August 2017 ~ War for the Planet of the Apes

I’ve been a fan of The Planet of the Apes franchise from a very young age as you can see from the picture below…

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….and I still have a few Simian friends right now.

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Back in 2001 I was happy to hear that Tim Burton was attempting to reboot the series, however, like many others I was very disappointed with the film. Then in 2010, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was announced and like many, I was very dubious.

Luckily, the film turned out well, and had lots of nods to the original film with Charlton Heston. You can find a list of those easter eggs here:

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Then a couple of years later came the sequel, which only had a few callbacks, mostly just repeats of the previous film. It didn’t follow on straight after the events of the first film but instead used a time-jump to explain the story in between films and to introduce the Simian Flu backstory in full.

In 2016 another sequel was announced. War for the Planet of the Apes. It was released in July 2017. Again this film utilised a time-jump at the start and to move the story on a few years.

By now the apes have established a settlement in the forest outside of San Francisco. Caesar has re-established control over the ape population after the events of the previous film with Koba and the ape-coup. That is until humans rear their ugly heads and start causing trouble.

I’m not going to go into the full plot details as that would spoil it, but suffice to say the story was enjoyable with lots of action. There is also a great deal of humour from a new ape character called ‘Bad Ape’ who reminds me of US comedian, Jerry Lewis.

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Even though this rebooted series of ‘Apes’ films was supposed to stand alone from the originals, I can see it all tying in nicely with the original Charlton Heston film from 1968.

The CGI gets better with each film and I look forward to the story being wrapped up in the as-yet-untitled fourth film.

There were lots of easter eggs in this film too, including the introduction of a new character, a mute-human child who is rescued by Maurice the Orangutan. The child (played by Amiah Miller) was named Nova which is a call back to the original Nova played by Linda Harrison.

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The Alpha/Omega military group led by Woody Harrelson links back to the Alpha-Omega cult in ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’.

In the original film, all of the humans (except the three astronauts) were mute. In the new film it is starting to happen to humans.

Obviously Caesar is a callback to Roddy McDowall’s other ape character from ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’ but in this new film, the latest Caesar has a son called Cornelius- McDowall’s character in the original movie.

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Then there is the beach scene at the end which harkens back to the original scene with Taylor/Nova or horseback, only this time it’s the apes and Nova on horseback. In both scenes the main character (Taylor/Caesar) is riding toward their destiny.

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Finally, there is the doll, which in the original, serves to prove to Dr Zaius that there was an older, human civilisation before the apes. In the newer film it serves a much different purpose.

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If you are a fan of the ape films. go and see it. If you like action/sci-fi films, go and see it. It’s a good solid movie that I would happily see again. It probably won’t win any major awards (unless it’s for CGI) but nevertheless it’s worth a watch!

July 2017 ~ Dunkirk

“Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Sweetest sound you could hear out here.”

I don’t claim to be a professional film critic, quite the opposite. I like to talk about my views on films that I have seen. Sometimes I agree with others, sometimes not. Filmgoing is a very personal experience for me (which is why I like to go alone) and I know that films affect people in different ways and that is what makes them special.

I always see films more than once. If I don’t it normally means that I disliked it so much it’s not worth a second viewing. The first time I see a film I concentrate on the story. Does it make sense? Are there huge, gaping plot holes? That kind of thing. The second time I pay more attention to how it was shot, the acting, soundtrack etc. If I do see a film multiple times (For example: Rogue One 7 times and Wonder Woman 9 times) then I must REALLY have enjoyed it!

On to Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan (Director of Interstellar, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception) It will be short, spoiler-free review (I hope!).

I really enjoy war films based on real events, providing they are as accurate as is possible. I know that time constraints mean that events have to be condensed or altered slightly and I’m fine with that as long as they are accurate as possible. One example of this are two films based on the same event, The Battle of The Alamo. One of the most popular films based on this event was the 1960 movie starring John Wayne. Whilst this was a good, entertaining movie, it was highly inaccurate. The 2004 version of the story, directed by John Lee Hancock (No relation) was much more accurate. The director had taken the time and effort to do his research. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot more accurate than The Duke’s version.

My initial worry with Dunkirk was that it would be sensationalised like many of today’s films, so I purposely avoided any teaser/trailer, right up to the final 4-part trailer that was released back in April this year. I was able to see the film without knowing a great deal which was a bonus.

My first screening was in 70mm at The Odeon Leicester Square. I can wholeheartedly say this is the best way to see the film. There is so much going on over such a wide area that it needs 70mm to do it justice.

What struck me first about the film was the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. There wasn’t a loud score, drowning out dialogue as can sometimes happen. Don’t get me wrong, it works for certain films like Star Wars but with Dunkirk I think it would have taken away from the story. There was a soundtrack, but it was subtle enough to not distract. The volume was just right. For example, the track “Supermarine” which played over the dog-fight was at the perfect level to really enhance the scene.

The second thing that  struck me was the dialogue, or should I say lack of. Sometimes I’m sure that scriptwriters and directors put in dialogue just for the hell of it and it can come across as cheesy (ahem George Lucas!). Not here. There was dialogue when needed. I don’t want to say more as it will spoil it.

The story was great. It takes place over three time periods, based on different locations. The first was ‘The Mole’ (Similar to a breakwater, to protect harbours) which took place over the course of a week. The second was ‘The Sea’ which focussed on the Small Vessels Support and takes place over the course of a day. The third and final location was ‘The Air’ which focussed on a small group of fighter pilots and takes place over the course of an hour. By the end of the film, these three intricately woven stories have all become one and makes, for me, a moving, accurate as possible, story about sacrifice, loss and the stubbornness of the British people during World War 2 and Operation Dynamo.

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The visuals are breathtaking. From the scenes on the beach or at The Mole, to the sky and down to the sea. There are times you will find yourself holding your breath.

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Stand out performances by Sir Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Mark Rylance and Aneurin Barnard. But, the best two performances throughout the whole film, for me, were Cillian Murphy as the shell-shocked soldier, and Tom Hardy as Farrier, the Spitfire pilot who could give across so much emotion during this film with just his eyes…

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The one performance that I thought was hyped-up by the media was Harry Styles. He just didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t that it was a bad performance, it was that anyone could have done it in my opinion.

Keep an ear out for a special voice-cameo by Sir Michael Caine.

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If you can, see it in 70mm at The Odeon and receive a free-film strip!

I’ve seen it twice. Will I see it again? Most definitely!

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