FILM REVIEW: THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016)

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Baloo: [singing] Forget about your worries and your strife…
Mowgli: What’s that?
Baloo: That’s a song about the good life.

Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken

Synopsis: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart.

Perhaps Jon Favreau’s most disappointing film in years after the game changing Iron Man films and 2014’s charming Chef. The film is visually stunning however there doesn’t appear to be any linking narrative aka beginning, middle, end or character development. It is simply random scenes connected together by the one-note Mowgli and various animals in the jungle. However I don’t completely blame Jon Favreau as he is merely reenacting the animated Disney original from 1967 with less songs.

The plot of The Jungle Book revolves around a young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who has been raised by wolves and the wise panther Bagheera (voiced regally by Ben Kingsley) in the Indian jungle. With threats from the chilling tiger Shere Khan (voiced menacingly by Idris Elba) Mowgli must leave the wolves and find his own people. Along the way he meets a sneaky snake (voiced seductively by Scarlett Johansson) and a laid back bear named Baloo (voiced with charm by the always great Bill Murray). He also ends up in a temple run by the gigantic ape King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken playing The Godfather). These series of events barely connect with each other and the film eventually finds a climax where the hero prevails but little else really matters. In fact the whole film felt like a series of events that don’t really matter. Mowgli is constantly saved from any threats and the actor does such a poor job in gaining any respect from the viewer as he clumsily reads through his lines and stares blankly at cgi creatures. I understand it must have been difficult for him to stare at tennis balls or sticks and create a realistic performance but with Favreau’s past with child actors including Emjay Anthony from Chef or Ty Simpkins from Iron Man 3 I was expecting more.

Where Favreau doesn’t let the audience down is with the breath-taking special effects. All of the animals are uniquely structured with meticulous design to put you in a real world of walking talking animals with genuine personalities. It was amazing to watch however if only the story and protagonist were more impactful.

Rating: 2 Stars

FILM REVIEW: GET HARD (2015)

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Darnell Lewis: When life throws you Dick you make Dick-ade!
James King: Dick-ade doesn’t sound like a significant improvement over dick.

Director: Etan Cohen

Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson

Synopsis: When wealthy hedge fund manager, James King, is framed for fraud he is sentenced to maximum security prison, San Quentin. Worried about how to handle prison life he turns to his car cleaner, Darnell Lewis, who he falsely presumes knows what it’s like to be in prison because he is black. Needing the money to start his new business Darnell agrees to the offer even though he’s never actually been to prison.

A modern spin on the 80s classic comedy ‘Trading Places‘ with Will Ferrell as the stiff rich white man replacing Dan Akroyd and Kevin Hart as the poor black man (this time not homeless but a struggling business owner with a wife and daughter) replacing Eddie Murphy. It’s not officially a remake but it does borrow a lot from that film bordering on copyright.

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This is an enjoyable comedy not in the league of Ferrell’s superior comedies such as Anchorman and Step Brothers but better than most modern comedies. Hart brings his manic energy to the screen and after his hilarious stand up shows he’s beginning to bring that energy to his films after the disappointing Ride Along. Hart and Ferrell work well together but the film relies heavily on dick and rape jokes rather than their stars natural comedic talent.

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Ferrell stars as James King a wealthy hedge fund manager engaged to the smoking hot Alissa (played with wicked delight by Alison Brie). He has it all – gorgeous house, wealth, power and prestige however he soon finds himself the victim of a false accusation and faces time in prison. He turns to his car cleaner Darnell (Hart) for advice on how to survive in prison. He offers him $30,000 for his help. Darnell accepts even though he’s never been to prison. What follows is a series of sketches involving Hart preparing a disillusioned Ferrell on prison life including how to act tough, how to suck dick, and how to fight strangers. Not all of the sketches work and the dick/gay jokes feel dated in 2015. If this film came out ten or twenty years ago it would have been a lot edgier and in your face but after shock comedies such as Borat, Jackass and the American Pie series unfortunately most comedy fans have seen it all before.

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It is an enjoyable time if you enjoy the humour of Ferrell and Hart but unfortunately little else for contemporary audiences.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

FILM REVIEW: FURIOUS 7 (2015)

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Dominic Toretto: I used to say I live my life a quarter mile at a time and I think that’s why we were brothers – because you did too. No matter where you are, whether it’s a quarter mile away or half way across the world. The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room, right here, right now. Salute mi familia. You’ll always be with me. And you’ll always be my brother.

Director: James Wan

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell and Dwayne Johnson

Synopsis: After the death of a close ally, Dominic Toretto, brings his gang back together to seek revenge and also go on a worldwide mission to help the government get their hands on a new form of GPS tracking equipment that can trace anyone in the world.

Unfortunately franchise fatigue and tragic behind the scenes events weigh heavy on the seventh instalment of the Fast and Furious saga. It has been said again and again but it is quite the feat to have a b level action film from 2001 with no stars or credibility to go on to become a billion dollar franchise over ten years later. After the original The Fast and the Furious (2001) was a surprise hit and made street car racing popular the studio quickly went on to develop a sequel with the partnership of Vin Diesel’s stoic bad boy car racer, Dominic Toretto, and Paul Walker’s good boy charming undercover cop, Brian O’Conner to recapture the magic of the original. However Diesel didn’t want to be a part of it (believing he’d have a stronger career in more dramatic roles) so the studio went ahead and replaced him with Tyrese Gibson’s bad boy, Roman, who was essentially a more charming version of Toretto in 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious (great title). Then in 2006 Universal released The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, which essentially strayed away from the buddy cop genre conventions of the previous two and went with a new story revolving around a troubled youth who has to move to Japan and discovers car racing and drifting. The film was the least successful of the franchise but did introduce Sung Kan’s Han who would become a series regular. The film also ended with a surprise cameo from Vin Diesel tying the film to the franchise. Perhaps the most important asset the third film brought was the introduction of director Justin Lin who would go on to re-establish the franchise for the better. In 2009, Lin brought the original four back together with the reunion of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez. It was a fun reunion and was a huge success at the box office showing that the franchise could live on. In 2011, Lin directed the best in the series with Fast Five, taking the gang on a wild heist and introducing Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Hobbs a federal Marshall on the hunt for Toretto. Johnson brought swagger and charm to the role of Hobb’s and Lin brought breathtaking action sequences to new heights and the series was now a phenomenon. In 2013, Lin made his final bow with Fast Six, which was another action masterpiece with incredible set pieces. However Lin decided to leave the franchise when Universal wanted to rush production and have Furious Seven released a year later. James Wan, successful from horror hits such as Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring was brought in to complete the film. Wan a talented director wanted to explore an action film and things were on the way however only months into production, Paul Walker tragically passed away in a car crash. The film appeared to be over however with time away and further negotiations, Diesel and crew decided to complete the film as a tribute to Walker. With CGI, Walker’s brothers as stand ins and existing footage they were going to complete the scenes of Brian and also send him off with a farewell from the team/franchise.

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With Walker’s death changing everything the film suffers on two levels. One it is hard to watch Walker drive into death defying situations without feeling uncomfortable knowing he died in reality doing the same sort of thing. Also his later scenes feel clunky with him speaking on the phone filmed from his back or fighting Tony Jaa in the dark to obscure his face it shows that despite their noble efforts the filmmakers still couldn’t hide the fact that Brian was no longer played by Walker. Also the films narrative switches to accommodate his characters departure from the franchise. Although in previous films Brian partnered with Torreto’s sister, Mia (played by Jordana Brewster) and even had a child with her. Now he decides to leave the gang and live with her far away. The final scenes are an emotional tribute to Walker and Brian however after further thought his character could have had a stronger exit.

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Now for the rest of the film the gang is on two missions. One is to fight Jason Statham’s new character of Dereck Shaw, brother of Owen Shaw from Fast Six that was put into a coma by Torreto. As Torreto and his gang fight Shaw they meet a new ally in Kurt Russell’s Mr Nobody, a shady government agent who gets Torreto’s crew to work for him to find a GPS tracker which can find anyone in the world. Despite some great action scenes the films multiple plots are hard to keep track of and at 137 minutes of exploding cars, helicopters, city streets it all becomes a bit too much. Lin was better equipped at handling action scenes in FF 3 – 6 with slower panning and longer edits. Unfortunately Wan films his action in quick cuts and it is hard to keep up with the space of the characters, cars, helicopters, etc in most of the action scenes. Wan shows some impressive camera angles in the first fist fight between Johnson and Statham however as the film moves on to car chases and explosions Wan suffers under the pressure to top the last films action creativity.

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With a confusing plot and action scenes with jarring quick cuts unfortunately Furious Seven ends up being one of the least enjoyable in the franchise. The film isn’t terrible with a moving tribute to Walker and a few enjoyable action scenes. It is disappointing as the previous entries have set the bar extremely high. Only Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs saves the film with a bit of humour but he is also taken out far too quickly in the opening scenes of the film.

Rating: 2 Stars

Ranking of the Fast and Furious Franchise.

1. Fast Five (2011)
2. Fast Six (2013)
3. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
4. Fast & Furious (2004)
5. Furious Seven (2015)
6. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
7. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

FILM REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER (2014)

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Wayne Kyle: There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs, Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Synopsis: The true story of Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in American history with over 160 confirmed kills over four tours during the Iraq war. However when he returns home to his family he can’t easily escape the war that now lives inside him.

Clint Eastwood returns to fine form in this gripping true story of American soldier Chris Kyle. The film opens in Kyle’s childhood with his strict Catholic father teaching him the respect for guns and to protect your own no matter what. It is these values that follow Kyle into adulthood when he begins to see America is under attack from foreign enemies. He joins the army and becomes a NAVY seal. His skills with a sniper rifle are quickly discovered by his superiors and he is promoted. Meanwhile Chris meets Taya and they soon fall in love and get married. However just before they get married the tragic events of 9/11 occur which sparks the American war with Iraq.

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Eastwood has a strong eye for action scenes from his early works such as The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) to Sudden Impact (1983) to Unforgiven (1992). Even his dramas can contain gripping action sequences such as Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Gran Torino (2008). It is during Kyle’s tours in Iraq where Eastwood’s direction really shines in his gripping and tension filled sequences involving Kyle having to take a shot, whether it is a child or mother or another skilled sniper these action sequences are breathtaking and elevate this film to a very high standard. Eastwood knows there is no black and white reason for the war or for taking a life and Kyle’s story is filled with compromised choices that no man should ever have to make. Eastwood also shows the human frailty of being in the war and taking so many lives as Kyle returns to a quiet and loving home but can’t get the screams and gunshots out of his head.

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Bradley Cooper gives a gripping performance as Chris Kyle not only physically (he put on mass pounds to appear bulky as the real Kyle) but also emotionally with his piercing eyes showing us the cost of war. He is riveting throughout and elevates the film to near classic status. Sienna Miller also turns in a strong performance as Kyle’s wife Taya who also must deal with raising a family and trying to save her husband from the war he can’t leave behind. The politics do become a bit shaky by the end of the film as Eastwood and Cooper show a man struggling with this devastating war however as the film ends Eastwood begins to portray Kyle as a true American hero however Cooper portrays him as a broken man who had given too much to his country with little reward. Although the politics are a tad unsteady, Eastwood and Cooper deliver a strong and riveting drama.

Rating: 4 Stars

FILM REVIEW: BIRDMAN (2014)

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Riggan: Just find me an actor. A good actor. Give me Woody Harrelson.
Jake: He’s doing the next Hunger Games
Riggan: Michael Fassbender?
Jake: He’s doing the prequel to the X-Men prequel.
Riggan: How about Jeremy Renner?
Jake: Who?
Riggan: Jeremy Renner. He was nominated. He was the Hurt Locker guy.
Jake: Oh, okay. He’s an Avenger.
Riggan: F – k, they put him in a cape too?

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan.

Synopsis: An aging actor who was once famous for playing the superhero ‘Birdman’ struggles to regain relevance when he attempts to adapt a play based on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

A visually compelling and emotionally resonant motion picture from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I loved Inarritu’s first two films Amores Perros (2000) and 21 Grams (2003) however he lost me with Babel (2006). His first two films had a gritty visual style and fractured structure that resonated with the films themes of desperation, longing and failed dreams. However he went too far with Babel, which turned into two hours of depression porn. I’m happy to see that just like his lead character Riggan Thomson he has made a comeback with this important and relevant fable on celebrity culture, superhero/blockbuster cinema, arthouse cinema and his original themes of desperation, longing and failed dreams. The film is very meta not only for its director but also its lead character Riggan, who was once in a successful superhero franchise (Birdman 1, 2 & 3) just as its actor Michael Keaton (1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns). Keaton has always been a wild and charismatic lead actor and revealed a manic spirit in his first successful film 1988’s Beetlejuice. Keaton recaptures this manic energy and also adds a level of gravitas by knowing his history with the real life Batman franchise. He gives the character an extra level of reality with his casting.

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The film revolves around Riggan trying to make a comeback by adapting the Raymond Carver play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, however his own hubris comes in the way as everything starts falling apart including the set, actors and his own fragile mind. Riggan continuously hears voices in his head from the character he once played, Birdman. Birdman believes that Riggan shouldn’t bother with this play, no one cares and he won’t be able to make it as a true actor. He tells him to take the check and star in another Birdman film which is what the audience really wants. No one cares about theatre and broadway. He may be right in this day and age of the superhero blockbuster. The film is a real time capsule of cinema in 2014 and is a savage attack on the entire superhero genre and how it is destroying true art. This is only one of the themes as the film also tackles age, father daughter relationships, art versus commercial, internet and viral marketing, actor’s egos, and the fall of success. It is a bold and powerful film.

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The real star of the film for me was cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. The film is made to look as if it is all one shot and this is breathtaking to behold. The amount of work from actors to crew (especially the stage handlers) is amazing as the camera pulls in and out of Riggan’s room, to the stage and to the streets of New York. The films distinct look is remarkable and will be talked about for years to come. I haven’t even mentioned the impressive performances from Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan. The film is quite the masterpiece and is clearly one of the best films of this decade.

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Rating: 4.5 Stars

SUMMER MINI-MOVIE REVIEWS

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It’s been a great summer here in Melbourne and being a secondary school teacher means I get a nice long break over christmas and january. I decided to take a break from blogging too. However I did watch a lot of movies on my break and wanted to share my opinions on them. So I culled them altogether and made a list of all the films I watched and briefly what I thought of them. Hope you enjoy. Happy 2015 everyone.

 

Horrible Bosses 2 – 1 Star

A plodding sequel which tries (and fails) to recapture the magic of the far superior original. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudiekis and Charlie Day seem to be in it purely for the paycheck.

Boyhood – 4.5 Stars

Watching a life unfold before your eyes was quite breathtaking. Richard Linklater’s 12 year journey through a young mans life becomes a cinematic masterpiece which shows how special time is and how although it changes it also somehow remains the same. Moments seize us we don’t seize them.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – 3.5 Stars

Although it drags and could have been condensed into one film instead of two, Mockingjay Part 1 is still a thrilling sci-fi vision of the future which parallels 2014 with its depiction of media, war and politics. Also the only popular franchise with a strong female lead that I haven’t seen since Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Equalizer – 3.5 Stars

Denzel Washington stars as a brutal vigilante and seriously kicks ass! An enjoyable action film in the vein of Schwarznegger and Stallone 80s classics.

A Madea Christmas – 2 Stars

An enjoyable Christmas flick with corny messages. One for Tyler Perry fans only.

This is Where I Leave You – 2 Stars

Four siblings deal with the death of their father during a seven day Jewish ritual which their mother enforces. The film is a cliched family drama filled with melodramatic twists and turns which is pretty forgettable once the credits roll. Includes an all star cast including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll and Jane Fonda

Dumb and Dumber To – 2 Stars

An enjoyable comedy sequel that takes place twenty years after the original. It shows as Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have aged a lot. However there characters Lloyd and Harry are still dumber than ever enjoying prankish each other over doing anything meaningful with their lives. This sequel follows the structure of the original and finds the two on another road trip this time to find Harry’s biological daughter. The film has some fun moments and good lines however doesn’t come close to the classic original.

Bad Words – 3 Stars

Enjoyable comedy in the style of ‘Bad Santa’ where a foul mouthed middle aged loner makes friends with a young indian boy who is picked on by his parents and kids at school. Jason Bateman directs and stars in as a man who has found a loop hole in a children’s spelling bee tournament and has mysterious motives as to why he wants to ruin the competition for the children and their parents.

Belle (2013) – 3.5 Stars

Excellent period drama dealing with the complexities of race during Victorian England. Based on the true story of the painting Belle featuring a black young lady and a white young lady in that time appearing as equals. During the story of this young girl we also get a side story dealing with a ship delivering slaves that killed them all to claim insurance. Brilliant performances from everyone including Tom Wilkinson and especially Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the title character.

Nightcrawler – 4.5 Stars

A shocking and biting look at our current news media. I thought Gone Girl captured this perfectly however this film shows the true ugly side of news journalism and the depths people will go to have a story for the 6 o’clock news. Featuring brilliant cinematography of the LA night and an award calibre performance from Jake Gylenhaal this is one of the bests of 2014.

The Longest Week – 1 Star

A shallow and uninspired film starring Jason Bateman. It uses the style of Wes Anderson and Woody Allen however doesn’t ever come even close to their brilliance. It revolves around an unemployed 40 year old writer living off his parents fortune who all of a sudden begins to lose it all. Set in the beautiful New York City (of Woody Allen’s imagination). Also starring the beautiful Olivia Wilde. Directed by Peter Glanz.

Life Itself – 5 Stars

An inspiring documentary about one of my idols, the late great film critic, Roger Ebert. The film explores Eberts life, his rise through the newspaper Chicago Sun-Times where he became a popular film writer to his television days with his film critic partner/sworn enemy Gene Siskel. However the film truly shines in the scenes dealing with Eberts cancer ridden body and his inspiring effort to keep writing and critiquing although his body continues to restrict him. He shows how you can continue pursuing your passions no matter what life has dealt you. A truly inspiring film about someone who has truly inspired me not only in writing but also in being a good human. This has become one of my favorite films.

Brick Mansions – 2 Stars

Enjoyable action film starring Paul Walker in one of his final roles before his tragic passing. The film has a convoluted plot involving a futuristic housing project which the government is trying to destroy. The story is clearly borrowed (ripping off) the far superior Robocop however it does contain many breathtaking action scenes involving parkour.

Sabotage – 2 Stars

A highly violent crime drama starring Arnold Schwarzenegger involving a group of DEA agents who are more like mercenaries who start getting murdered due to a bust gone wrong and $10 million in missing cash. I enjoy director David Ayer’s brutal style however this is for Schwarznegger fans only.

The Babadook – 4 Stars

What is it with horror films and creepy kids? The Shining, The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense all have kids you don’t want to have as your own. It reveals a primary fear for everyone either being a child or a parent dealing with the horrors of our world is a real horror that can touch us all. On top of that this film is made in Australia so I don’t have that Hollywood air of fantasy to distance myself from the horror, this could be my neighbour! This film is scary for all of these reasons but also it is a very well made and confident horror film. From the acting, directing, cinematography, production design and sound design this is a very polished film. It reminded me a lot of The Sixth Sense; a single mother dealing with her troubled child and losing all control and hope as events unfold around her.

The Interview – 4 Stars

Seth Rogen and James Franco’s controversial latest film is one of their best and most hilarious. The film centers around Franco’s Dave Skylark a popular talk show host (who is also completely vain and insipid) who manages to score an interview with the nefarious dictator Kim Jung Un. Seth Rogen plays his producer who joins him on his journey to North Korea. Before they embark on their trip they are intervened by the CIA and Agent Lacey (the gorgeous Lizzy Caplan) tell them they have to assassinate Kim Jung Un. The film takes no prisoners and isn’t afraid of completely destroying Jung Un’s image. Jung Un is hilariously played by Randall Park. All of the set pieces throughout are hilarious and although Franco is so over the top with his performance I still found him funny. Rogen again plays himself but his chemistry with Franco is priceless. This is the best comedy I’ve seen all summer

Penguins of Madagascar – 3 Stars

An enjoyable action comedy featuring the Penguins from the Madagascar films. Although they weren’t in those films much they were clearly the highlights of those films and became such fan favorites that a spin-off was made. The film revolves around the Penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private as they get into misadventures involving a crazy octopus (voiced by John Malkovich) out for revenge on the Penguins. The film is filled with thrilling and hilarious set pieces that will entertain children and adults alike.

Tusk – 4 Stars

A highly disturbing film from writer, director and podcaster Kevin Smith. This film is like a cross between The Human Centipede and The Pink Panther films with Smith’s witty dialogue thrown in. Smith has matured as a director the visuals and editing are used to great effect to build mood and horror. The film is his most personal in years. It centers around a podcaster, Wallace Brighton (Justin Long clearly a stand in for Kevin Smith) who ends up in Canada trying to interview a reclusive storyteller for his podcast. However what he discovers will destroy his life forever. The film is very disturbing (do not watch while eating). However I enjoyed it for its go for broke attitude, Smith’s enjoyable dialogue and the actors involved. Michael Parks delivers a haunting and insane performance and Genesis Rodriguez is strong as Wallace’s girlfriend who goes on the hunt for him. There is a surprise cameo in the third act which is pretty distracting at first and possibly belonged in another film but once you accept it you can go for the ride.

John Wick – 3.5 Stars

An enjoyable action revenge flick with the great Keanu Reeves also making a comeback. Ex-hitman John Wick is retired and widowed when he runs into a spoilt mobsters son during a stop for petrol. He then goes on a war path to get revenge for his beloved dog and car. The film is filled with exciting action sequences with Reeves showing off his physical skills unseen since the Matrix trilogy. One of the best action films of 2014.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – 3 Stars

A pretty lackluster end to the Hobbit trilogy. The film mainly revolves around the lead dwarf Thorin attaining the castle and gold and being corrupted by his treasure. Other factors weigh in such as the men who defeated Smaug the dragon, the elves and the orcs who also wish to claim the wealth of the castle. An enjoyable ride however it never goes beyond the original trilogy or even the far more enjoyable ride of the previous film.

REVIEW: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)

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Koba: Caesar weak!
Caesar: Koba weaker.

Director: Matt Reeves

Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Gary Oldman

Synopsis: In a dystopian future where genetically advanced Apes now rule the earth, Ape leader Caesar struggles with keeping the peace when a band of human survivors seek shelter and help from the apes.

The last entry into the Planet of the Apes series (for now) which is a direct sequel to 2011’s reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, as we follow the aftermath of the events from that film. Mankind has fallen due to the virus which Will Rodman (James Franco) developed in Rise. This film is set ten years after the events of Rise and is essentially a remake of 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes (which is a direct sequel to 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes which was also remade into 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Make sense??) However whether you are a fan of the series or if this is your first ape film to see you will definitely be impressed with this epic tale filled with parallels to Shakespeare’s classic Julius Caesar, as well as modern news headlines including threatening viruses, terrorism, politics, global warming, fear of technology all wrapped up in a sci-fi cgi heavy blockbuster.

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Andy Serkis reprises his role of Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar now leads his ape community with his right hand man Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) and Maurice (played by Karin Konoval). In the opening sequence he leads his army into an attack on some deer. This sequence is breathtaking as the camera and sound follow Caesar and his apes into the forest. No dialogue only subtitles showing their communication highlight the sounds of the forest and its slow build-up of suspense and foreboding. The cgi is once again top knotch the geniuses at Weta have again sculpted living, breathing apes with actors portraying them through performance capture technology. Andy Serkis has already become a master in this medium with his iconic performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series however who truly shines in this instalment is Toby Kebbell as the tortured Koba who hates all humans and begins to disagree with his leaders outlook. It is an iconic performance and is easily the best villain of 2014.

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After the opening deer chase a group of humans lead by Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke) cross paths with the apes and seek help in order to bring back electric power to their small community of survivors. Caesar begins to remember the human who helped him as a child and helps out the group of humans in an effort to work and live together in peace. However with all great stories the search for peace isn’t easy and with man and animals nature peace can only exist in short bursts of time. Soon Koba plots to get rid of the humans despite his leaders frame of mind. What ensues is an action packed final battle between the humans and apes.

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This film is brilliant, strong plot, characters, set design, special effects, sound design/soundtrack and direction. It is not an ordinary blockbuster and although previous ape entries have been parallels to our current time this one really gets all the beats right. This is very high on the list of best films of 2014 and also very high on the list of Planet of the Apes films. Strong recommend.

Rating: 4.5 Stars