Monday Morning Critic – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes And The Inherent Problem of the Prequel – James Franco Gets Curb Stomped And More In Homefront With Jason Statham

MMC

In my review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes the one thing I touched on that I didn’t write about as much as I would have liked to is the problems inherent with prequels. It was one of the things that annoyed me among all the good of that film, and there was so much it was hard to not glow about so much. Travis touched on some of the things I would’ve if he hadn’t, of course, and the film itself was a pure technical marvel at the very least. It shows how far animation and CGI has come in that you almost wanted to believe that these were talking, walking apes and not CGI creations placed over guys in goofy outfits mimicking ape movements. It’s the absolute peak of film-making in that regard and I’m not sure how much better it can get in that regard.

It was spectacular in that the film makes you almost believe that apes can take things over. That suspension of disbelief is nearly gone, the “Good lord, how did they get those apes to speak?” stupid question about to come out but only said by the really stupid. We all know that it was CGI, of course, but those opening 20 minutes were something special. When it was nothing but apes who built their own civilization interacting with one another you almost felt like they were acting apes, not digital creatures shoved into frame.

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I enjoyed the film but didn’t love it, of course, but one thing kept bothering me. It was the story-telling being pushed a certain way because we’re one more film away from Charlton Heston screaming “Damn you dirty ape!” and such. There’s something interesting going on that Matt Reeves seems to be aiming for that gets halted any number of times because he’s on a collision course with a fixed point in time in the franchise. He only has a certain amount of time to tell an interesting and good story before he has to end it; there won’t be eight films between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and handing over the franchise back to its roots from a pure story-telling perspective.

Don’t know what a fixed point is? It’s a theory of time travel that is one of three that dominates science fiction. This was circulating below among sci-fi folks for a long time and it explains it much more succinctly than I could.

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It’s my main problem with the Apes franchise so far and was actually one of the 80 or so I had with the Star Wars prequel trilogy as well. It’s that we’re running into a series of events that have to happen and all the interesting, creative things that were contemplated at a handful of points in the franchise were brushed over and tossed aside. Why? Because they have a point in the story as a whole they have to get to and as such they can’t waste time on it when there’s a grander story about the fall of man, and the rise of ape, to get to.

I’m not a fan of the franchise as a whole and the things that interested me, the dynamics of the ape civilization and this growth of Caesar from being a guy who started a rebellion to leading his people in a peaceful existence, got pushed aside because they need to make an ape war coming up. Admittedly the ape on human battle in this film was pretty good, and the final battle between humanity and ape in the third film in the trilogy (probably something like War for the Planet of the Apes or some conflict euphemism for “war”) will probably be even better. It’s bothersome that the interesting things on a grander scale, like the dynamic between the apes rising as a unified group and the splintering of humanity, is shorted on because there isn’t enough cinematic time between all the big budget action scenes.

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There’s something grander about this post apocalyptic world that screams for attention and never will. I wouldn’t be shocked that a proper reboot of the franchise, starting with another version of Planet of the Apes, comes a couple years after the third film in this prequel trilogy happens. Seeing what someone will do with a proper Planet of the Apes without Mark Wahlberg and with proper CGI could be interesting … and that’ll have the ability to tell a brand new story, not just fill in the blanks like this trilogy has.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

I reviewed Joe and The Unknown Known on DVD.

Travis tackled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I sat through Dinesh D’Souza’s latest political documentary, America, so you don’t have to.

Joe Corey looked at I Spy on DVD.

And now on MMC … we get some techno Dumb and Dumber.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – Homefront

When the highlight of your film is James Franco getting curb stomped, and you wish it was longer, your film is probably really awful. Which is what Homefront, an action film meant for someone else but ending up on Jason Statham’s resume, really is: bad film-making.

Statham is a former DEA agent who retired after his wife died to live the simple life in small town Louisiana with his daughter. But when she gets punchy with one of the locals, and then her father gets punchy with the kid’s father, Statham finds himself in the crosshairs of wannabe tough guy Gator (Franco) who wants to scare Statham out of town. It all winds up in a violent showdown, of course, as this film actually was intended as a Sylvester Stallone vehicle once upon a time. Yeah, it kind of makes sense that Stallone would adapt the novel the film was based on as a vehicle for himself, as it has all the hallmarks of an awful Stallone action script.

He was too old to do the film by the time it got green lit and his Expendables co-star wound up in the film playing the same variant Statham always plays. And this is fairly paint by numbers even for a Statham action film, the only thing missing being a love interest he consummates things with, but the film’s most unintentional hilarity comes from Franco.

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Franco is trying to do this small town Southern meth dealer accent while also trying to be tough guy and it just doesn’t work in any meaningful aspect. Franco’s not a great actor but can shine in the right role … and this isn’t it. When Winona Ryder slums it up in this film and it’s not even noticeable because of how profoundly ill-suited for the role Franco is. The only person who would’ve been worse would be Channing Tatum … but at least Tatum would be believable as a tough guy. And Ryder is at least trying, or what reasonably passes for trying at this point in her career.

Franco looks like a guy whose acting tough and everyone is just playing along, like he’s an over-sized Make-A-Wish kid who wanted to be a villain in a bad action film for some reason and somehow everyone thought that was a good idea. Like I expected John Cena and the WWF to be thanked at some point for letting Jimmy fulfill his dream. This film is on Netflix, for those who didn’t get it to complete a five for $20 deal like I did, and I’m not sure it’s worth the time on there.

Not recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Planes: Fire and Rescue – A sequel to the animated pseudo-sequel to Cars.

Skip it – The original was not all that good and I can’t imagine a sequel being anything worth watching unless you have kids. And even then maybe not so much.

The Purge: Anarchy – Another night in the next Saw level franchise.

Skip it – The first was awful … and this looks even worse.

Sex Tape – Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz make a sex tape that goes viral.

See it … at a matinee – This has all the feeling of a comedy that either has so many great moments they don’t want to ruin in the trailer … or so few that they used all of them in it.

Wish I was here (Limited release) – Zach Braff’s Kickstarter film

Skip it – The last couple of celebrities who’ve used gullible fans to fund their films, instead of paying for it themselves, have had a handful of decent films. I refuse to see it purely on the principle that a guy like Braff, who can afford to self fund any small douchetacular film he wants, asked for charity and was rewarded for it. Basically he’s giving away the equivalent of a baseball cap in exchange for a potential seven figure payday a year later … and people think it’s great. Le sigh.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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