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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Blu-ray and DVDStarring James Franco, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, Tom Felton

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment


I, like many Apes fans, left the theatre after watching Tim Burton’s reboot of The Planet of the Apes feeling absolutely confused and furious. Apes wearing eyeliner? A flaccid end battle sequence? A ridiculous and completely senseless tacked on ending twist? Yeah, things were not good in the land of the intelligent primate. In fact they were dismal. Fast forward a few years, and 20th Century Fox decides to go to the well once more for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A prequel of sorts which more or less offers a modern-day retelling of the classic Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Reaction was guarded, yet mostly pessimistic. Was the magic lost forever? Surprisingly enough – not even close!

You know what the plot of this film is from its title so there’s little need to go there. Let’s just talk about the movie itself. Director Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a very smart film. Smart enough to have a great script penned by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Smart enough to hire a great cast, including a heartbreaking portrayal delivered by Jon Lithgow. Smart enough to pay a lot of respect to the source material while offering something new. And most importantly … smart enough to hire the great and woefully under-appreciated Andy Serkis to portray the leader of said ape rebellion.

Serkis is to today’s filmmaking community what the great Lon Chaney was to the budding film community of yesteryear. He possesses the uncanny ability to be able to become and breathe life into any character thrown his way no matter what the rigors of playing a certain role will be. He acts with his entire body. Every movement, every emotion, every facial expression, every nuance that could make you believe what you are seeing is real is there in spades. He is the heart and soul of this film, making you laugh, cry, and even cheer out loud. The man can do it all, and it’s high time that he be recognized for his greatness.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a true gift for fans of the franchise. An unexpected diamond whose only fault is leaving you wanting more. Much more. The film’s ending comes off as quite abrupt and makes you realize just how much more of this tale there is to tell. It’s as if we reached the halfway point in a much larger and longer picture. I will say this, though: The end credits are genius and add to the mythos. Don’t even think about cutting them off.

If you have the tech, you’ll want to ignore the fact that the DVD version of this film even exists. Don’t get me wrong; it looks and sounds as good as possible, but this flick is MEANT to be experienced in 1080p as the crisp detail is nearly startling in its beauty. You can see every single hair on every single ape. Black levels are rich, colors are bright, and everything is as razor sharp as you could have hoped for. The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track only serves to enhance the experience by giving your home theatre system quite the workout. Really, this is as good as it gets.

Now on to the extras, of which there is a bevy! First off we get two commentary tracks – one with director Rupert Wyatt, who really seems to be enjoying himself and even marveling a bit over just how well it all turned out, and the other with writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who take their time expanding on ideas and plot points. It’s clear this duo were fans of the series, and their chemistry on the track is undeniable. Really good stuff. From there we have several featurettes covering a lot of ground from moviemaking to educational offers pertaining to several types of primates, an eight-minute look at the film’s sound effects and music, a multi-angle look at the Rocket Cookie scene, twelve deleted scenes that clock in at a around twelve minutes long, and finally a piece on the genius of Andy Serkis. Add on a couple of galleries and three trailers, and what we have here is one of the most impressive home video packages of the entire year. Kudos to Fox and this absolute home run!

Even if you’ve never seen a Planet of the Apes film or aren’t a fan of the franchise, this flick is still a must see as it encompasses everything we go to the movies for. It’s that damned good. Let’s hope that the series, much like the apes themselves, just keeps evolving from here. We’re certainly on the right track!

Special features

  • Audio commentary by director Rupert Wyatt
  • Audio commentary by writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
  • Pre-vis for The Future featurette
  • Capturing Caesar – Script to Screen featurette
  • Studying the Genius of Andy Serkis featurette
  • A New Generation of Apes featurette
  • Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries featurette
  • Breaking New Sound Barriers: The Music and Sound Design of Rise of the Planet of the Apes featurette
  • Multi-Angle: Rocket Cookie Scene
  • Ape Facts
  • Character Concept Art Gallery
  • Deleted scenes
  • Three theatrical trailers

    Film

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features

    5 out of 5

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish
    4.0

    Summary

    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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    Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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    Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

    Directed by Johnny Martin


    When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

    Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

    Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

     

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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    Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

    Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


    The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

    The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

    The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

    From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

    The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

    Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

    The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

    • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
    2.0

    Summary

    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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