War for the Planet of the Apes

New review from The Movie Snob.

War for the Planet of the Apes  (B).  And so the new Apes trilogy comes to an end.  (Spoilers of the first two films follow.)

My favorite was the first one, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which we see how a medical experiment gone wrong makes apes superintelligent and kills most of humanity.  The middle installment, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was a solid if grim movie in which the apes and the surviving humans try to co-exist, with middling-at-best results.

The finale turns the grimness up to 11 as a human military band led by the Colonel (Woody Harrelson, The Edge of Seventeen) seems to be intent on wiping out the apes.  Ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis, Inkheart) decides to send most of his “people” on a quest for a safe haven while he and few trusted lieutenants set out to find and distract the Colonel.  Along the way they pick up a sweet mute human girl, whom they dub Nova (Amiah Miller, Lights Out), and then another talking ape, a not entirely sane chimpanzee who calls himself “Bad Ape” because that’s what his human captors called him before the plague.  As voiced by Steve Zahn (Sunshine Cleaning), Bad Ape provides some much-needed comic relief, because this War is dark dark dark.  But it’s well-made, on the whole.  (I did roll my eyes a little in the middle part when the Colonel momentarily turns into a James Bond villain and gives Caesar a massive lecture/monologue to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing and what’s going to happen for the rest of the movie.)

The Circle

The Borg Queen stops by with a new review.

The Circle  (C-).  When this movie ended, I said to myself, “I thought it was just getting started.” The movie never takes off. It is based on a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson, Noah) getting a job at a big brother version of Facebook that basically records and monitors multiple aspects of a person’s life (and physiology) as well as in society. Tom Hanks (A Hologram for the King) channels his inner Steve Jobs as the leader of the technology and social-media giant, making presentations to his Circlers with a coffee cup in hand showing off his latest technology on a stage. You get the gist that he has some sinister plan, but it was never clear to me what exactly it was, but maybe I just got bored. John Boyega (The Force Awakens) plays Ty, who actually founded the Circle but managed to go “off line” and lurk around the Circle mothership without anyone noticing or even knowing who he is for the most part. Ty befriends Mae rather quickly, but the relationship storyline doesn’t really go anywhere for a long time. It appeared to me to be simply a tool used near end of the movie, and then the movie suddenly ends. Overall I found the movie unrealistic and trying way too hard to be cool and mysterious, relying upon its casting over its storyline. Bill Paxton (Aliens) makes an appearance as Mae’s father. This was apparently his last role before his unexpected death and I’ve read that there is a dedication to him at the end of the credits. This movie is supposedly based on a book. If you like reading, I’d suggest trying the book instead.

Alien: Covenant

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Alien: Covenant  (C-).  Looking back, I see that I liked Prometheus quite bit and had high hopes for the next Alien prequel.  Alas, those hopes are far from fulfilled in the latest flick about the almost-indestructible critters with a taste for human flesh.  The Covenant is a large spaceship carrying a huge load of people in cryogenic sleep for a 7+ year voyage to a planet they hope will be hospitable enough for them to colonize.  An accident damages the ship and leads to the waking of its small human crew.  They receive a communications signal that lures them off course to a much closer, and previously unknown, habitable planet.  Who could possibly be way out here?  The survivors of the Prometheus expedition, perhaps?  Once they arrive, it’s only a matter of time (a very short time) before the humans start getting turned into alien chow, and we don’t know or like them enough to really care that much.  I was annoyed that some of the biological “facts” I thought we knew about the aliens from the earlier films seem to be disregarded in this one.  The humans do all sorts of stupid things to earn their gruesome ends, and despite all the mayhem only one scene struck me as really, memorably horrifying.  Billy Crudup (Big Fish) plays the ineffectual captain of the Covenant, but the real stars are Katherine Waterston (Sleeping with Other People) as the Sigourney Weaveresque heroine and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) playing both android David from Prometheus and android Walter from the Covenant.  I’d say this movie is for diehard Alien fans only.

P.S. The movie has lots of ponderous philosophical window-dressing too; for more on that you can read Steven Greydanus’s review here.

Logan

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Logan  (A-).  Yes, this is an awfully high grade to give a rated-R comic-book movie with all sorts of severed heads and spurting arteries and such.  But what can I say?  I thought this movie was excellent.  Hugh Jackman (Scoop) returns for his millionth turn as Wolverine, the irascible, indestructible mutant with the retractable claws.  Only now he’s not feeling so indestructible.  The year is 2029, and he is old and sick and not regenerating like he used to.  He’s lying low somewhere near the U.S.-Mexico border taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Excalibur), who is not only old and sick but also having seizures that cause all sorts of mayhem for everyone around him because of his uncontrolled psychic powers.  All the other mutants we’ve come to know and love in the other X-Men movies are apparently dead, and no new mutants have been born in many years.  Wolverine is just trying to scrape together enough money in his job as a limo driver so he can buy a boat and sail out to sea with Professor Xavier (thereby saving mankind from the effects of Xavier’s seizures, I think).  Then everything goes sideways when a desperate woman finds Wolverine and begs him to transport a young girl to Canada—a girl with mutantly powers awfully reminiscent of Wolverine’s.  Of course, there are bad guys hot on her trail, and the movie quickly turns into a quasi-remake of Children of Men (which is not a bad movie to borrow from, if you’re going to borrow).  Despite all the crazy, bloody fight scenes, the movie really worked for me as a meditation on mortality and the meaning of family.  And newcomer Dafne Keen does a nice job as the mysterious little girl with anger-management issues.

P.S. I forgot to mention this when I initially posted this review–I think this is the first time I have ever seen a movie in the United States that features Spanish subtitles.  Some of the movie was in Spanish, and those parts had no subtitles.  I wonder if those parts were subtitled in English in other showings?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2  (D).  The first Guardians movie was a surprisingly fun, comic space opera.  The second, unfortunately, is neither fun nor funny.  The relentless special effects and earsplitting soundtrack add up to, as another critic put it, a “visual and aural assault”—and one that lasts over two hours, for good measure.  There’s a lot going on here, but the main plot involves the encounter between affable space scoundrel Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, The Five-Year Engagement) and his long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell, Big Trouble in Little China).  It’s always great to see Russell doing his amiable big-lug routine, but even he can’t save this bloated trainwreck.  Almost lost in the clutter are nice supporting performances by Michael Rooker (Tombstone) as the blue outlaw who raised Peter and Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) as a beautiful gold alien whose genetically perfect species is remarkably inept at tracking down and blowing up the Guardians.  Skip it.

The Humans (book review)

The Movie Snob is having a little trouble getting out to the cinema lately, so here’s another book review to tide you over:

The Humans, by Matt Haig (2013).  I enjoyed this little science-fiction novel that tackles some big eternal themes.  An extraterrestrial being from an unfathomably advanced race is sent to Earth in human form.  He has a specific and rather grim mission, but he is immediately side-tracked by his horror and disgust at the ugliness of human beings—and by his unfamiliarity with the importance of wearing clothing.  And then he’s baffled by the wife and son of the human whose identity he has assumed.  But mainly the story is in service of the alien’s (and Haig’s?) awe at humanity’s optimism (or self-delusion?) in the face of mortality and at people’s capacity for love and kindness despite all the horror and violence in the world.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a movie out of this book someday.

Rifftrax Live: Time Chasers

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Rifftrax Live: Time Chasers  (B-).  Well, I didn’t actually see this 2016 show live; I just recently saw it on DVD.  But I was really, really looking forward to it because the guys riffed Time Chasers back in their Mystery Science Theater glory days, and in my mind it was one of the funniest MST episodes of all time.  Time Chasers itself is a hilariously low-budget 1994 time-travel movie about Nick Miller, a nerdy physics professor in Vermont who turns his little single-propeller airplane into a time machine with what looks like a Commodore 64.  Unfortunately Nick’s physics prowess far exceeds his common sense, and he rashly sells his invention to an evil corporation called GenCorp, embodied by its tangibly evil CEO J.K. Robertson.  The scene in which Nick visits the CEO in his “office” – a stairway landing in what I’ve read is the opera house in Rutland, Vermont – is one of the all-time greats.  So, Nick has to do more time traveling to try to stop himself from selling the time machine to GenCorp in the first place.

Unfortunately, the riffers just don’t do as good a job shredding Time Chasers as they did on Mystery Science Theater so many years ago.  While watching the movie, I often remembered the wisecracks from the MST version, and the new jokes just weren’t as good.  Don’t get me wrong—it was still an entertaining experience, if only because the movie itself is such a target-rich environment.  I just thought the Rifftrax version didn’t live up to the MST original.  There’s also a short about a chimpanzee that becomes a fireman, but it was nothing in particular to write home about either.