Tag Archives: Rupert Grint

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-

TAKE TWO: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

26 Jul

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes

Director: David Yates

Chris’ Take: Well, it’s been a long 10 years and if it hadn’t been for my brother I probably wouldn’t ever have watched more than the first film. We had a family tradition of seeing a movie on Thanksgiving Day and it was usually a family oriented movie, so in 2001 my parents dragged my brother and I, who were both about college age, to see the very kiddie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My younger sisters loved it and my brother and I were groaning, knowing that there were more mature films that we could’ve gone to. The next year, my brother being more benevolent than I was, took my sisters to the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I scoffed and went and watched one of the worst movies I have ever paid money to see in the theaters, Star Trek: Nemesis. My brother came and told me that the second film was “awesome” and definitely worth seeing. Against my instincts that told me my brother was playing a prank, I went and saw it later and was thoroughly impressed. I was not expecting the level of excitement or wonder that the film brought. I was hooked, and on Saturday, when I finally saw the last film I felt like I really was saying goodbye to people I had gotten to know really well over 10 years. Even if at times I thought they were hokey, cheesy, or just plain dumb, I had watched these characters grow and the final installment of the franchise was nothing short of impressive.

We find  Harry, Hermione and Ron right where we left them at the end of Part I. They are getting ready to stage an attempt to steal a Hocrux out of Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault in Gringott’s. Severus Snape has turned Hogwart’s into what looks like a program for the wizarding Hitler youth, and Voldemort is flaunting the power of his new found elder wand. Harry comes to grips with the fact that he must confront the dark wizard face-to-face in order for the wizarding war to end.

As some of you might remember from my review of the first part, I thought the pacing was rather slow. However, in retrospect it was the perfect set up for the fast-paced action of Part 2. Almost all the exposition and necessary character development occurred in Part I and built a rock solid foundation for two and a half hours of non-stop excitement. The viewer was able to just sit back and become completely engulfed in the wizardry and epic that ended the series.

Unless, of course, the viewer had never seen any of the previous films or read any of the books. In which case, they probably were completely engulfed in sleep...or confusion.

The care for the characters is really what made the action seem that much more intense. That was my gripe with Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I cared about none of the characters Michael Bay presented. It didn’t matter how eye-popping (or eye gouging) the action scenes were. The suspense really gets created through characters that you love being placed in danger. If not, it just becomes a mildly sick hope that they die. 

David Yates’ talents were under question for closing out the series, since many people claimed that the fifth and sixth Harry Potter films were arguably the weakest. I think after he proved that he could direct on an epic scale in this conclusion, he put any and all criticism to rest. Sure, he had a screenplay that was based on a fantastic book and he had an endless list of talented actors lined up at this beck and call, but taking all those elements and reigning them into a cohesive directorial piece that captures the wizarding fantasy world and doesn’t disappoint fans and critics is quite a challenge. He received high accolades from me for being able to pull it off.

The cinematography in the first part was stellar, there really was a tremendous depth to each shot, and this film was very similar in that regard. A fantasy world should not be shot close unless there is a specifically claustrophobic scene and Yates seemed aware of that. In each shot you weren’t just get a close up on the actors participating in the action or a simple line of dialogue, you could clearly see the world around them, and made it almost a character of its own.

It seems redundant for me to keep bringing up the fact that the lead actors in the series are really what made it what the series have the clout that it did. Say that someone who had the acting talents akin to Jake Lloyd, the cute but talent deprived Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, had gotten the role of Harry. The credibility of the series would’ve tanked, no matter how well the story was developed around him. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint were incredibly talented child (now adult) actors. Plus, they were surrounded by some seriously gifted people in supporting roles. While Ralph Fiennes would not have been at the top of my list of actors to play Voldemort back when his character first started playing prominently in the series, I can’t see anyone pulling it off like he did and really making his character three-dimensional.

And I don't just mean in the technical IMAX 3D sense.

The series will always be something that is easily watched again and again. Some might start making the argument that this should be nominated for Best Picture, but I am still not convinced that these films contain the caliber and depth that I think warrant that. These films more deserve to be filed under a “favorite films” list as opposed to “best films” list. They were certainly all quality films, except for the first one, and I could easily make an argument that this was the best in the series.

OVERALL: A

Pac’s Take:  My journey through the Harry Potter  series also came to fruition through reluctance.  My younger brother was really into the books and encouraged me to start watching the movies as he collected them on DVD.  While the films entertained me during some of the more boring nights of my summers home from college, I was never that invested in the series.  Then, when I finally got around to seeing movies three through five I became a fan.  It is no coincidence that this was the same time in the series that one of my favorite actors, Gary Oldman, played a pivotal role as Sirius Black.  Once Oldman’s involvement ended my interest wavered again, but by this time I was too invested in the series not to see it through.

Though Gary Oldman's star power does have it limits

 Like Chris, I was not satisfied with the pacing of part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I do have to agree that it was necessary for the success of this film.  Part two picks up right where part one left off, as if they were one movie seamlessly making a scene change.  However, as a single movie they cannot work because the pace and tone of the second movie severely contrasts the first.  This was the Harry Potter movie I came to see, two and a half hours of action. 

Since Chris compared this film to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment.  I think David Yates could have learned something from the last hour of Michael Bay’s film.

Product placement?

 SPOILER ALERT:  While I certainly was much more invested in the wizards of the Harry Potter universe much more than I was Sam Witwicky and the Target car of the Autobots, at least during Transformers I felt like they were challenged.  For what was supposed to be an epic battle to end all battles, all the fights were too brief and lacking of suspense.  There’s nothing David Yates (director) and Steve Cloves (screenwriter) can do about J.K. Rowling’s inability to kill major players (though she didn’t seem to have a problem doing this before), but they could have at least made it seem like they were threatened.  While the final battle between Harry and Voldemort is evident of this, the prime example would be the death of Bellatrix Lestrange.  Considering how prominent and menacing she was throughout the final chapters of this series, she met her demise far to easily. (END SPOILER ALERT)

Regardless of this films flaws it still was a major success both financially and as a piece of entertainment/art.  I do find it possible that the Academy will reward the creators’ and players’ work for this series (just as they did with Lord of the Rings), though I don’t think it is necessarily justified.  It’s hard to rank Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two amongst the other films, but I do consider it to be top-tier. 

It may have ranked as the best if they would have not wasted five minutes of my life with the pointless epilogue.

Overall: A-

Trailer Time: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2, Third Muppets Teaser

17 Jun

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2

This is the final trailer for the final film in the Harry Potter series. I am glad that we finally get to see some more scenes than what they have been showing us for the last year and a half. My excitement for this film had been dwindling a bit and this picked it back up just a tad:

Being Green (3rd Muppets Teaser)

Here is the third clever marketing tactic by Jason Segel and The Muppets, set to tie in with the release of Green Lantern. While these might get old after a little while, these parody trailers are still enjoyable. Plus, this is the first one that involves the Swedish Chef, one of my personal favorite characters.

Opening This Week (Nov 15 – 21, 2010)

15 Nov

Despite what you may think, there are other films coming out this weekend besides Harry Potter. Will they pose any box office threat? Nope. Will they be any good? We’ll see. Here are the wide releases for this weekend:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham-Carter

Director: David Yates

Synopsis from IMDB: Voldemort’s power is growing stronger. He now has control over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to finish Dumbledore’s work and find the rest of the Horcruxes to defeat the Dark Lord. But little hope remains for the Trio, and the rest of the Wizarding World, so everything they do must go as planned.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I started out, despising the Harry Potter series. Especially, when the first film came out and I thought it was pretty lame. Overcoming my prejudice took the help of my brother, Jerome, who told me to give the second film a chance and I was very surprised at the increase in quality and the series keeps getting better. I look forward to the final installments and hope that when I see this film on opening weekend, I won’t be surrounded by a throng of people, from middle school to adults who peaked in middle school, with lightning scars and coke bottle glasses.

The Next Three Days

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson

Director: Paul Haggis

Synopsis from IMDB: A married couple’s life is turned upside down when the wife is accused of a murder.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: Russell Crowe, at one point he was one of the best actors around and seeing his name on the marquee was something worth noting, but in the last five years, it seems like while the movies he is in are decent, his performances are rather boring. I think I would enjoy this film a lot more if Liam Neeson was playing the lead since he has proven he has a knack for kicking people’s asses to get his family back. Plus, Neeson is  a better actor in general. Even with Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale) as writer and director, I think this will be a film that will be exciting to watch, but easy to forget.

Heartless

Rated: R

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Clemence Poesy, Noel Clark

Director: Phillip Ridley

Synopsis from IMDB:  Jamie Morgan, a young man with a large heart-shaped birthmark on his face, discovers that there are demons on the streets of East London.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: This is a film I didn’t know about until about 20 minutes ago, which is odd considering it is a wide release. This was released in the UK last year to moderate critical acclaim and has pretty good reviews in the U.S. so far. If you are not into Harry Potter and Russell Crowe’s increasingly haggard looking jowls are not enough to entice you to the theater, this might be something for you to see.

Limited Releases

White Material

Rated: Unrated

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Isaach De Bankole, Christopher Lambert

Director: Claire Denis

Synopsis from IMDB: Denis revisits Africa, this time exploring a place rife with civil and racial conflict. A white French family outlawed in its home and attempting to save its coffee plantation connects with a black hero also embroiled in the tumult. All try to survive as their world rapidly crumbles around them.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: French film is some of the most beautiful out there, at least the stuff that makes it to the States and this film looks like no exception. It received great reviews and critical acclaim at several festivals. Obviously, this isn’t one that really needs to be seen in the theater and will probably be just as good if seen on DVD.

Daniel Radcliffe Moves to Horror in Post-Potter Career

10 Nov

There will be a tough adjustment for the three young Harry Potter stars (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson) after having ten straight years of a steady paycheck. However, with the talent that three of them showed, they show a lot of promise; it will just be up to them to make the right moves.

Radcliffe, the series’ main star, has picked a period horror film as his next vehicle. It is called The Woman in Blackdirected by James Watkins (Eden Lake), written by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass), and revolves around a lawyer who travels to a small village to investigate the death of one of his clients. While he is there he catches a glimpse of a  mysterious woman dressed only in a black dress. The locals remain silent and he realizes that is up to him to reveal her true intentions.

Here is a look at one of the first pictures to come out from the project:

I think this is a good move for Radcliffe. While it is not moving away from a fantasy genre, it gives him the chance to play a more grown up character in an attempt to break free of the “childish” mode he has had to play for a while. Plus, he is attached to a film that has a renowned writer and director and this film will probably be a success. Look for it to come out in theaters late next year.

What are your thoughts? Is this a good move for Radcliffe? Will be able to break away from the “Potter” stigma?

Opening This Week (Oct 25 – 31, 2010)

25 Oct

This week is another week that features almost no new wide releases, save one, but there are several limited releases that might be worth tracking down.

Saw 3D  #1 Film to Avoid This Weekend

Rated: R

Starring: Tobin Bell, Carey Elwes, Costas Mandylor

Director: Kevin Greutert

Synopsis from IMDB: As a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s brutal legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru and fellow survivor Bobby Dagen, a man whose own dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror.

Chris’ Take: I lost interest in this series after the third installment. The first one was an interesting concept and was done well, but then it just seemed to decline with each yearly installment and my curiosity for torture films was satiated. There was almost no enjoyment left in it, just sheer shock value and uncomfortability. The trailer for Saw 3D was probably one of the worst trailers for a film that I have seen in a while. I mean, all it did was make it look cheesy by including an audience getting 3D saws thrown at it and trapped by Jigsaw created machines. What about the film? I thought Saw was supposed to be a little bit darker and try to avoid those kinds of shenanigans. The series has lost all credibility and the only good thing I have to say about this one is, “Thank God it’s the last one.” For those of you that haven’t seen the trailer, here it is in all its comedic grandeur:

 

Limited Releases

Wild Target

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Bill Nighy, Rupert Grint, Emily Blunt

Director: Jonathan Lynn

Synopsis from IMDB: A hitman tries to retire but a beautiful thief may change his plans.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: From the trailer this looks like a hilarious black comedy, with seemingly hilariously dry performances by Bill Nighy and Rupert Everett. Also, it boasts newly Bilbo Baggins appointed Martin Freeman. But, from early reviews, this film apparently is very uneven and this remake of a French comedy would probably be better saved for DVD.

 

Monsters

Rated: R

Starring: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis from IMDB: Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: This looks like an attempt to mimic the success of last year’s District 9 and apparently doubles as a parable about illegal immigration. The early reviews have been fairly positive, although not glowing. Apparently Gareth Edwards did his own CGI for this as well. This will probably be a good bet to see for a Halloween horror/monster film rather than Saw 3D.

 

Welcome to the Rileys

Rated: R

Starring: James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, Kristen Stewart

Director: Jake Scott

Synopsis from IMDB: On a business trip to New Orleans, a damaged man seeks salvation by caring for a wayward young woman.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: This will be a film for those looking for something a little bit more serious this weekend. It looks like a very touching film about a family recovering from the loss of their daughter. Kristen Stewart looks like she will act the same like she does in every film, very understated and emo, but hopefully there will be less screaming or crying in lovelorn agony like she does in the Twilight films. Gandolfini looks like he gives a strong performance as well. While this film will no doubt probably be decent, it is not necessarily theater fare.

 

Inspector Bellamy #1 Recommendation for this Weekend

Rated: Unrated

Starring: Gerard Depardieu, Marie Bunel, Jacques Gamblin

Director: Claude Chabrol

Synopsis from IMDB: A well known Parisian inspector becomes involved in an investigation while on holiday.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: This is the 50th and final film of France’s Alfred Hitchcock, Claude Chabrol, and it looks like it will be intriguing, but not for everyone. This looks like it will be along the vein of this year’s The American, it will be very slow, but very beautiful and thoughtful. Plus, since it is Chabrol’s swan song, this gets my weekly recommendation. Unfortunately, it is a limited release, so my recommendation only goes so far, but I couldn’t in good conscience recommend Saw 3D to anyone.