particular character.
In the end, it’s a raucous shoot-em-up action flick, with the team led by Chris Pratt. To everyone else, the de-facto team leader is known as Peter Quill… but, he’d much rather they call him “Star Lord” (which they only do when making fun of him).
“Guardians” is a whole spaceship load of fun and goes a long way toward keeping Marvel three steps ahead of DC at the box office.
Two new action films went head to head last weekend at the box office, and it wasn’t Dwayne Johnson’s “Hercules” who won. Instead, director Luc Besson’s “Lucy,” starring Scarlett Johansson, took the honors.
Hercules & The Lady
Oddly, the studio didn’t really begin promoting the Dwayne Johnson vehicle until the final couple of weeks before its release. With a $100 million pricetag, “Hercules” marks director Brett Rattner’s first feature film since last year’s stunningly bad “Movie 43.”
Rattner, who made his mark with the “Rush Hour” films featuring actor/comedian Chris Tucker and martial arts star Jackie Chan, hasn’t directed a bona-fide hit since 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” — which remains that franchise’s most successful film (“Rush Hour 3” brought in $140 million domestically against a $140 million production budget).
Johnson, the WWE star who has proven to be a solid draw at the box office thanks to his decent acting chops and excellent comedic timing, plays alongside veteran actors John Hurt, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes.
Full of fantastic special effects and beautiful vistas (even if many are digitally enhanced), “Hercules” is pretty much what you’d expect it to be… a film strong on action and a bit weak on storyline. But, Johnson proves once again here that he’s at the top of the list of this generation’s big-screen action stars. He fully embodies the role of Hercules, not only making the fantastic believable, but truly giving the demigod son of Zeus the body of a god with the heart of a man.With ‘The Rock’ off slaying mythological enemies, Scarlett Johansson’s “Lucy” takes us through a brief history of mankind, from prehistoric ape-woman to a post-modern human with a brain capacity — and resulting powers — the rest of us can only dream of.
A fast-paced thriller coming in at around an hour and a half, Luc Besson (“The Professional” and “The Fifth Element”) blends science fiction and action in a way that, while it isn’t entirely new, is still thoroughly watchable.
Johansson’s character is kidnapped and tortured, and after escaping, returns to wreak havoc upon her former captors. There’s a whole movie in that single plotline. But, “Lucy” doesn’t stop there. She’s a butt-kicking martial arts master with “Matrix”-like reflexes. There’s probably a movie in that as well. But, Besson — as both screenwriter and director — doesn’t stop there. He adds in an evolutionary twist, rapidly evolving Lucy’s brain to reach it’s full potential… which involves some pretty awesome powers, but at the cost of her humanity.
Full of violence, the film racks up a huge body count, with Lucy herself seeming to lose her own soul with each life she takes. “Lucy” is a movie that is both fun and tragic, both laughable and gory. It’s a good reason to venture to out to your local theater, so you can see for yourself how this anti-heroine slayed the mighty Hercules at the box office last weekend.