Monday, July 17, 2017

'War for the Planet of the Apes' REVIEW

The third and final (??? you never know) chapter in this rebooted version of the 1968 science fiction slavery/racism metaphor presents a satisfying conclusion to everything presented in 'Rise' and 'Dawn' (of the Planet of the Apes...duh!)  Caesar is once again (rightfully) the focus and that is one of the film's strengths.  One of the best things about 'Rise' was that it focused on Caesar and the other ape characters as much, if not more as it did on James Franco.  In a world where Transformers movies focus on Shia or Marky Mark and Ninja Turtle movies focus on everybody but the turtles, it's nice to see the title characters front and center.  Especially as a testament to how far the technology has come and how it can blend with an actor's natural ability to create realistic computer generated fantasy characters that you can feel for.  Yes, Andy Serkis is once again great as Caesar, as is his supporting cast of guys who probably felt silly in those motion capture suits when they were filming this, but who turned out great performances.

It's been two years after 'Dawn' and the apes are on the run from a bunch of military guys that hold them responsible for the chaos that Koba caused at the end of the last film.  Caesar is trying to get his tribe of intelligent apes, including his wife and son, away from this group at all costs.  He tells some of the soldiers that come for him that he didn't start this war and wisely doesn't want to escalate the conflict.  But when tragedy strikes, things change and Caesar has to struggle with his own anger, not wanting to become like Koba, who has become like the devil on his shoulder.  And as the story unfolds, we learn about an ape concentration camp, a mute girl whose father was killed by the Colonel who has been chasing the apes and a (very funny) talking ape who is not part of Caesar's group of lab escapees.  It all comes together in the end.  Interesting revelations will keep you engaged, as one of this film's strengths is that it relies on drama between these well-CGI'd fantasy characters and not just action.  There is some action at the beginning, but the 'war' in the title really shows up at the end and the combatants might not be who you expect.

The only complaint I have is with one lull towards the middle of the film, where Caesar is repeatedly beaten.  A lot of that "Passion of the Apes" stuff could have been cut out to improve the pacing.  But once that part is over, the movie picks up and there are surprises as to why the Colonel hates the apes so much (that I won't spoil here).  There are many nods to the original series (the mute girl's name is Nova) and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.  I would have like to see Taylor's ship splash down at the end of the film and a CGI Charlton Heston emerge like they did with Princess Leia in 'Rogue One', but that was just me.

I give this movie 3.5 apes out of 5.  I am very much looking forward to director Matt Reeves' "na na na na na na na" next film!

Check out Turtle Rocket Books for more inspired lunacy from Chaddy D.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' REVIEW

Much has been made of this new adaptation's resolve to stay away from things in Spider-Man's history that have been covered in previous versions (Uncle Ben's death, the spider bite, the Osborns).  Well, there's no Osborns and there doesn't need to be.  But there is one line where Peter says something like "with all my aunt has been through", alluding to Uncle Ben's death without saying so outwardly.  Would it have been horrible for them to say "my uncle died" for those in the audience who never saw the other versions, to reinforce why Peter is so cautious about causing his aunt anymore stress, an important part of this story?  With all the men in this movie commenting on newly-younger Aunt May's appearance, would that have resulted in more "so, she's available" jokes?  And what about that grandma taking her little grandson to see "Spidey-Man" who has never seen the Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield versions?

Well, there are a lot of things in this film that are either reimagined (like when Ultimate comics first came out) to be more modern and realistic and it all works very well.  That is, if you shut off your nostalgia radar and get happy that Spider-Man now gets to interact with other superheroes (except for the X-Men and the others owned by 20th Century Fox).  Remember the 'Spectacular Spider-Man' cartoon series, where Peter was going to a school for smart kids?  And they had to explain that Flash Thompson got there on a football scholarship, because he's a dumb jock and why would he be at the same nerdy school as Peter?  Well, that lame explanation will help you understand why Flash Thompson is a snotty rich kid and not a jock in this version.  He's still Peter's rival.  He bullies him by mocking him in front of his peers, not by physically dominating him.  No slamming him up against the lockers or anything like that.  But he still fills the same role.  Same with other Spidey side characters you may remember, such as Betty Brant and Liz.  Familiar yet modern.

Much has also been made of the high school element of this new version feeling like a John Hughes movie.  Well, a humorous reference to one of the best 80's teen comedies of all time (with the actual movie playing in the background) will cement the fact that this was intentional and also very well done.

The rest of the story is about Peter Parker, after helping Iron Man in 'Captain America: Civil War', wanting to join the Avengers with Iron Man/Tony Stark telling him he's not ready.  He's figuring out how to be a hero, helping people any way that he can and Tony suggests that he continue being a "friendly neighborhood spider man", meaning stopping low-level crimes in his neighborhood.  But when really high-tech weapons (with connections to the aliens from the first 'Avengers' movie) show up on the streets of New York, Spider-Man sees this as a chance to prove himself.  This is a really good, funny superhero origin story with great performances.  Since the focus is away from the spider bite thing, this "origin story" is about Spider-Man becoming a hero after getting said powers.  Because just getting super powers doesn't make you a hero and this movie explores something that the other versions just fast-forwarded, using  the "Spidey becomes a wrestler" storyline from the comics.  How does someone become a hero?

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' really works as a stand alone movie, with the nods to other films being very slight and not that important to the story, other than where the weird weapons come from.  Mostly just jokes, like Cap doing instructional videos for Peter's gym class (and detention).  The film references the one-story Avengers facility shown in 'Civil War' and 'Ant-Man' and shows Tony Stark moving things out of Stark Tower into that new headquarters.  So, that's when the story takes place (somewhere between those two films) and you will hear references to Wakanda (because February 2018), but the rest is focused on Spidey.  With Tony Stark in the Obi-Wan mentor role.  Robert Downey Jr. is great once again, as is Tom Holland as Spidey.  Marissa Tomei is a good actress for this new version of Aunt May.  And Michael Keaton is amazing as Vulture.  Michael Keaton is great period and should be in more movies.  The supporting cast of teenage classmates are also filled with good actors.

So, a great Marvel stand alone movie with ties to the MCU that doesn't weigh it down.  I give this movie 4 thwips out of 5.

For more inspired lunacy from Chaddy D., check out Turtle Rocket Books.

Friday, July 7, 2017

'Cars 3' REVIEW

'Cars 2' was the Pixar movie that started Pixar's post-Toy-Story-3 slump after their 12 awesome movie streak starting with the original 'Toy Story'.  'Cars 2' was the first time I walked out of the theatre of a Pixar movie not blown away by the creativity.  It happened a few times after that, with 'Inside Out' raising the bar up again...albeit briefly.
But even a mediocre effort by Pixar is just as good or better than what other studios crank out.  I just got my hopes and standards up during those first 12 movies, being blown away by 'The Incredibles' and 'Wall-E'.  Yes, 'Brave' and 'Cars 2' were lame, but 'Cars 3' falls in the "this would be better if DreamWorks made it" category.
The story is basically about Lightning McQueen having to swallow his pride when younger, faster race cars are making their way into the sport.  Because all the characters in this world are sentient cars, race car drivers are athletes, so this movie is like a 'Rocky' sequel for kids as Lightning McQueen mounts both his wheels and his comeback.  Along the way, he makes friends with a young, female race car trainer named Cruz Ramirez and teaches her to believe in herself.  There are some nice nods to Paul Newman, who died after voicing the character of Doc Hudson (McQueen's previous mentor) in the first film, as Doc Hudson appears in flashbacks and Lighting takes on a mentor role of sorts with Cruz.
I think your enjoyment of this film will depend on whether or not you enjoyed the first one and want to see where the characters have ended up.  It's wayyyyy better than the second one (which totally didn't count).  Mater is in this one, but with no mention of the lame spy plot in part 2.  In the end, 'Cars 3' is a funny final lap to the (two part) 'Cars' trilogy.
KIDS' RATING: 3 Lightyear tires out of 5.
Did anybody see 'Captain Underpants'?  Was it good?  Comment below.
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