quality

July 12, 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

QUALITY

I’ve come to the conclusion that the people I work with typically hate action films, comic book movies, and anything sci-fi related that doesn’t have the name Kubrick attached to it.  Oh, not here at Simplistic Reviews.  Justin, Matt and Neal share most of my sensibilities when it comes to those genres.  I’m talking about the people I work with at my 9 to 5 job.  They find no joy in the purely joyful, childhood dream come true that is The Avengers.  They shrug their shoulders mockingly at Chris Nolan’s unfathomable feat of inserting realism and grittiness into the world of a character named Batman.  They find zero nostalgic fun from Predators, are blind to the poetic pathos and tension of Star Treks old and new, laugh at the lessons of Star Wars, roll their eyes at the awe of Jurassic Park, and find Bond and Bourne films to be just boring.  Why?  It could be because cynicism is the cool thing now a days.  It could be that they get off on giving me a hard time…which is what I suspect it is.  However, I like to think it is because they’ve been conditioned to believe that QUALITY is an adjective solely reserved for foreign films with subtitles and artsy black and white indies directed by strangely dressed auteur directors.  To them, QUALITY is something that has been absent in so many of the films in those genres over the years, that all in those genres must be lacking in it.  I can do nothing to convince those people that you can have the same level of QUALITY filmmaking from an action film or a comic book film or a sci-fi film as you can from a drama directed by Terrence Malick.  I can do nothing to convince them of the possibility that there are action films and sci-fi films and comic book films that can reach the same level of QUALITY story and performances as an AFI top 100 film.  Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is definitely one of those films.  It has a lot going against it and it succeeds on every level anyway.  Why?  You guessed it.  The level of QUALITY.

I say Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes has a lot going against it because…well…it kinda does on paper.  It’s a summer blockbuster set in the middle of a so far lackluster summer blockbuster season…and it’s also a sequel…DUN-DUN DUUUUUN!!!!…to a surprise hit remake and reboot of a four decade old classic…AND it has an entirely new cast and crew than its predecessor…AND its story and theme are not all that original if you think about it…AND it’s a story that leaves things at the end in pretty much the same place they were in the beginning.  However, the level of care put in this film and the skill of execution by the people involved hurdles these disadvantages.  Think back to when James Cameron’s Avatar was out and people would allege, “It’s just Dances With Wolves in space.” or “It’s just Pocahontas in space.”  People eventually all jumped on that minimization because once they got past the visual marvel Avatar displays, they were left with a paper thin story with paper thin characters.  Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes takes this same familiar tale (People from two different worlds strive for peace, but are forced into war by skeptics on both sides) and deliver it in a way where you’re completely compelled.  People in Dawn, as opposed to Avatar, are three-dimensional.  They just don’t do things to do things.  There isn’t stereotypical blind heroics or mustache twirling villainy.  The heroes and the villains have reasons and rationales that you can completely understand.  When characters are at odds with each other later in the film, it is heartbreaking because you actually get to see them laugh and talk with each other as friends in the beginning.  In my opinion, Avatar rushes through this step while Dawn revels in it.
Now don’t let all this talk of character development fool you.  When sh%t hits the fan in this film, it gets truly hair raising…and hair burning.  Matt Reeves (The man I so wish was taking over directing duties on Star Trek from friend J.J. Abrams) improves on every set piece and utilizes even more of the extraordinary CGI work from WETA.  Reeves gives the film so much weight and scale while still keeping it very intimate.  I have a feeling that the inevitable third installment to this franchise will keep the director carousel going, but Reeves staying onboard might be the better studio decision.  
This is usually the part of a Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes review where you’re supposed to say something about Andy Serkis.  And trust me, any amount of praise I can think of to give that man would not be enough.  Serkis is a true revelation, and has been one for some time now.  I mean, Gollum was over a decade ago!  However, lost in the hefty shadow of Serkis are some of the other great performances in this film.  Toby Kebbell is terrific from beginning to end.  He more than holds his own with Serkis as his right hand ape Koba, which is truly saying something.  You might say he has the advantage of getting the more animated bits of acting to do, seeing as Caesar is more reserved than Koba.  However, it is in his more quieter scenes that Kebbell really brought this character to life.  A scene where he explains to Caesar about “human work” is one of my favorite moments in the film.  Jason Chalke has been one of the most underrated character actors for a while now.  His performances in Dawn and in Lawless and in Zero Dark Thirty and even in the unfairly cancelled Chicago Code all have one thing in common.  They are all real.  Chalke never seems as though he is acting to me.  He seems as though he is just a real man in this world experiencing what we as an audience are experiencing.  He is a perfect protagonist for this.  Gary Oldman is…well, come on…it’s Gary friggin’ Oldman.  Nolan’s Batman trilogy showed the world one thing that it never knew before.  It showed that Oldman can play characters as well subtly as he can play them over the top.  His character Dreyfus is played similarly subtle here.  He is not a caricature of a hero or a villain.  He is just a man who wants to do what he thinks is right.  
Serkis caught some flack for a comment he made that seemed to minimize the work of the CGI guys and gals behind Dawn.  I, like director Matt Reeves, think his comments weren’t meant to downgrade the CGI work for this film.  It is nearly impossible to do so if you look at one frame of it.  Serkis and Kebbell and Nick Thurston and Karin Konoval and the rest of the motion capture actors are doing amazing and sadly unappreciated work.  YOU HEAR THAT ACADEMY?!?  However, the work they do is equaled by the work of the CGI team.  To use a Star Wars prequel parlance, both of their amazing work forms a symbiotic circle and makes the insane concept of a talking ape convincing.  
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a much needed chunk of QUALITY filmmaking jammed into this rather ho-hum summer blockbuster season.  It will be lauded as one of the best Planet Of The Apes films ever and one of the better sequels of all time.  Well, not by the people I work with from 9 to 5.  They most likely won’t see it because the monkeys do not jump up and down in front of a 10 foot tall black monolith or speak in iambic pentameter.  Don’t be as shortsighted as them…also, never give an ape whiskey…or an AR-13…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  
November 24, 2012

Double-ovember: GoldenEye

QUALITY
GoldenEye is the third gold titled Bond film I’ve reviewed as well as my third recast Bond debut film.  And of those three, it is easily my favorite.  It hits on all the Bond tropes I look for.  Great action, great villains, great wit, and great style.  Most remember Bond 17 because of the epically popular Nintendo 64 game.  Hell, I was practically raised on it.  However, GoldenEye should be heralded as possibly the most well received relaunch of the franchise ever.  And that includes Casino Royale.
In hindsight, Casino Royale is way more successful than GoldenEye.  However, Craig’s casting as Bond was not lauded as a good choice at all.  Even after starring in three films, all being the three highest grossing Bond films in history, Craig is still criticized.  Pierce Brosnan was not.  Bond fans, along with the producers wanted Brosnan years before.  However, he was unable to put on the tux due to his commitments to the television series Remington Steele.  When Brosnan was finally free to play Bond, the anticipation was at a fever pitch. 
I’ve stated before that I have a soft spot for Roger Moore, seeing as he was the first actor I saw play James Bond.  After GoldenEye, however, Brosnan became my favorite Bond of all time.  Not the best Bond.  (Connery.  I know!  Sheesh!)  Just my personal favorite.  I measure my Bonds on two and only two things.  Tactical believability and social charm.  Some Bonds are better at the action like Dalton, Lazenby and Craig.  And some are better with the charm like Connery and Moore.  Brosnan, in my opinion, displays the best balance of those two traits.  He nails every single action beat he does and can charms the pants off of anyone.  You see Brosnan straighten his tie casually while driving a tank through Russian streets and say, “That’s James Bond.”  He’s someone who you would love to have a drink with, but someone who you would never want to fight.  Daniel Craig (My second favorite Bond) is what I imagine 007 to be like if he existed in my world, but Brosnan possess more of the mystique and romantic super spy aura, while still feeling believable. 
GoldenEye’s QUALITY carries on from the revamped Bond to his fearsome foes.  An S & M henchwoman that receives orgasmic pleasure watching people suffer, and an (17 YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT!!!) evil former double-0 with a grudge.  They are great Bond villains.  Not in the sense that they have metal teeth or golden guns.  They are great because they are a great challenge for James Bond.  Logic suggests that MI6 ranks their double-0s in descending order by skill.  That said, Alec Trevelyan, 006, is supposed to be a better Bond than Bond.  Better at combat.  Better with the ladies.  Better all around.  To pull that off, they had to get an actor who could believably outclass James Bond.  I personally think they did that with the casting of Sean Bean.  Bean has been stealing scenes for years.  From Lord Of The Rings to Game Of Thrones.  You can’t help but like his characters, no matter their faults.  Trevelyan is no different.  Many Bond villains tend to be less cool than Bond.  Trevelyan more than holds his own with Bond stylistically and even physically.  When he says the line, “I was always better James” you believe it.  Xena Onatopp is a much sexier version of View To A Kill’s May Day.  You can tell Famke Janssen is enjoying the hell out of the character.  Her chemistry with Bond is great.  Especially in the baccarat scene, that pays tribute to Dr. No.  Alan Cumming also injects some really fun stuff with the hacker Boris. 
Natalya Simonova is less of a Bond girl pawn and more of a victim of circumstance.  It can be argued that she is a forgettable character compared to her predecessors and successors.  However, she does bring something more to the table than, say, Honey Ryder in Dr. No.  Though her chemistry with Brosnan isn’t very palpable, Natalya’s story is interwoven with Boris.  Their rivalry at least gives her a satisfying arc.  This is also Judi Dench’s first go as M.  What can I say about the famous Dame that I haven’t already said in my Skyfall review?  She is outstanding.  Right off the bat, she puts Bond in his place faster than any other M I have ever seen.  Proving she has what it takes to control MI6 and him. 
GoldenEye is a QUALITY classic in the Bond series.  It is easily Brosnan’s best outing in the role.  Director Martin Campbell did such a great job with it, EON Productions picked him to relaunch Bond again with Casino Royale.  Which begs the question…WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO HIM WITH GREEN LANTERN?!?  Sing along with Tina…play the old 64 game…but not against me.  I’ll kick your ass…Watch it…keep your eyes open for a strange Minnie Driver cameo….then tell me I’m wrong.  

August 28, 2012

The Take

The Take: Astonishing

Here in America many shows come and go. Out of probably thousands only a few are worth watching. Unlike In the UK, where there seems to be a lot more quality shows over quantity.

The Take well its a ton of goodness.

It’s simply one of the best dramas.

The Take is based off of the novel by Martina Cole. It’s first episode came on in 2009 on Sky1 in the UK. It’s about a gangster named Freddie (played by Tom Hardy) who leaves prison and is hoping to take over the empire of his boss, Ozzy (played by Brian Cox). It takes place in the 80’s which is always a great time period. I would love to talk about this show more but I don’t want to spoil anything.

So lets talk about this show’s stunning-fantastic performances. The standout is Tom Hardy who will blow you away. His acting is beyond top notch, it really is amazing. Just wait to you see his mannerisms!

The others, Shaun Evans, Kierston Wareing, Sara Stewart, Brian Cox and Charlotte Riley complete a perfect cast that you never get to see on TV, including movies. It’s really something. Brian Cox like always gives a good performance and always is great to see on film. A big surprise for me would be Charlotte Riley who’s strong performance is something to behold (by the way she is Tom’s girl in real life, he’s damn lucky, she’s beautiful and can act, a double threat that I would like to see more of.)

It’s supporting cast is outstanding. Freddie is a psychopath, there is killing, blood, a plot that keeps you going and great cinematography. What more could you ask for? This drama is one of the best you will ever see on TV. We need more of these to watch! Especially in the US.

Tagline: He’s got family, he’s got power, but he’s got issues.

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