Tag Archives: James Franco

TAKE TWO: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

10 Aug

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rated: PG-13

Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Tom Felton, John Lithgow

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Chris’ Take: I was hesitant to see this film, and I almost went and saw The Change Up instead. When I saw the trailer earlier this year it looked like a quick cash grab, grasping at straws to find a familiar brand to the average moviegoer. I thought that it was a weak idea because there didn’t seem to be many people excited about it and I thought it was going to fall flat on its face.

Plus, I was still recovering from this.

I came out of this film realizing that I severely underestimated this film.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes remakes the previous prequel to Plant of the Apes and simultaneously reboots it. Will Rodman (James Franco) is testing a new Alzheimer cure on chimpanzees and has a successful test subject, but when the chimp goes on a rampage while he is trying to get funding for human testing, he is forced to abandon the project and put down all the chimps. However, his successfully tested chimp had a baby which Will saves and takes home when he sees that it maintains the residual effects of his Alzheimer’s cure. As the chimp, that Will and his father name Caesar (Andy Serkis), grows, they notice that his intelligence is far beyond that of a human counterpart. When Will’s company, Gen-Sys, discovers the chimp they force him to run riskier tests on other chimps which turns out to have dire consequences for mankind.

The film starts out on very familiar science fiction territory. You have the failed science experiment, the cocky scientist, the money grubbing boss, and the protagonist makes the decision to bring testing just a bit too close to home. I kind of sighed at these elements, thinking that this film would bring nothing new to the table, but it quickly took some turns after that.

Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar can take a lot of the credit for that. His CGI work, just as he did with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, took on a life and character of its own. Halfway through the film, James Franco really became a non-factor and Caesar really carried the story. In most cases, it would be hard to build a story around a silent and computer-generated character, but the viewer really begins to feel attached to him and sympathizes with his plight to some degree. Also, in doing this, the writer puts himself in a tough spot, reconciling the viewer’s growing fondness of Caesar, the tragedy of that awaits mankind, and the bond that Caesar and Will have that divides them, but they handled it in a dramatic and satisfying fashion. It’s kind of hard to describe the way this played out without bringing in too many spoilers, so all I can say is that you have to see it in order to appreciate it.

I know I just destroyed half of San Francisco, but let's hug it out.

There was little artistry in the film outside of the writing and the characters. The camera work was decent for a summer blockbuster and I was very happy to see that they didn’t resort to 3D, although it seems that could’ve fallen prey to that fad easily. To me, the most impressive aspect was the effective use of CGI and making the realistic looking apes blend well with environment around them. Rarely did I feel aware that I was watching computer generated characters.

One of the challenges I saw for the film was how they would make it seem believable. I mean come on, how do apes take over the world? They obviously explain it in the first Planet of the Apes, but it would still be hard to convincingly watch that develop. I could see them running rampant in a city, in this case San Francisco, and wreaking some havoc, but you would think a large military force would immediately come wipe them out. I thought that the writers and director handled this well, addressing those questions with tact and bringing a new concept to the apes’ destruction and how the world came to be ruled by them. Some might disagree, but I was very impressed with how it was handled. Again, it is hard to describe without spoilers.

Suffice to say, I  thoroughly enjoyed this film. It was not the deepest film, nor some amazing feat of cinema, but it impressed me more than just about any blockbuster to come out this summer. It contained some of the spirit of the originals, bringing with it the comfortability of something familiar, while mixing in a fresh take that gave it its own pleasantly unique flavor.

OVERALL: A

Pac’s Take:  I recently heard the original Planet of the Apes described as a overacheiving B-Movie, an analysis that poignantly describes the film.  It’s a wonder how this overacheiving B-Movie has been able to captivate pop culture for so long that it has evolved into multiple sequels, remakes, and reboots.  Planet of the Apes has had such a cultural impact in american cinema since its release that you’d be hard pressed to find a person (even one who hasn’t seen the films) who didn’t know the film’s general premise – or couldn’t recognize the famous beach scene.  All that being said, it was hard to have high expectations for a film that was seemingly trying to capitalize on a 43 year old franchise that hasn’t produced a hit film in about… 43 years.

Oh, &@!#. There goes the planet.

Perhaps it was the surprise of the unexpected, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pleasure to behold from start to finish.  As expected with any summer blockbuster, especially those that are constrained by the parameters of an already established franchise, the film has some initial stumbles.  Chris adequately described those as the tropes of a science fiction film above.  However, it doesn’t take long for the film to go beyond these tropes into to the real heart of the film – the relationship between Caesar and Will (James Franco), as well as Will’s father (John Lithgow).  Make no mistake the star of this film is Caesar, played by Andy Serkis.  I emphasize the “played by Andy Serkis” part because it seems like a great challenge to humanize the Caesar character without going too over-the-top to where the film reaches the B movie status of its predecessors (not to say the effects team(s) don’t deserve credit for this as well).  One of the things I found most endearing and most engaging about this film is that I felt for the plight of Caesar despite knowing he was probably going to be the catalyst of the fate of the human race.  This, coupled with the relationship between Caesar and Will, crafted a conflicted emotion in my mind as the film unfolded.

We should have seen this coming

There were plot holes in the film, but none that bothered during the viewing, and none that diluted the quality of the film for me in retrospect.  This is a summer blockbuster and science fiction film, plot holes and a certain suspension of disbelief are to be expected.  In terms of what I was expecting to know coming out of the theater, the film covered all of its bases; making it, as far as prequels go, one of the tightest screenplays I’ve seen in a while.  For a film that I didn’t really desire to see in the first place, it didn’t really leave much to be desired upon its completion.  I can’t say that it is the best film of the year so far, and I don’t think I can call it the best summer movie either, but I do think that Rise of the Planet of the Apes will end up on my top 10 list for 2011 at the end of the year.

OVERALL: A/A-

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**Trailer Time** Rise of the Planet of the Apes

14 Apr

I would’ve never thought that a franchise inspired by the idea that intelligent apes take over the planet would spawn so many sequels and prequels. I thought Tim Burton‘s reboot would’ve killed the interest for another one, but here we are, except this time we’re going back in time even further. James Franco stars in this installment about the apes, where they came from and how they started to rule the Earth. While the trailer looks like it will be a decent and entertaining endeavour, I am hesitant to get excited about this film after the last one. Let us know your opinion after you watch the trailer:

TAKE TWO: The Green Hornet (2011)

21 Jan

The Green Hornet

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz

Director: Michel Gondry

Chris’ Take: Well, my most anticipated films of 2011 did not get off to a very auspicious start. As some of you know, The Green Hornet ranked #5 on my most anticipated films of 2011, not so much because of the subject matter or its leads, but because I had lofty expectations for director Michel Gondry. While the film as a whole is not necessarily bad, as a Gondry film, it was a disappointment.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) led a wandering existence, living off the wealth of his strict father’s large newspaper company. But, after his father dies, Britt is left in charge of the empire and realizes that his wayward life might need a change. Britt strikes up a friendship with the mysterious genius Kato (Jay Chou), his father’s mechanic, and decides to strike back against the criminal underworld, that had been the thorn in his father’s side, as masked vigilantes posing as criminals.

First off, I want to address the most obvious problem with the film, the 3D (or lack thereof). Michel Gondry is one of the most visually inventive directors on the market today (if you get a chance watch any “Behind the Scenes” features on his films) and when I heard that this film was in 3D I thought, “Finally, someone will do it  right.” The problem that I have with the 3D in the film isn’t that Gondry used it poorly, he didn’t use it at all. Why even put it in 3D in the first place?

Oh....yeah.

On top of that, I convinced Pac and his girlfriend to go to the IMAX 3D version with me. Pac, the voice of reason sometimes, questioned my decision. He pointed out the difference in ticket price for the IMAX 3D and regular 3D was $4.50. This film had even less right to be in IMAX than it did being in 3D. The cinematography was very plain, very standard, nothing so spectacular that required a larger screen or 3D effects. I bought Pac a beer after the movie to make up the difference in ticket price.

Now that I have that out of the way, I can address the rest of the film, which wasn’t that bad. The film was written by the same team as Superbad and Pineapple Express, and they were able to keep a pretty jovial tone throughout, which is what made it different than other hero films, and it worked. However, I think because they had to tone down the humor from their usual “R” rating, it didn’t have the biting humor of their other films and peaked in the first 5 minutes with a hilarious cameo by James Franco. I also think the film would have been funnier about three years ago, when seeing Seth Rogen’s rambling “every man” character was still fresh.

 Cameron Diaz managed to stay off the screen for the first 45 minutes or so and appeared sparingly, so she didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to ruin the film. Christoph Waltz was a little bit of a disappointment as well. He was decent, but I thought it was a waste of his talents.

It will definitely be difficult topping this.

Jay Chou, as Kato, was really what kept the film interesting. Despite his thick accent, he kept up a quick repartee with Rogen, and they really did have great  chemistry as a comedy-action duo. I liked how they addressed the issue Kato had being dubbed as a “sidekick”, even though he was the more talented and smarter one of the crew. But, they did take a little bit too long showing that about 2/3 of the way through the film, and there could have been a good 5 minutes cut to keep a good pace up.

Overall, while I enjoyed the film, it was a disappointment for me because of the wasted use of 3D and IMAX by Michel Gondry. It is by no means a good film, merely an entertaining diversion in the cold winter months. Wait for the small screen for this one, people.

  • Characters: B+
  • Cinematography: B-
  • Directing: B-
  • Plot: B-
  • Performances: B
  • 3D: D
  • OVERALL: B-

Pac’s Take:

Even good directors stumble from time to time, here are a few of my favorite directors and some of their films accompanied by their Rotten Tomatoes percent rating: Brian DePalma (Carrie – 97%, The Black Dahlia – 33%) Martin Scorcese (Raging Bull – 98%, Boxcar Bertha – 45%), Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street – 95%, My Soul to Take – 9%), and Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather – 100%, Supernova – 10%).  So it is expected for a fantastic director to stumble from time to time, especially when they feel like they have no control over the film.  All that being said I can understand why Chris put this film on his most anticipated list for 2011, but I don’t hold any remorse toward him for convincing me to see it.

I still owe you a few beers for this one

I don’t need to restate the complete lack of 3D or IMAX in the film as Chris already covered it and I plan to write a separate article on the use of 3D and IMAX all together (check back for that please), but at least they used it in the credits.  The only thing the 3D accomplished during the entire experience was that I may now go see Sanctum in 3D after watching that trailer.   The biggest disappointment for me leaving this film, besides the ticket price, was that I may have enjoyed this film more than Chris did.  I didn’t approach The Green Hornet as a Michel Gondry film; while I liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it isn’t one of my favorite movies (I may go as far to say I liked Be Kind Rewind better).  I went to see a mixed reviewed Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg action/superhero film…

Like if these guys went all Boondock Saints on everybody

…And that’s exactly what I got.  There was nothing special about the direction or the cinematography, some of the slow motion fight scenes were pretty cool, but that’s about all.  Sure I wanted some awesome 3D, incredible cinematography, and ground breaking special effects; was I expecting it? No.  Here is exactly what I was expecting:

  • Annoying Seth Rogen everyman character that somehow works for the plot (check)
  • Good chemistry between Rogen and Chou necessary to drive a “bromance” comedy (check)
  • An interesting and charismatic villain played by Christoph Waltz (check)
  • Cameron Diaz to annoy me (check)
  • At least one awesome cameo from one of the following: Danny McBride, James Franco, Jason Segal, Paul Rudd, Bill Hader (check)

I’m not disappointed by the film. I had fun watching it, never lost interest in what was going on, had a few good laughs and left the theater satisfied.  I wish there was more Christoph Waltz because he and Jay Chou were the highlights of this film, but that may just be nitpicking.  At a matinée price or a rental The Green Hornet is a great value, just don’t bother seeing it in 3D.

Here are my grades:

  • Characters: B
  • Cinematography: B-
  • Directing: B
  • Plot: B-
  • Performances: B
  • 3D: F
  • OVERALL: B-

James Franco and Brother Collaborate for New Comedy

18 Jan

Could there be a new brother comedy duo in Hollywood? James and Dave Franco already proved that they can get some laughs on screen with their internet series Acting With James Franco. If you haven’t seen any of them, here is a quick look at the second episode:

Apparently, according to an MTV interview with Dave (Scrubs, Greek, Privileged), there is a possibility that the two could be working on a full length project that would center around, and star, their family and friends. Here is what he said:

“We’re filming a couple of Funny or Die videos later this month. There’s also a feature film that I’m writing for my brother and I to star in, where we play versions of ourselves named Davie and James. Without giving away too much, it all takes place around Thanksgiving and Christmas break around our hometown of Palo Alto [California]. Our real family will be in it, my real friends from home will be in it, and the vibe of it is going to be an extended version of our Funny or Die videos. It’s going to be difficult for me, because it’s now a 90-minute version of him giving me sh– and making fun of me.”

I am on the fence about whether this could develop into something good. I am afraid that it will become like a lot of the Saturday Night Live skits that are great for little segments that don’t need to form a cohesive whole, but then become terrible feature length films that ruin the characters forever.

Some of those characters needed to die anyway.

I have faith that James and Dave can come up with something entertaining at least.

What do you guys think? Is this going to be the dawn of a new comedy duo?

Upcoming Films: The Wachowskis Return, Clint Eastwood’s Next Project and More

9 Dec

There are several projects recently announced and that have moved past the rumor phase and are close to production. Here are some that I approve of:

Hoover

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Charlize Theron (Possible)

Director: Clint Eastwood

With Eastwood at the helm, pretty much anything will succeed. His latest project will be a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover and according to IMDB will focus on his scandalous side and his rumored homosexuality as well as cross-dressing. Not where I was expecting that one to go, but still with such talent attached in both the acting and directing, this is sure to be an interesting character study and period piece.

While We’re Young

Starring: Ben Stiller, James Franco, Cate Blanchett (rumored), Greta Gerwig (rumored)

Director: Noah Baumbach

There is little known about this film except that it reunites Greenberg team Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and Ben Stiller and that is about a young couple (Franco and possibly Gerwig), who teach an older documentarian couple (Stiller and possibly Blanchett) to loosen up. Baumbach has an incredibly writing track record and his directorial debut, Greenberg, received critical acclaim for both him and Stiller. With the team back together again, I think this will be another smart, yet dry comedy.

Elysium

Starring: Sharlto Copley

Director: Neill Blomkamp

After District 9 received high accolades last summer, Blomkamp and Copley are reuniting again for another sociopolitical sci-fi film. Not much is known about the project, except that Blomkamp is pitching studios now with a graphic novel version of his story. I am sure that he will get some studio to produce, but it is a question of how much money they will give him. He did an extremely good job with only $30 million and I hope that if he does get more, he doesn’t go all out with it and get bogged down with special effects, as opposed to focusing on the story.

DISLIKE

Hood

Starring: Will Smith (being courted by the Wachowski Brothers)

Director: The Wachowskis

The Wachowskis are back after their special effects driven disaster, Speed Racer, in an attempt to restore their good name in Hollywood. But, I am not sure a modern/urban adaptation of Robin Hood is the way to do it, especially after Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Robin Hood, left a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. While this might sound like a cool concept to some, to me it sounds more akin to Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood.

Leprechaun: Keeping it real since back in tha day.

It’s like they are just saying, “Hmmmm where can we put Robin Hood to give him that cool-hip jive that the young people are talking about?” They are trying to get Will Smith to sign on for the project which might give it a little bit more credibility, but it still sounds like a stale premise. Before that though, look for another film from the Wachowskis entitled CN-9, which will no doubt be a controversial revolving around two male soldiers who fall in love in the Iraq War.

What are your thoughts on these projects? Agree or disagree?