Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy [2014]

"I have part of a plan!"

Release Date: 31 July 2014 (Malaysia), 1 August 2014 (USA)
Directed By: James Gunn
Written By: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper (voice), Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (voice), Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker
Duration: 121 minutes

In A Nutshell:
Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), also known by the name 'Star- Lord', is part of a group of thieves and smugglers called 'The Ravengers'. Quill gains possession of an orb which turns out can be used to destroy entire universes. Ronan (played by Lee Pace), one of most deadly villains around, pursues Quill in seek of the orb for that very disastrous reason. 
In order to evade Ronan, Quill is forced to form an uneasy truce with a group of individual misfits. They are Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana) -- who is betraying both Ronan and her adopted father Thanos (that guy in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers [2012] -- this time played by Josh Brolin), Rocket (voiced by Bradly Cooper) -- a genetically engineered raccoon and bounty hunter, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) -- an extraterrestrial tree-like creature who is also Rocket's accomplice, and Draxx The Destroyer (played by Dave Bautista) -- a warrior with a personal vendetta against Ronan.

Thumbs Up:
+ Personality quirks. Almost each and every character is uniquely developed and interesting.
+ There's a joke, punchline, or pop-culture reference in every other line of dialogue.
+ Superheroes and space adventures -- absolutely my kind of thing!
+ Awesome mix tape -- catchy and surprisingly fits the movie.
+ Ronan -- an extremely terrifying villain. Can't wait for when Thanos actually plays a major part in a Marvel movie. Brace yourselves when that time comes people!

+ "I am Groot!" -- with all the silliness and flaws of the other characters, Groot is refreshingly innocent. Other films have comic relief, but with this film throwing jokes every two seconds, Groot provides a more heart-felt and grounded relief. Is there an actual term for this?
+ The legend of Footloose [1984] and Kevin Bacon
+ "What are you doing?" -- I don't want to spoil things any further, but when you get to the scene with this line in it, you'll understand.

photo from here
Thumbs Down:
- The film tries to establish its many characters while at the same time set-up story-lines for future Marvel instalments. At times this makes it fall victim to having the feel of 'too much going on'.
- Post-credits scene. What a let-down. We want to see something that set-ups future Marvel movies. Hello, Avengers: Age Of Ultron [2015] is coming out next year!

The Verdict Is In:
With Guardians Of The Galaxy being one of Marvel's lesser known characters, the movie is a solid introduction. It kinda feels like a quirky version of Star Wars (and no, not the prequels -- thank God there's no Jar-Jar Binks or Anakin here). Definitely not a 'masterpiece' like some reviews are claiming. But still, its a fun and enjoyable ride nevertheless. Looking forward to future instalments in the series!
7.5 out of 10

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes [2014]

"Ape Do Not Kill Ape"

Release Date: 10 July 2014 (Malaysia), 11 July 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Written By: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Mark Bomback
Starring: Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Jason Clarke, Nick Thurston, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman
Duration: 130 minutes

In A Nutshell:
[Description by Twentieth Century Fox] A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.

Thumbs Up:
+ The movie is all about emotional resonance, and the apes, yes those motion-capture apes display them with abundance. Even more so than the human actors.
+ The first time the humans encounter the apes in the woods. I'd shit in my pants too if I were in their position.
+ The apes march down to the city to send a warning to the humans. That's twice now I'd shit my in my pants if I were human.
+ Caesar (played by Andy Serkis). Everything about him, his body language, demeanor, how he speaks, everything just screams of alpha-male.
+ Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) deviously portraying a funny circus ape. He showed better acting there than anyone in the Transformers movies.

Thumbs Down:
- I love animal face-offs, they're like cross-over fights for animals. The Discovery Channel had a show specifically for this. Lion vs Tiger. Walrus vs Polar Bear. Sperm Whale vs Colossal Squid. What I've always wanted to see however was a Grizzly Bear vs a Gorilla. So when the Grizzly appeared early in the movie I thought my wish was going to be granted. Didn't happen. Missed opportunity.
- Gary Oldman. The great actor is underused.
- The apes' sign language. One swift of the hand seemed like it represented a full sentence of 30 words!

The Verdict Is In:
The hallmark of a good storyteller is when he is able to make a predictable story become entertaining. Its not about the destination, but its about the journey. And that's exactly what happens here. Let's face it, this movie was a little predictable. You knew how things would unfold in the end but the 130 minutes here was far from being a bore. Aided by great performances, this was a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

In yesterday's blog post, I made a rundown of the seven previous Planet Of The Apes films. With this latest addition, it looks like the franchise is getting stronger and stronger. Hail Caesar!
8.5 out of 10

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Planet Of The Apes Franchise

In just a few minutes I'll be going to opening of movie Dawn Of The Planet Of Apes [2014], and I'm already super-hyped! This movie is second only to X-Men: Days Of Future Past [2014] as my most anticipated film of the year.

I first saw the original Planet Of The Apes franchise during the mid-90s. My local TV network had played each of the five movies during its midnight slot. Five consecutive nights, five movies. I was hooked. They were full of social commentary and made you love animals even more.

The second reboot of the franchise, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011] was my very first movie review and it become one of my favorites films from the year 2011. So I just couldn't wait for this coming sequel to come out. Last week I decided to go on a movie marathon an revisit all previous seven movies. Here's some quick thoughts...

 # Planet Of The Apes [1968]

Quite rightly a classic, this was an extremely entertaining movie. It is said that of all time-travel performed in films, this in theory is the only one that could scientifically happen.

Nice to find out the shaky-cam technique was used even way back in the 60s. Ooh, and Linda Harrison as Nova was a stunner!!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

# Beneath The Planet Of The Apes [1970]

The worst movie in the franchise. Not only was it guilty of shifting too much of the focus from the apes to the humans, but it had a weird sci-fi angle of telepathic humans. It felt like a really bad episode of Star Trek.

Rating: 5 out of 10

# Escape From The Planet Of The Apes [1971]

 I was glad that this character-driven edition focused on two of my favorite characters from the franchise, Zira (played by Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (played by Roddy McDowall). Hunter and McDowall as always were awesome in their characters, able to express great range of emotions through those ape make-ups. The ending of the movie was just fantastic!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

# Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes [1972]

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011] is basically a reboot of this movie. Entertaining but not as memorable.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

# Battle For The Planet Of The Apes [1973]

A low key ending to the original franchise. Hopefully Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes [2014] which is said to be a reboot of this movie will do much, much better.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

# Planet Of The Apes [2001]

The Tim Burton reboot. I had seen this in the theaters and one more time when it was played on TV. But when I watched this again last week, I realized that I didn't remember and wasn't familiar with most of the scenes. This ultimately is its problem -- its forgettable. Plus, the ending of the war made no sense.

Rating: 6 out of 10

# Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011]

Awesome reboot. My favorite scenes from the movie: (1) Casear (played by Andy Serkis) meets the other apes in the sanctuary for the first time, and (2) Caesar speaks for the first time and yells, "NOOOO!!!!". Truly chilling scene!

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 (an increase of 0.5 from my frist review)

And, oh, as a supplement, you might want to check out Project Nim [2011]. Its a documentary about a chimpanzee raised by humans during the 70s. Very similar in storyline to Planet Of The Apes but in real life. Its also one of the best documentaries I've ever seen!
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