DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
reviewed by Elvin Jones
War has begun!
-Caesar
Picture
War was declared on the box office by Caesar, the highly intelligent ape from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, leading his family and fellow apes back into action in the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, facing off this time against a band of humans, trying to survive in a world ravaged by a virus that has wiped out most of the human population.

KEYWORDS
Amazing, emotional, family, surviving

THE GOOD
The apes – the ape effects have come a long way since Rise.
Very realistic brought out even more with 3D.
Human cast – a cast that overall had newcomers and those that might not be household names, with the exception of Gary Oldman. Didn’t distract from the apes story.
Caesar – worthy of his namesake.  As great a father as he is a leader.
Koba – for him to be a villain, and an ape I felt was done very well.
Communication – although the apes can speak somewhat, they mainly communicate via sign language, but the spoken words are used at just the right time to convey extra meaning.
The battles – when apes go hard, they really go hard


THE BAD
Gary Oldman’s screentime – I admit I really struggled to find something wrong with this movie. I will say if you are going to have someone of Oldman’s talent in a great movie, he could have been involved in it a bit more for my tastes

WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
Set ten years after Rise, we see the result of the worldwide Simian flu that eradicated most of the human population.  Caesar, who led the newly freed apes into the forest at the end of Rise, now leads a thriving community of apes, living in complete peace unaware of what is going on in the outside world, believing that humans have finally died out.  A chance encounter with a group of survivors led by Malcom (Jason Clarke) forces Caesar to make the massive ape presence known to a community of survivors in San Francisco, led by Dreyfus (Oldman).  An uneasy truce between the groups leads to tension with the apes as well as the humans and despite Caesar wanting peace and no war, it’s only a matter of time before war begins.

WHAT THE MOVIE IS REALLY ABOUT
Family, and what you would do or sacrifice for their survival.  And not just talking about humans.  At this point Caesar is now a father, with an older son and a newborn baby and wife to protect, along with the well being of his fellow apes.  On the other hand you have Malcolm who has a family of his own (Keri Russell as his “wife” and a teenage son too).  While this group of humans was immune to the virus and manages to survive they are running out of time and resources and desperately needs power that can be provided by a dam within the apes territory.  As much as Caesar wants to keep his family safe, so does Malcolm and its on that level where they are ultimately able to bond.

I think it also speaks a lot about what goes on in the world.  You have the ape nation and the human nation, so to speak.  Caesar has kept his group separate but when the door is opened to relations, while hesitant at first, he thinks the two groups can coexist.  On the flip side you have Dreyfus as the human leader who believes we can’t work with apes and that humans must take what they need by any means necessary, even if it means death to all the apes.  Each side has a counter voice, with Koba the ape preaching war and loyalty to apes to Caesar, while Malcolm tries to be the voice of reason to Dreyfus.  How many conflicts in the history of our world have been started because one group wanted something that another had and rather than work towards a mutual agreement, felt the only course of action was war to take it.

CONCLUSION
Very little I could find wrong with it.  The movie is about the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and while humans are a part of it, I felt like the focus was mostly on the apes as it should have been.  The apes and their storylines were relatable.  Things that we as humans experience.  Family, friendships, disagreements, teenagers rebelling, but seen through the eyes of apes.  Perfect cast that didn’t overshadow the apes.  Excellent visuals, (highly recommend seeing it in 3D), good pace and amount of action.  Not too long or too short.  It reminds you of any good story where you watch a leader really become something more than that.  And yes there is almost certainly a sequel in the works.  I thought that Rise was a decent movie and definitely a step up from the Mark Walberg Planet of the Apes, but Dawn has really taken the franchise to a whole new level.  

Picture


3.5 out of 4

 
 
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (2014)
reviewed by Elvin Jones
"A new era has begun. The age of the Transformers is over..."
-Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammar)
Picture
Yes it truly is, although not the way this character probably meant.  At this point the franchise has really become about making money, cool shots of things exploding, and the token hot girl in short shorts than what it originally was and should have been, the continued war between Autobots and Decepticons.  Really now the series should be “Random Humans Caught in Alien War That Take Away From the Real Reason We Came Here”.

KEYWORDS
Long, empty, lacking, unreal, like, really long

THE GOOD
Optimus Prime – the hero of all heroes, willing to die or do whatever is necessary to save his family, both robot and human.  He also heads in a direction in his quest that you wouldn’t quite expect but I enjoy.
Hound – great addition to Team Autobot, voiced by John Goodman (perfect voice casting in my opinion)
Kelsey Grammar/Stanley Tucci – love Kelsey as a bad guy and Stanley as a Steve Jobs gone extreme type of role
Dinobots – finally!
Lockdown – a villain robot with a mission, worthy adversary

THE BAD
Mark Wahlberg – the one liners, the believability of him as this great inventor, not buying it
Deaths – both human and robot, did not really feel them
New Transformers – call me old school, but I feel Transformers should transform, with that cool sound
Dinobots – limited screen time
Length – at nearly three hours with most of that dealing with the human storyline. 

WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
Set 4-5 years after Dark Side of the Moon aka We Blew Chicago Off The Map, Autobots are in hiding, being stalked by secret government organization led by Kelsey Grammar.  At first we think its retaliation for the events in Chicago but there is a more sinister plan involved.  Random struggling inventor Mark Walberg “happens” to discover Optimus Prime in hiding, which pulls him and family into the middle of a three way war between our government, and a bounty hunting robot looking for Optimus Prime, for completely separate reasons.

WHAT THE MOVIE IS REALLY ABOUT
Blowing stuff up and commercialism.  So first off, we all know “Bayhem” is a given when you see a Michael Bay film.  He knows it too.  If there was an Oscar category for blowing stuff up in the most creative way, he would probably win it every year.  He knows he isn’t winning awards, he is trying to fill seats and make money and as long as these movies make ridiculous amounts of money ($100 million opening weekend – best in franchise) there is no reason to fix the many things wrong with the series.  First off, let me go on record as saying I’m a diehard fan of the original 80’s cartoon series.  I know there have been many versions of Transformers since and we get a lot of material from the movies from these sources.  But having said that SLIGHT SPOILER, from the original movie to this one, we only have two remaining Transformers, (Optimus and Bumblebee), everyone is dead or gone.  Hound is a great addition from the classic Transformers, but I would much rather see more of the classics then to keep bringing in newer characters or made up ones.  You bring in the Dinobots great but only one of which is basically an original Dinobot.  The others LOOK like the ones I remember but you gave them different names.  Why? 

And we are using any chance we get to do product tie-ins.  Granted, this is a common practice in movies today, but I think we can afford to do without them in some cases especially when we know a movie is going to make money regardless.  I mean at one point Mark Walberg crashes a spaceship like right on top of a Bud Light truck and takes a moment to pop a cap and have a sip, in the middle of a battle.  Oh and then there is the flip over a bus of some kind that is almost completely destroyed save for a Victoria Secret sign?  Insert Blank Stare here.  I mean Victoria Secret.  And of course it is so great that these robots transform into cars that the average person CAN’T BUY.  But they sure do looks snazzy!

And more and more with these movies, the humans seems to be taking a bigger role and portion of the movie.  Remember the Transformers cartoon movie.  There was like 2 humans in it, and it was AWESOME.  Let’s get back to basics.

CONCLUSION
Way too long time wise, short on the robots.  If you are going to keep changing the human cast, at least keep the robots somewhat intact.  And give us a story, a real story.  I may not know much about the Transformers outside the classic series, but there is so much rich backstory and history I feel like if anything let’s go into the archives and pull a story from there as a starting point.  And spend more money on more robots and less humans.  I came to see Transformers, not humans.

Picture


2 out of 4