Catching Up: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Attack the Block

I took a few days off blogging for the holidays, but now I’m back, and I’ve got some catching up to do. I had a mini-movie marathon over Christmas, so for today, I’ve got some reviews to bring you. Both movies are available on my Amazon Affiliate.

In a few days, I’ll bring you up to date on the latest developments related to my writing and my adventures in World of Warcraft, including a major change for one half of my characters.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes:

Caesar the chimp in Rise of the Planet of the ApesHalf prequel and half reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes place in the very near future and shows us the beginnings of the super intelligent apes that will one day overthrow humanity to rule the world.

The story follows a scientist, played by James Franco, attempting to cure Alzheimer’s with a new virus-carried gene therapy. Of course, he tests it on chimpanzees, and in one young chimp — played by Andy Serkis, AKA Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films — he discovers that the virus also has the potential to not only restore brain function, but to radically enhance it.

He raises this chimp, named Caesar, almost like a son, and Caesar becomes the movie’s other main character, as he grows increasingly intelligent and learns more about the world of humans — not all of it good.

It’s an interesting story, but it does have problems. Much of the movie feels rushed and underdeveloped, especially where the human characters are concerned.

For example, much of the motivation for James Franco’s character comes from the fact that his father (John Lithgow) suffers from severe Alzheimer’s, but we never really see the illness take its toll on him. We get a few shots of him looking confused and some talk of how he’s slipping away, but that’s pretty much it. The whole plot falls flat.

Likewise, the protagonist also has a love interest, but there’s no real development in that plot. She shows up, and then they’re together, and she adds nothing to the story.

Freida Pinto and James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the ApesRise of the Planet of the Apes does do an admirable job of making the rise of intelligent apes seem real and believable, especially compared to how cheesy the original films were, but there are still some implausible parts, mostly revolving around how mindbogglingly incompetent the pharmaceutical company producing the super brain bug is.

What really makes the movie worth watching, though, are the apes, and Caesar in particular. I didn’t think a computer-generated chimp played by an actor with dots on his face frowning into a camera could put on an impressive performance, but I was wrong. Caesar absolutely steals every scene he’s in.

What’s really impressive about the apes in this movie is how well they’re able to communicate to the viewer. Obviously, apes don’t really speak, but the scenes between the apes are just as easy to process as a scene of humans talking. So much is communicated with just simple gestures and expressions, and the apes actually end up feeling like more complete people than most of the humans.

Overall rating: 7.5/10 A good movie, but not a great movie.

Attack the Block:

One part Alien, one part Shaun of the Dead, and one part Trailer Park Boys, Attack the Block is a bizarre British action/comedy/horror, and one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s a simple story. An alien monster crash lands in one of the worst neighbourhoods in London, and a bunch of hoodlums decide to kill it for ****s and giggles. Then the alien’s friends show up.

So the hoods end up running all over their apartment complex, called the Block, first trying to kill the aliens and then trying not to be killed by the aliens, all the while also evading an irate drug dealer and the police. They also repeatedly cross paths with a woman they mugged earlier in the night, who ends up getting mixed up in the shenanigans, too.

The whole thing is ridiculously awesome and awesomely ridiculous.

This is one of those infinitely quotable movies, and I’ll probably spend the next few weeks laughing at some of the lines.

“We should go to Ron’s weed room!”

“What’s Ron’s weed room?”

“It’s a big room, full of weed. And it’s Ron’s.”

The cast of Attack the BlockBut like all truly great comedies, there’s more to Attack the Block than just laughs. The movie has heart, and while the kids may seem thoroughly unlikable at first, I found myself loving every one of them by the end of the movie.

There’s really only one reason not to see this movie that I can think of, and that’s if you’re easily put off by blood or foul language. There’s some pretty gory stuff in Attack the Block, and the exchange I quoted above is probably the longest bit of dialogue without an F-bomb in the whole movie.

But if you’re okay with some graphic violence and salty language, I highly recommend this movie.

Overall rating: 9.1/10

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