Tag Archives: Kevin Durand

What Would Caesar Do?

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Seven years after Matt Reeves wrapped up the solid Planet of the Apes trilogy with a thrilling, full-on war movie, director Wes Ball takes the reins for a new chapter with a relevant conscience.

“You take his name, but twist his words.”

The characters may be talking about Caesar, leader of the ape revolution, but the filmmakers are aiming higher.

After a quick update on the rise of the apes, Ball and screenwriter Josh Friedman settle in “many generations” after Caesar’s death.

Young ape Noa (Owen Teague) is part of a clan that bonds with eagles, cares for the balance of nature, and is careful not to stray to the “valley beyond.” But their peaceful existence is shattered when the masked warriors of Proximus (Kevin Durand) invade, on a violent mission to bring in the human named Mae (Freya Allan).

Proximus has anointed himself the new Caesar, and believes Mae is the key to opening a long dormant vault holding human secrets of higher evolution.

Ball (The Maze Runner trilogy) returns to the adventurous roots of the original Planet of the Apes from ’68, and then ups the ante on action, visual spectacle and moral obligation.

When Mae finds protection and friendship with Noa and the tender, learned Raka (Peter Macon), it sets off a journey that is drawn out but frequently thrilling. Visual effects are again often wonderfully evocative, teaming with Gyula Padros’s layered cinematography and some nifty editing from the Dirk Westervelt/Dan Zimmerman team for effective world building and satisfying set pieces.

This is a story evolution that feels right, even urgent. The series, from its start, exposes the evil and hypocrisy in the lust for power that threatens every civilization. The fight in Kingdom primarily pits the speaking apes against each other, but it feels more realistic than most of what has hit the screen this year.

None of the characters compel the same level of interest as Ceasar, though. Andy Serkis is missed, and with him, Reeves, who elevated the irresistible Ape-Pocalypse of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes to political theater of near-Shakespearean proportions.

But Kingdom is on the right track and Ball has crafted a next chapter that leaves us wanting to read on.

Dancing in the Dark


by Hope Madden

Back in 2019, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett had a blast locking a group of evildoers and one innocent inside a luxurious mansion for about 90 minutes of head exploding, weapon wielding, visceral mayhem.

The fun they had with Ready or Not was contagious. So catchy that you can certainly feel its influence in the filmmakers’ latest, the ballerina vampire tale Abigail.

The first big difference is that in this mansion, no one is innocent.

A team has been assembled for a kidnapping: grab a wealthy guy’s kid and hole up in some out-of-the-way safe house until the ransom comes. They nab little Abigail as she’s coming home from ballet lessons, easy enough, and now all they have to do is wait out the night until the cash comes through.

It’s an airtight movie set up, even if it leaves little breathing space for twists or surprises—assuming you’ve seen the trailer, or at least the poster, and are not shocked to learn that Abigail is a vampire.

Alisha Weir (Matilda: The Musical, Wicked Little Letters) strikes a fine balance as the centuries-old bloodsucker who suckers victims by playing a helpless preteen. She certainly makes ballet look sinister.

Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin surround their wee star with a solid ensemble. This ragtag group of bloodbags (or criminals, as they’d probably prefer to be known) delivers some fun chemistry.

Dan Stevens (having a banner year!) is delightfully unpleasant as group leader Frank, while Melissa Barrera (Scream) carves out a compelling lead turn. Meanwhile, Kathryn Newton (Lisa Frankenstein, Freaky) and longtime “that guy” Kevin Durand deliver the comic notes.

Abigail offers quickly paced, sharply edited gore with enough banter to keep the characters interesting. It’s tough to know who to root for—these people did willingly kidnap a child, after all. The overall moral ambiguity of the film makes it less satisfying than Ready or Not and the lockstep plotting keeps it from sticking with you long after the credits roll.

It’s fun, though. And when it decides to finally get bloody, it may not leave a lasting impression, but it definitely makes a mess.



by Hope Madden

The first question to ask when evaluating any new Nicolas Cage movie: Insanity, inanity or a bit of both?

Primal looks like it could be a good balance. Stunt man turned director Nick Powell puts Cage, playing authority hating big game hunter Frank Walsh, on a cargo ship headed from South America toward the States. Walsh’s cargo: some parrots, a couple of venomous snakes, some angry monkeys, and one mass of unconvincing CGI he’s calling a white jaguar.

That Gameboy-quality big cat is not the only predator on board. US Marshalls load chained madman Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand), headed for the US to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Why a ship instead of an airplane? Why this particular ship? Why is this kid on board instead of in school? Why is Famke Janssen (that is Famke Janssen, right?) on board?


I will not ridicule a child. I will not ridicule sad—nay, tragic—plastic surgery, either.


Powell and writer Richard Leder slap together concepts from Die Hard, Rambo, The Silence of the Lambs, Snakes on a Plane, Aliens—and don’t forget Life of Pi. The result is dumber than the sum of its parts.

Primal contains an awful lot of stupid, but the sound is so muddy it’s hard to catch much dialog. At least we have that small mercy to be thankful for.

Is Cage good? No, not really. His inner crazy is set on simmer and Leder’s dialog is far too weak to offer Cage many options for little burst of weirdness. Cage’s chemistry with Janssen is nonexistent. There are also far too many stretches between bad CGI – I mean, white jag sightings.

It’s a ludicrous mess, but not quite ludicrous enough to make it fun. What could have been most enjoyable as insane winds up being mainly inane.