Tag Archives: Planet of the Apes

Praising Caesar

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

by Hope Madden

You can officially forget Dr. Zaius. In fact, if you think Rupert Wyatt’s impressive Rise of the Planet of the Apes from 2011 was the best that particular series could possibly do, you can forget that, too. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an evolution to a far superior breed of film artistically, visually and emotionally.

The devastating truths of prejudice, bias, fear and powerlust are the foundational planks of any great piece of political theater, dating back to Shakespeare (fittingly) and before. Director Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield), along with his team of writers, respects this. It is respect for the content that elevated the previous installment so far above franchise efforts as well as audience expectations.

With that respect and those expectations now established, Reeves picks up Wyatt’s themes and expands them with breathtaking expertise. The Simian Flu – the virus that gave Caesar (Andy Serkis) and other lab apes exceeding intelligence – proved catastrophic to the human population. Ten years after the outbreak and the “incident on the Golden Gate Bridge”, the apes are thriving in their own society in a forest beyond the city. Meanwhile, what’s left of the city’s human population struggles to survive.

Wisely, Reeves doesn’t pick sides, and in leaving judgment behind we’re able to see this thrilling Man V Ape escapade for its larger historical and human relevance.

These elements coursing beneath the surface of his film help to explain its profound impact, but it’s what’s layered on top that thrills.

In utterly stunning 3D, Reeves fills the expanse of his screen with fascinating and startling images, action sequences and set pieces at once familiar and unlike anything else unspooling this summer. Once again, you forget that half the drama before you erupts between CGI images and trained animals – the image is that true, the drama that compelling.

Dawn is as convincing on every front, even when it has no business succeeding. It is so loud, brutal, and committed to its premise that you cannot but surrender to the chaos. Equally successful as summer blockbuster and political allegory, the film is as well written in both arenas as any you will find.

Darker, more intense and deeply satisfying, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes a good thing and makes it better.


This Week’s Countdown: Time Traveling Out of January

Her came out this week, and it’s awesome. August: Osage County, also new in theaters, is worth a peek. But that’s probably it for a while. January is the beginning of the long winter movie wasteland, littered with films that were not deemed good competition for holiday movies, not likely award winners – just not that great. The kind of thing you hang on to until it’s bleak and dreary and people have lost the will to live so, why not watch Ride Along?

I, Frankenstein? I vomit.

Seriously, you know it’s bad when you’re holding out for the Hercules movie starring The Rock.

It’s too bad we don’t have a time machine to just jump past the dismal winter movie months. But we don’t. What we do have – which is almost as good – are time machine movies. Here are our 8 favorites. Why eight? January’s a long month and five might not be enough. Use them to fill the void of good flicks at the theater.

8. Twelve Monkeys

Madman Terry Gilliam creates a fascinating shell-world of the future, in which penal colony worker Bruce Willis agrees to travel back to the Nineties to sleuth out the cause of the apocalypse. The SciFi business is intricate and delicate and works surprisingly well, but it’s Gilliam’s particular genius for ruminating on the nature of insanity that keeps this one fascinating. That, along with fun performances from Willis and Oscar nominated (thought, let’s be honest, maybe he didn’t deserve that one) Brad Pitt.

7. Time Bandits

What? More Terry Gilliam? Yes, this guy has a real jones for time travel and, in this case, dwarfs. In 1981 Gilliam was still working with his Monty Python cohorts, ensuring that this bit of lunacy (for wherever Gilliam creates, lunacy follows) takes on a far more comical air than 12 Monkeys. Imaginative and hilarious, it’s no Brazil, but that film couldn’t have existed without this one.


6. The Terminator

Computers become self aware. They build super sized, thickly accented, human-ish cyborgs (the role Schwarzenegger was born to play) to infiltrate the few remaining warriors and end the human race. But one scrappy lad sends his dad back to knock up his mom, ensuring the future of the species. Which begs the question: is the survival of the human race reason enough to entertain the idea of your parents doing it?




5. Planet of the Apes

The film’s 45 years old at this point. We hope we’re not giving up any spoilers by including it on the time travel countdown. But it’s a fascinating thought – maybe it’s not the machines that will enslave us. Maybe it’ll be those damn, dirty apes! Oh Charlton Heston, with your granite jaw and loin cloth, how you suffer when you find out!

4. Timecrimes

This one is nutty, and absolutely required viewing for anyone who enjoys time space continuum conundrums. So much can go wrong when you travel just one hour back in time. An always clever experiment in science fiction and irony, Timecrimes is a spare, unique and wild ride.

3. Back to the Future

The most beloved of all time travel films, Back to the Future has charm to spare. Inventive and endearing, and yet Marty McFly almost makes out with his own mom. Ewww. (We love you, George McFly!)


2. Primer

Made for $7000, this film is, in itself, an act of science fiction. Writer/director Shane Carruth (who would go on to make the best sic fi film of 2013, Upstream Color,) finds all new ways to consider what havoc a time machine could wreak. It would be the most streamlined, absorbing and ingenious film of its kind if there were other films of its kind.


1. Looper

An ingenious look at personal destiny wrapped inside a mind bending time travel thriller, the film watches Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) try to kill the older version of himself (Bruce Willis) whose been sent back to him from the future for a mob hit. Breathlessly entertaining, wildly clever and incredibly well crafted, it’s among the very best SciFi  film of a generation.