If you need me, I’ll be curled up in a dark space grieving the last gasping breath of my youth.
If you need me, I’ll be curled up in a dark space grieving the last gasping breath of my youth.
This movie was terrible. Terrible! Terrible. Forced, trite, strangely lacking in any heart whatsoever, and featuring dialogue clearly written by a 13 year old boy (a precocious one, to be sure. Nevertheless).
THAT SAID, if LEGO Baby Groot ever comes to fruition, I will be first in line for purchase.
Genre: Sci-fi, Crap
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, yer mom.
I had plans last Saturday to go see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in the afternoon with my bad-movie-watching buddies. Since they’d both seen the first one in this series and I hadn’t, I spent the morning before our date watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes to prep.
I’d seen the original Charlton Heston film as a kid and hadn’t been that into it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from either of these. While I’ve got a few bones to pick with both of them, though, I found them pretty entertaining on the whole. Definitely Mom-watching material (hi, Mom!), and also way, way more fun to watch with my bad-movie-watching buddies than our last pick had been (the near-unbearable Godzilla).
These two films serve as prequels to the Heston one (and also the abominable 2001 remake by Tim Burton, which I also tried to watch last weekend — I didn’t last 20 minutes). In that one, Heston plays an astronaut whose ship crashes onto a strange planet populated by a bunch of talking apes, only to find out at the end (spoiler alert!) that he’s actually landed on Earth 2000 years in the future. (In related news: soylent green is people!)
Rise and Dawn tell the story of how the talking apes came to be in the first place. And, as you might expect, they came to be because of human hubris. Oh, you humans. And your hubris, my god!
In Rise, scientist Will Rodman, wholly unbelievably played by a very sleepy-seeming James Franco, is working for a private biotech corporation in San Francisco, developing a virus he hopes will cure Alzheimer’s. When one of the chimps he’s tested the virus on becomes outrageously smart, Will can’t wait to tell the board his work is a success. Unfortunately, while he’s sharing the good news, that same ape goes berserk and ends up being shot and killed on the board room table. Not exactly the intended ending to Will’s PowerPoint presentation [insert bad joke about bullet points here] [sorry].
The president of the company demands the other apes all be put down, but as the chimp handler is doing the terrible deed, he discovers the ape that had gone bananas (pun intended) had just given birth to a baby — that, rather than the virus, could have been the explanation for her sudden aggression.
Will sneaks the baby chimp home, intending to secret it away to a sanctuary. But, of course, it has also been infected with the virus, and when Will realizes it too is incredibly intelligent, he ends up keeping the little guy instead. His father, in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s himself, names the baby Caesar, and after Will sees the power the virus has had on Caesar, he begins to inject it into his dad as well — curing him almost immediately.
Of course, anyone who’s seen Project Nim knows this whole “raise a chimp like it’s a baby human” thing is not going to work out well for any of the parties involved, especially the chimp. And, indeed, when Caesar hurts a neighbor trying to protect Will’s father during an altercation, he’s taken away by the courts and sent to an (abusive) primate center. Bitter, Caesar turns his back on Will and his family — just as Will’s father’s immune system begins to reject the virus and his Alzheimer’s returns.
Will begins work on a new version of the virus — stronger, better, faster — and treats a second chimp with it. In the process, the human chimp handler dude is exposed as well. One night, Caesar manages to bust out of the primate center and breaks into Will’s house, stealing several canisters of the new improved virus, which he then uses to brainify all his new ape buddies. Soon, a huge pack of infected, super-smart chimps, orangutans, and gorillas are racing through town, finally making their way to the redwood forest across the bridge, where they hide from humans and are not seen again.
Meanwhile, the chimp handler coughs on an airline pilot, and the first movie ends with the clear suggestion an epidemic is coming.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes starts out about ten years later, with the apes now in a fully-formed civilization and the humans utterly extinct. Or so they think. That assumption is corrected when two chimps cross paths with a small party of men and women headed into the woods on a quest to reactivate the local dam and restore power to their settlement in the city. One of the humans, terrified of what he’s seeing (talking chimps will do that to a guy, especially if that guy is also an armed jackass), shoots and kills one of the chimps.
Though Caesar, the leader of the ape group, wants to try to maintain peace with the humans, and one of the humans feels similarly, a series of misunderstandings and lies inevitably leads to all-out war. Ain’t that always the way?
Dawn is a bit too rife with shooting and yelling for my tastes — though Caesar can speak English very well, he almost never uses his “inside voice,” and I started to get a little tired of all the shouting. Additionally, of course, it makes no sense that any of the apes can speak English at all — the ability to speak isn’t related to intelligence in primates, it’s related to the structure of their mouths and throats. The talking ape thing makes way more in the original film because the apes in that one had had hundreds of generations to evolve.
There were some other aspects of both movies that didn’t make a whole lot of sense either, and neither movie had all that much to offer in terms of original ideas. However, I was impressed by the special effects (the apes, barring a few situations in which they seemed to move a little weirdly, really looked like apes and not like the CGI creations they were — credit the great Andy Serkis (as Caesar) for a lot of that work).
Plus, the moral of the story sure seems timely. I’d say it goes a little something like this: the smarter we get, the more like big dumb animals we become. (No offense to animals intended.)
Definitely a great choice for a summer popcorn flick. Entertaining story, decent characters, and a whole lotta cute apes to boot (oh, Maurice! I have such a crush on you, you sweet orange thing!).
Genre: Science fiction
Cast: Rise: James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Brian Cox
Dawn: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell
This book is about
Scout and Jem learning that good
Can beat evil’s ass.
Don’t ever dress up
As a ham in your school play.
You can’t see bad guys!
(Participate in National Poetry Month! Add your own haiku in the comments, and I’ll post my favorite reader contributions in May!)
The latest non-fiction book by Erik Larson, whose previous two works both blew me away (The Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck), this book has what sounds like a riveting premise but what, in my opinion (whatever that’s worth) ends up not having quite enough substance to make for a riveting book.
Set in 1933, it’s about President Roosevelt’s last choice for U.S. Ambassador to Germany, a professor from Chicago named William Dodd. Dodd’s only real qualifications for the job were his familiarity with Germany, having gone to school outside Berlin for a short time, and fluency in the language — he had no practical experience with politics, and his primary era of historical interest was America’s Deep South, pre- and post-Civil War. But he had the one qualification Roosevelt desperately needed: willingness. After months of having his job offer turned down by men far more qualified, Roosevelt had pretty much given up on ever filling it before Dodd’s name was tossed his way, and he made the post sound pretty sweet. The Dodds would have the adventure of a lifetime, make more money than they were making in Chicago (no small draw in 1933’s Depression), AND the gig would give the professor more time to work on his four-part book series about the South. After only short deliberation, Dodd agreed, took the job and moved his wife, son, and 22 year-old daughter Martha to Berlin.
Though Dodd has the job of relevance to the tale, it’s more Martha’s story that gets the focus here, as she begins a series of affairs with various Germans, including one high-ranking member of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels, and seems initially blind to the horrors going on in the country around her.
But the longer the Dodds stay in Berlin, the less they can continue to ignore the violent and growing persecution of the Jews. As their year abroad unfolds, the entire family begins to move from excitement to disbelief straight through to horror, as Martha finally witnesses first-hand the brutal nature of Hitler’s plan.
Inserted into the tale are all the people whose names we know so well — Hitler, with whom Martha is even set up on a date (it doesn’t work out), Hermann Göring, and the sinisterly charming Joseph Goebbels. Plus: back in the U.S., poet Carl Sandberg, smitten with Martha and writing her constantly (I loved the excerpts from his letters reprinted here), as well as various American political figures of the time, all equally ignorant or in denial about the dramatic change in Germany’s path.
But though there are elements of the book that are definitely intriguing, overall I didn’t feel it had much purpose to it. There isn’t anything dramatically new revealed — it focuses mostly on the U.S.’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge Hitler’s evil until it was too late to do anything to stop him (the Dodd family serving as a metaphor in that regard for the entire American political machine). Even after Dodd begins to complain to Roosevelt about the stories he’s hearing all around him, including torture of American Jews in Berlin, Roosevelt and his people continue to plug their ears and sing “la la la, I can’t hear you, la la la!” (I paraphrase) for far too long. This isn’t new information, though. At least, I hope it isn’t.
And while I’d never heard of the Dodds before and was interested to learn their story, that story didn’t really amount to much in the end. Larson instead seemed much more interested in recounting Martha’s various sexual improprieties with a mix of fascination and disdain, and a lot of the passages about her felt like Larson shaking his finger and tsking, while continuing to feed us more juicy gossip about her, as though believing sex is what might make this otherwise somewhat weak tale sell. (Was he wrong? Well, *I* read it. . . )
Worse, though, was the feeling I got that Larson had initially wanted to write a book about the early 1930s in Germany and then came up with the Dodd family as the framework, instead of the other way around. Realizing too late there wasn’t enough substance to their experiences to make the story very engrossing, he then turned to the cheapest writer trick available: the cliffhanger. Far, FAR too many sections or chapters end with a variant of “Little did they know the event the happened NEXT would change their lives FOREVER!” Overuse of the cliffhanger gimmick is one of my biggest writing pet peeves, and for Larson, a man I know to be a tremendously talented writer, to rely on it so heavily was just, quite frankly, kind of a bummer.
I’m really interested in WWII history, and for that reason alone, I’m glad I read this book. If you aren’t as much of a history buff, though, you’ll find little to pull you in here. Which is a shame because, frankly, I wasn’t at all interested in the Chicago World’s Fair myself, and Devil in the White City was a book that, once started, I found impossible to set down. Larson’s usual knack for revealing the exciting drama behind the drier history is completely missing here. And man, I sure hope it turns up soon — like before he starts writing his next book.
Rats. Is what I’m saying. This should’ve been a much better book than it is. And I hate it when that happens.
I confess it wasn’t until the closing credits rolled on this flick and I saw Paul Haggis’s name that I thought to myself, “Huh, I probably should’ve paid more attention to that.” Haggis is, after all, the MASTERMIND behind the BRILLIANT television series Due South (you know, among other Oscar-winning things).
But that Paul Haggis? Of the complex and clever mind? Nowhere to be found in this snoozaroo, and I doubt paying closer attention would’ve helped much. Besides, I watched this on pay-per-view in a hotel room, which means there was absolutely nothing around to distract me in the slightest, and I still had a hard time focusing on it. The beginning didn’t grab my attention at all and the story was about as predictable as they come (not to mention utterly ridiculous). What the heck, Hags? Where is your mind?
The Next Three Days is about a family — husband John (Russell Crowe), wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks), and their young son — whose lives are flipped on end when Lara is suddenly arrested for the murder of her boss. All the evidence points to her — her car was spotted leaving the scene, the victim’s blood was on her jacket, and she’d spent the previous evening ranting about how much she hated her job to friends. Motive, means, and opportunity, all lined up perfectly; the trial moves quickly and ends with a guilty verdict, bing bang boom.
At first, the promise of a successful appeal keeps the family going, but as the years pass, it becomes clear Lara is never getting out. When John learns she’s only got three more days before she’ll finally be moved to the state pen, he’s had it. He’s gonna bust her out.
And so he does. And it’s pretty easy. Roll credits.
I have no idea what the point of this film was. Everything about it was mediocre, from the acting, to the story, to the lamely forced action scenes. The only nice thing I can say about it is that it only cost me $4.99, instead of the usual pay-per-view fees of more like $15, which left me feeling free to watch something better when it was over. Thankfully, what I watched next (review coming soon!) helped clear the bad taste that’s always left in my mouth when I see a completely worthless movie that cost bazillions of dollars to make — bazillions of dollars that could’ve been spent making five independent films that would’ve been fifteen times better. Man, I hate it when that happens.
SKIP! NEXT! BOO!
[Netflix it, if you still don’t believe me, you fool, you fool.]
I’m not going to be blogging at all this week due to a stressful thingamajigger that needs more of my attention than I’ve been giving it lately. I’m letting you all know so you don’t abandon ship just because I go radio silent for seven days. Instead, come back next week and I will give you something to really abandon ship about. Like, say, a positive review of “Rest Stop 2” or something.
[Note: After learning about the death of iconic writer/director John Hughes, I shut down the Boyfriend of the Week site for a 24-hour “moment” of silence — the original text of this blog post is preserved below, for what it’s worth, but the BotW site has returned to its regularly scheduled programming. You can find the metaphorical black armband page that took its place for 24 hours archived here: http://megwood.com/johnhughes.html. I probably won’t write anything about Hughes, after all; there’s going to be enough of that going on without me joining in. But I will say this: Thank you, Mr. Hughes, for showing me that it was okay to be an Allison in a Claire sort of world. The Breakfast Club came to me at the most fateful of times imaginable. It changed everything. It still changes everything every time I watch it. I think it probably will forever.]
For John Hughes: http://megwood.com
I will say more after I pull myself together.