REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

8 08 2011

Summer always brings some nice surprises, and better to get it in August than not at all!  If you had told me at the beginning of the summer that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” would be second to only “Harry Potter” in terms of quality blockbusters, I would have scoffed and laughed.  But now, I couldn’t be happier to say that a beautiful marriage of intelligence and entertainment has occurred in Rupert Wyatt’s film, and combined with the groundbreaking motion-capture that wows and dazzles, the whole experience knocks you unexpectedly off your feet.

This “Apes” starts from the beginning, wisely stepping away from Tim Burton’s remake and distancing itself from the original series so as to make a name for itself, and provides the summer’s first (and perhaps only) satisfying origins story.  It shows us Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco), desperate for a cure for Alzheimer’s that might cure his ailing father (John Lithgow).  After a tragic accident shuts down his funding and research, Rodman throws ethics out the window and takes home the infant Caesar (performed by Andy Serkis), an ape who had been passed the experimental drug through his mother.

Caesar becomes quite the specimen of evolution and progress, learning at a frighteningly quick pace and never showing signs of slowing.  With all signs pointing towards a medicinal triumph over nature, Rodman administers the drug to his father and a cure looks locked down.  Yet with Caesar’s growing mental capabilities come what humans have long feared – an added emotional capacity that could lead our greatest creation to turn on us.

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Weekend Update – August 7, 2011

7 08 2011

“I felt kind of trapped in that material. I felt, This is not my boat. I’m just a passenger, but I’m going down and there’s no way out.”

– James Franco on hosting the 2011 Oscars

“Here’s my guess: Critics will be out to kill [‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’] and blame me for it just because they are out to kill me. Last year people were pretty nice. This is the year when people are going to have fun going after me. I don’t feel the same way about ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ as I do about ‘127 Hours’ or ‘Milk.’ It was a ­different kind of acting.”

– James Franco on the media in Playboy, July 2011


This week, I went to a promotional screening for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”  I decided to show up an hour and a half early because I knew the line would be ridiculously long.  However, I didn’t anticipate that the theater would already be full by the time I got there!

Reeling, desperate, dying to see the movie, I resorted to a card I had yet to play.  I went up to the rep and said, “You may not believe me but I’m a member of the press.”  I wasn’t lying.  And no, I’m not a member of the press just because I write a blog.

I guess it’s time for me to make a big announcement, one that I should have made several months ago.  My work now appears on The Christian Science Monitor‘s webpage.  That’s right, selected posts from “Marshall and the Movies” now appear on a section of the Monitor‘s site called the “Culture Café,” which pools a handful of bloggers for their opinions on the culture at large.  Since May, 8 posts from my blog have appeared on their webpage, ranging from reviews of new releases to Classics Corner posts and even, most recently, a “F.I.L.M.”

Don’t believe me?  Check it out for yourself by clicking on the link below!  I’ll do a better job from now on including links to the posts they syndicate on “Weekend Update,” but know that you can always read it here first!

In case you missed it…

Not much went on at “Marshall and the Movies” this week.  Running frantically behind, I resorted to publishing a lot of reviews I’d been holding back for a long time, “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” and “Burlesque.”  I did, however, strategically publish my review of “Howl” as James Franco had a big movie opening this week.

Yesterday, I reviewed “The Change-Up.”  What a disaster that was.  In case you don’t want to read the whole review, let me sum it up for you in one fragment: AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

The F.I.L.M. of the Week was Charles Ferguson’s “No End in Sight,” a documentary about the American occupation of Iraq.  It’s still a fascinating watch even though the end is in sight … hindsight, as a matter of fact.

And because I didn’t get a chance to point it out in last week’s post, the July edition of “Classics Corner” took a look at Mel Brooks’ timeless comedy “Blazing Saddles.”  Thank goodness people like it enough to put clips on YouTube so I can embed them here.

Recommended Reading

And here’s what I read this week.  You should read it too, unless you are illiterate.  Then find someone to read it for you.

Other cool things I read this week from non-blogger types:

James Franco and the Rise of the New Celebrity

You’re always hearing something about James Franco.  Whether it’s him pursuing yet another degree, opening yet another movie, publishing a book, announcing a directorial venture, or appearing on a soap opera, the man seems to keep reinventing his own celebrity as he goes.  But at the same time, we can’t help but ask, “Who is James Franco?”  A Renaissance Man or a jack-of-all-trades spreading himself too thin?  An entertainer or an artist?  And I think that’s the question he wants us to be mulling over constantly.

The one thing that is certain about James Franco, however, is that he is brutally and blatantly honest.  The man will say what’s on his mind and act his feelings; he won’t take pull any punches or hide behind any veneers.  Case in point: the Oscars this year.  You may or may not have read the quote at the top of the post, but he hated the material and was very vocal about it.  In that same interview with Playboy, he said that he told the producer of the telecast that “I just don’t think this stuff’s going to be good.”

So how did he react?  With boredom and a complete lack of enthusiasm while Anne Hathaway tried to exude enough enthusiasm for both hosts.  But for those of us who know James Franco beyond the obvious filmography, this isn’t really a surprise or something we haven’t seen before.  Have you seen 2008’s “Camille,” a little indie he starred in alongside Sienna Miller?  If you haven’t, don’t because it’s awful.

Here’s the thing about “Camille” – Franco knows it’s terrible and acts accordingly: bored and brutalized, much like how those of us stupid enough to watch the movie feel.  Or if you saw “Eat Pray Love,” you’ll see a similar display.  The guy caught in the thankless A-hole ex-boyfriend role isn’t an exciting place to be, and Franco doesn’t act thrilled at all.  But honestly, should he be?  If you see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” you’ll see a similar side of Franco: bored and acting like he’s above the material the whole time.

My question to you, the reader, is this: is James Franco justified in showing his feelings toward the movie on screen?  Is he allowed to say “Yes, this is a paycheck movie, but that still doesn’t mean I have to like it” through an inferred glance?  Or does he need to swallow his pride and just act?  Because in the end, do we pay to see James Franco or the person that James Franco is acting as?  Do we need to be able to separate the actor from the character?  Or can we accept a post-modern blurring of the two?

Now allow me to shift gears while you mull over the tremendous amount of questions posed in the last paragraph.  Back in March, when the Charlie Sheen phenomenon was raging out of control, the brilliant author Bret Easton Ellis (“American Psycho”) wrote a fascinating editorial for Newsweek cleverly titled “Charlie Sheen IS Winning.”  In it, he broke down how Sheen epitomizes the modern (or post-Empire, as he calls it) celebrity.  While acknowledging that there may be some mental or substance issues present with Sheen, he lays out a convincing case for Sheen as the smartest celebrity in Hollywood because he understands what the public wants.  Try arguing with this:

“To Empire gatekeepers, Sheen seems dangerous and in need of help because he’s destroying (and confirming) illusions about the nature of celebrity … What Sheen has exemplified and has clarified is the moment in the culture when not caring what the public thinks about you or your personal life is what matters most—and what makes the public love you even more (if not exactly CBS or the creator of the show that has made you so wealthy)…

… Do we really want manners? Civility? Empire courtesy? Hell, no. We want reality, no matter how crazy. And this is what drives the Empire to distraction: Sheen doesn’t care what you think of him anymore, and he scoffs at the idea of PR.”

So, is James Franco the bellwether of a new kind of celebrity entering the mainstream consciousness without having a drug-fueled implosion?  Or is he something else entirely?  Weigh in!

WTLFT: August 2011

7 07 2011

Hard to believe we can see the light at the end of the tunnel that is summer 2011.  So, here’s what to look forward to – or not – in the month of August.

August 5

“The Change-Up” – it’s “Freaky Friday,” but rated R and starring two dudes.  We’ll see how this goes.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out why on earth James Franco is doing “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”  Between getting two doctorate degrees and just receiving an Oscar nomination, you would think he would have the smarts and the options to avoid making a movie like this for money or for résumé.  Then again, everyone nowadays has to go to drastic measures to pay for higher education in this country.

I feel like I have to embed the trailer for “Bellflower” rather than just link to it, simply because I can tell it isn’t trying to be like some other movie just to sell tickets.

Being a fan of both the novel and the film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” I have to see “Magic Trip,” Alex Gibney’s latest documentary which spotlights the book’s author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters in the 1960s.

August 10/12

Getting a head start on the weekend by opening on Wednesday is “The Help,” which looks to be a late-summer sleeper, hoping to please the oft-neglected female crowd by adapting a best-selling book.  But with this one looking to be less geared towards one gender and even a potential awards play, this could outgross “Green Lantern” or other summer flops.

The premise of “30 Minutes or Less” feels, quite frankly, a little recycled.  But since it boasts the comedic talents of Aziz Ansari (the funniest part of “Parks & Recreation”), Danny McBride (the best part of “Pineapple Express“), and Jesse Eisenberg being reteamed with the director of the hilariously awesome “Zombieland,” it may end up being pretty good.

And because “THE Final Destination” wasn’t final enough, there’s “Final Destination 5,” which is shot in 3D.  Too bad the title “the 3D event of the summer” was already taken – and I don’t think they could stretch it into 5 dimensions quite yet.  There’s also a “Glee” concert movie in 3D in case you haven’t spent enough buying their singles on iTunes.

August 19

Is it just me, or does “Fright Night” = “Disturbia” + zombies?  Also, Anton Yelchin is keeping crazy busy.  He beat unemployment.

As for a last big summer action movie, count me out for “Conan the Barbarian.”  You can even count me out for the inevitable Arnold Schwarzenegger classics marathon that will be running all weekend on Spike.  I think I’ll pass on the latest “Spy Kids” movie as well, which is a TOTAL sell-out of a series that I actually loved when I was 8.  Aroma-scope?  Gross.

August 26

I will see ANY movie with Paul Rudd, so “Our Idiot Brother” is a must-see for me.  It’s only made better by the fact that it played at Sundance to a great deal of acclaim.  Huzzah!

There is no trailer available yet for “Higher Ground” (grr!), but I think this may be my must-see movie of August … because I probably won’t get to see it until December.  Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut, a religious movie, just Vera Farmiga in general – sign me up!

In other indie news, the 2010 TIFF debut “Brighton Rock,” Rowan Joffe’s remake of the old British film, finally sees release in America.  “Chasing Madoff” looks like a sleek documentary, but I’m wondering what will distinguish it from the perfectly good “Frontline” special on PBS that unfurled his whole story.  “Circumstance” brings Iranian youth to the screen, and again I have to wonder what makes this any different than a live action version of “Persepolis” set in the present day.

I wasn’t the biggest “Pan’s Labyrinth” enthusiast, so Guillermo del Toro’s “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” isn’t necessarily high on my list for the weekend.  Nor is “Colombiana,” the Zoe Saldana-starrer which looks like a carbon copy of Luc Besson’s “The Professional.”  Oh, it’s also directed by him … coincidence?  I think NOT!

So, what do you think will please crowds in August?  Are you looking for one last bang from the summer – or for it to just end already?  Sound off in the comments AND take the poll!