Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Pierre Boulle
Production Company: Chernin Entertainment
Stars: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Judy Greer, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nick Thurston
Genre: Action/ Drama/ Science Fiction

What It’s About: In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race. (from IMDB)

How I Watched It: In the theater. Afternoon. Fairly empty theater.

Thoughts:   **WARNING! THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS, but I’ll try to spare most of them.**

This movie picks up several years after the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  In the opening credits, we hear commentary and blips of news reels explaining how a virus spread throughout the world and took out half of the population, and then the rest fought and killed each other.  Total human annihilation.  Or is it?

Then we focus in on the apes. They have obviously become more humanized, utilizing sign language and handmade weaponry.  They’ve created their own civilization in the woods. They’re teaching each other how to write.  They have commandments that they follow. They all follow Caesar.

Then two apes stumble upon humans in the woods.  One of them shoots an ape and kills him. The rest of the apes run to the scene.  Caesar moves to the front of the crowd, sees what’s happened, and bellows “GO!” loudly.  Well, needless to say, that scared the shit out of the humans.  They run and head back to the survivor colony to explain what happened.  Not much later, the apes arrive and warn them that they will fight if they have to, but they would rather keep the peace.  They tell the humans to never come back.  The problem, is that the humans need to get the dam in the woods working so that their colony can survive.  And so it begins….

Wow.  Okay?  Just…wow.  I recapped Rise of the Planet of the Apes the night before going to see this.  I enjoy that film–think it’s pretty solid. This one, though.  THIS ONE.

The special effects in this movie are just incredible.  I really wanna watch some behind-the-scenes footage on the making of this film.  I wanna know how they made these apes look so freakin’ realistic and practically flawless.  Oh my gosh.  I can’t help but gush.  So beautifully done.  So, shoutout to all of the special effects companies that worked on this: Weta Digital, Gentle Giant Studios, Spectrum Effects, and The Imaginarium Studios.

That being said, let’s move onto the acting.  Jason Clarke is such a great actor, and is perfect in the role of Malcolm.  He brings the drama.   Gary Oldman didn’t have as big of a role as I had anticipated, but still, he’s Gary ‘fucking’ Oldman.  Always wonderful.

Now, let’s get on to the real stars of the film: the actors who PLAY FRICKIN’ APES.  Now, in Rise, I was so impressed by Andy Serkis in the role of Caesar, and I still am.  Wow. Just incredible.  What’s so great about this film, is that Caesar isn’t the only humanized ape–they all are, and a lot of them are key players in this movie.  All of these actors must have had to learn sign language for their roles.  They all use it.  For the most part, they all start out by just signing for a means of communication.  However, as the film goes along, they slowly use vocalizations more.  Toby Kebbell takes on the role of Koba, who we saw in the first film.  He is fucking brilliant in this role! Hell, they all are.  I have so much respect for the actors who portrayed apes in this movie.  Major props.

My Rating:  Huzzah!!

I don’t even know what to say. This movie blew me away.  I was awestruck the entire time I was watching it.  I would love to delve into the plot more, but I’ll save those discussions for when more people have had a chance to see it…WHICH YOU SHOULD!  GO. RIGHT NOW. HOLY SHIT, YOU NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE!

Where Can I Watch It?: THE THEATER.  Go right now.  Seriously.  Catch this one on the big screen–you’ll regret it if you don’t.  I’m tempted to go back again.

The LEGO Movie (2014)

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Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman
Production Companies: Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, The LEGO Group, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures
Stars: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day
Genre: Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family

What It’s About: An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied ‘Special’, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Evening.

Thoughts: I’ll preface my review of this movie by pointing out that I’m a fan of the LEGO video game franchise, and I was really stoked for this movie, because I always found those games so fun and entertaining.

Okay.  So…the story.  You’ve got this run-of-the-mill construction worker LEGO named Emmett (Pratt).  He’s one of the masses of everyday people who are ordinary and follow the rules set forth by President Business (Ferrell). Then there are all of these builders who are trying to go up against the President and his secret weapon called the Kragle.  Their mission is to find that one extra special master builder who can locate “The Piece of Resistance” and save their world.

Emmett sort of….falls upon “The Piece of Resistance” and teams up with Wildstyle (Banks) to go on a crazy adventure to save their world.  There’s a lot more to the plot, but I don’t wanna completely spoil the clever little details.

There are so many great characters in this movie. Pretty much every character that has appeared in the game franchise are present–plus some new ones added just for the movie. And what makes the characters even better is that you get these amazing actors to voice them and bring them to life.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Emmet (Chris Pratt): I think I might be a little in love with Chris Pratt, so maybe I’m biased. However, he plays the part of the comedic half-wit so well.  He also plays the part of unlikely hero incredibly well.  They really couldn’t have picked a better actor for the lead.

Batman (Will Arnett): Again. Couldn’t have picked someone better. Arnett’s ridiculously dry humor really shines here.  Also, the song that Batman sings at one point had me laughing so hard, I was worried that I would upset the neighbors.

Bad Cop/Good Cop: (Liam Neeson): I’ve always known that Liam Neeson was secretly funny behind all of those intimidating action roles that he plays. He really steps up to the plate here.  Intimidating, yet silly….and awesome.

I also wanna point out that for a brief scene, the Millennium Falcon shows up with some Star Wars characters…and after looking into it, most of those characters were actually voiced by their original actors!!!  I just thought that was too frickin’ cool. So keep an eye out for that scene.

But behind all of the silliness–believe me, there’s a lot.  There’s a great message for all of the kids watching.  Upon first glance, it seems like a lot of this movie is really meant for the parents watching it.  There are so many great jokes, that you just know kids won’t get until they’re older–but at least they’re not all sexual innuendos like half of the crap I see out nowadays.  You can always hope that, even subliminally, the kids will catch on to watch the movie’s really about.

Oh, and how could I forget?  EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!  😉

My Rating: Huzzah!!!

I love this movie. I know that a lot of the humor is childish, but I don’t care. It’s so flippin’ clever, and adorable, and hilarious.  I think I laughed more watching this movie than I have in quite a while.  I might have to go out and purchase this one….ya know….for those future kids…I …probably won’t ever have….OKAY, I WANT IT FOR ME!  Bite me.  😉

Where Can I Watch It?:  This one’s available for purchase now!  Also available through Amazon Instant Video.  Oh, and don’t neglect to check your local libraries for this and other titles!  You might be surprised at the selections available to you for free!!

Wicker Park (2004)

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Director: Paul McGuigan
Writers: Gilles Mimouni, Brandon Boyce
Production Companies: MGM, Lakeshore Entertainment
Stars: Josh Hartnett, Diane Kruger, Matthew Lillard, Rose Byrne
Genre: Drama/ Mystery/ Romance

What It’s About: A young Chicago advertising executive believes a woman he sees in a café is his long-lost love. His conviction leads to obsession, as he puts his life on hold to trail her. (From IMDB)  A remake of the French film L’Appartement from 1996.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment.

Thoughts: **The following review will contain spoilers!!**
I don’t feel that bad about spoiling this one, considering it’s 10 years old.  However, I managed to not have it get spoiled for me, so I’ll extend you a warning.

A young up-and-coming advertising exec, Matthew (Hartnett), is about to take off on a business trip to China, however, while out for a farewell dinner he thinks he spots a long-lost love.  So, instead of taking off on the plane like he’s supposed to, he basically starts stalking this girl. Instant creep factor. He hears her talking on the phone, and (even though he doesn’t really see her) he assumes it’s actually her.  He investigates the phone, and finds a hotel key…and he TAKES it.  Then he actually goes to the hotel room and lets himself in.

What the hell, man!?  Why would you do that?  Even if this is some long-lost lover, wouldn’t you be worried about creeping her the fuck out?!  He ends up passing out on the hotel bed because he had taken some pills to relax for his flight.  Then we get flashbacks of the estranged lover, Lisa (Kruger). Turns out, their relationship started out by him basically stalking her, so maybe she wouldn’t be creeped out by his most recent actions. Weirdos.

He wakes up, steals a compact and a newspaper clipping from her hotel room, then he’s off to consult with his good buddy Luke (Lillard).  After Matt explains the previous night, I don’t know why the hell he doesn’t stop him. Seriously. Friends don’t let friends stalk. Buuut anyway, Matt continues on trying to find Lisa.  He goes to pretty great lengths. Eventually, he thinks he finds her apartment.  He sees a man (the one in the article he found in the hotel room) leaving a note and rose at her door. Turns out the note also had a key to her place in it, and he just slid it under her door…within reach of any crazy person who happens to come upon it.  Smart.  So, of course, Matt retrieves the key and just lets himself into the apartment.  He leaves a note for her to meet him at their usual spot the next day.  He goes, no one shows up.

So, then he goes back to the apartment.  While trespassing, the homeowner walks in.  He goes to approach her only to find that….GUESS WHAT?! It’s not her!  It’s another Lisa (Byrne). Then, instead of beating him upside with the statue she armed herself with, or calling the police, she eventually invites him to stay…then she sleeps with him. What. The. Fuck. Just. Happened.  This isn’t real life.

Well, after a bunch of crazy, unexpected twists and turns, we come to find out that it’s not real life. The movie just begins to unfold in completely mind-fucking ways.  Completely caught me off guard. To summarize very quickly: Rose Byrne’s character is actually named Alex. That’s not her apartment. She actually lives across the way in a building that faces it.  Turns out, that she’s friends with the real Lisa.  The real Lisa has been staying in Alex’s apartment because some guy (the one who left the note and rose) won’t leave her alone.  At first, I just thought that Alex got caught up in this at the end of the story.  Turns out, she was in love with Matthew before Lisa and him ever even met, and she’s been plotting and stalking him ever since.  Holy shit.  Basically, she kept these two apart for nearly two years.  Oh, and there’s also the twist that Alex is dating Luke/using him to get to Matthew.

In the end, everything is revealed to everyone, and Matthew and Lisa have a touching reunion in the airport while Coldplay plays in the background.  😄

Wow.  This movie really surprised me.  Had no idea what I was in for.  I will say that I knew something was wrong with Rose Byrne’s character right away.  Before she meets Matthew at the apartment, there’s a scene where Luke goes to see her at a play rehearsal. She’s got stage makeup caked on her face and hair, but I knew it was her right away.  Had I watched this movie when it came out (and wasn’t familiar with Rose Byrne), I might have been even more surprised at that reveal later on.  But even then, I didn’t know the extent of the deception.

If I had one complaint about this movie, I would say that I wish this movie edged more toward a horror movie, as opposed to the creepy romantic movie it turned out to be.  Not to say that I didn’t enjoy it as it is, but I just tend to be drawn toward those types of movies, and really had a feeling that it was going in that direction. Only slightly disappointed that it didn’t.

Great casting all around.  Hartnett was excellent.  He really walked the fine line between creepy and romantic very well.  Byrne was phenomenal in this.  But really, I think I’m so drawn to her character because of the way she was written/directed.  Just great storytelling.  The way they show all of the times that she was there, but overlooked in flashbacks was wonderful.  Makes me wanna go back and re-watch and try to spot her.

My Rating:  Huzzah!!

At first, I was just creeped out and confused, but once the pieces starting falling into place, I couldn’t tear my eyes away.  Great movie.  Wish I would have watched it sooner.

Where Can I Watch It?: Available on Netflix instant, Amazon Instant, Showtime Anytime, iTunes

Maleficent (2014)

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Director: Robert Stromberg
Writers: Linda Woolverton, Charles Perrault, Brothers Grimm, writers of 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty
Production Companies: Roth Films, Walt Disney Pictures
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple
Genre: Adventure/ Fantasy/ Family

What It’s About: A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.

How I Watched It: In the theater with friends. Evening. Mostly empty theater.

Thoughts: ***THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

The movie starts off in the Moors, an enchanted kingdom full of magical creatures.  We meet a young fairy named Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy). She falls in love with a young human boy named Stefan (Michael Higgins) who was attempting to steal precious jewels. On her 16 birthday, Stefan gives her “true love’s kiss”.  Then after that, they slowly lose touch, and Stefan leaves her behind.

I know that the back story was necessary for the plot of this movie, but I found this opening sequence fairly kitschy. It seemed like a live-action version of one of those fairy movies that Disney pops out every few months. Don’t get me wrong, some nice looking CGI takes place in the opening, but it pales in comparison to some of what we see later.

Many years later, the king of the human realm takes charge and tries to attack the mystical forces that hide in the Moors. Maleficent (Jolie) takes charge and defeats them in battle. On his deathbed, the king offers up his throne to the man who can defeat Maleficent. Stefan (Copley) rises to the challenge, knowing that he can get close to her. He meets her in the Moors and falsely attempts to rekindle their friendship. When the time comes for him to kill her, he can’t, but instead he cuts off her wings to take to the king so that he will think he was successful.

His actions turn Maleficent’s heart cold, and years later when she hears of King Stefan’s newly born baby, she travels to the kingdom to place the curse (which we know from the original Sleeping Beauty) on Princess Aurora.  The king sends Aurora to live in a small cabin in the woods with 3 fairy protectors: Flittle (Manville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple).  She is to live there until the day after her 16th birthday, as to avoid the curse.  Maleficent keeps a close eye on her with the help of her ever shape-shifting companion, Diaval (Riley).  And so on, and so forth—I’ll spare the ending.

Acting. Jolie was tops in this. I was really surprised at how much I loved her performance. She just fit this role to a tee. She definitely had help looking the part with her beautiful costume pieces and slight cosmetic alterations. She was just stunning. There are several moments in this movie that she really succeeds at drawing an emotional response from you–well, at least from me.  😉

Elle Fanning was pretty much a real-life Disney princess. Great job. Enough said.

The only acting in this movie that really bugged me was Sharlto Coply. Early on, I just wasn’t a huge fan.  He grew on me later as he got crazier and crazier, but I still found his performance to be the weakest.

Visually, this movie is beautiful.  There are some slightly cheesy CGI creatures and effects, but you learn to overlook them because they’re blended so well with all of the real elements around them.  Some really fantastic work with Maleficent’s visuals, especially when she’s flying.  There’s one scene where she breaks through a window in slow motion, that had me completely awestruck.

I’m always an advocate of taking stories and turning them to see the darker side. This movie has a lot of blue tones over it, that really add to the “dark feel” of the movie. It really draws you in. The music really adds to the dark tone as well.  I remember hearing Lana Del Rey’s version of “Once Upon A Dream“, and getting really excited for this movie. Granted, they don’t use that song until the credits, but the music throughout the film assisted in a big way.

I really enjoyed this take on the Sleeping Beauty story.  Not only do you see the tale from a different point of view, but it really delivers a better message all together.  This movie breaks from the usual archaic message we’re accustomed to seeing in the classic Disney princess movies, and ends on a much more realistic and modernized note.

My Rating: Huzzah!!

I’m a big fan of all the old Disney princess movies.  This gives me that, but still lets me feel like an adult.  Dark, beautiful, and highly entertaining.

Where Can I Watch It?: This one’s just making its way through the theater circuit, so it may be a while before it’s available on video or digital format.