Posts Tagged ‘Transformers’

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

July 11, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
An Active3D Movie Review

Movie: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Rating:  **** (out of 5)

It’s no secret that Hollywood appears to be losing its ability to create new stories, and continues raiding the archives for old titles to “re-imagine”. Most of these efforts have been disappointing – if not utterly blasphemous – but, happily, the recent revisiting of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise has been quite rewarding. Of course, I’m not referring to Tim Burton’s widely cursed 2001 effort, but the 2011 entry [Rise of the Planet of the Apes], and now this sequel.

I’m still trying to figure out how the ‘Rise’ of said apes and their ‘Dawn’ are two different concepts, but I suppose that this isn’t a forum for semantics. The film (the first in the new series to be released in 3-D) begins with a résumé of the previous installment. San Francisco’s looking like the average downtown scene in South Africa (i.e. dilapidated). A relatively small group of surviving humans (a few hundred; maybe a thousand) lives in an encampment at what used to be the hub of San Fran’s Bay Area Rapid Transit underground rail system. Not far from there, in the wilds (possibly on Lake Merced?), there exists a thriving community of apes, near a now-disused hydroelectric dam – which the humans need in order to power their community. The humans are keen to kick-start the dam again, but the apes, however, have little reason to trust them, given this species’ track record of animal abuse, from which many members of the ape community still bear physical and emotional scars…

The film’s political and moral resonances are interesting, and it isn’t difficult to draw parallels with current human conflicts. In both the ape and human camps there are two factions; those whose decisions are driven by a moral, peace-loving imperative and those who are driven by a hostile tribal loyalty; i.e. supporting apes just because they’re apes, or humans, simply because they’re humans.

Playing the decent and empathetic human leader, Malcolm, is Jason Clarke, whilst Andy “Gollum” Serkis plays the voice of, and provides the body movements for, his ape counterpart, Caesar. Gary Oldman is the human bad guy, Dreyfus, while Koba the evil ape is voiced by Toby Kebbell. As in the 2011 film, the visual representation of the apes doesn’t entirely convince me, but fortunately the narrative does. This grippingly emotional drama plays itself out on an epic canvas, and it’s gratifying (for a change) to see that CGI is being put to the service of a proper story – unlike movies such as any of the Transformer series or most of the superhero franchise, where computer graphics are gratuitously employed to create seemingly endless, boring and noisy fight sequences.

At 130 minutes, ‘Dawn’ is possibly about 10 minutes too long, but that still compares favourably to the latest Transformers movie (last reviewed on these pages), which was two and three quarter hours of sheer, skull-bashing nothingness.

Those of us interested in matters political, will find much meat in this absorbing tale. As for the themes of unthinking group loyalty, it’s a mistake that South Africans have continued to make, and from which they’ve failed to learn, from one regime to the next…

 

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Transformers: Age of Extinction (We should be so lucky…)

June 27, 2014
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Capable of doing everything imaginable – except engage in intelligent conversation.

An Active3D Movie Review
Movie: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Rating: * (out of 5)

165 minutes? Are you kidding me? This is the fourth of a new-millennial series of films based upon the HASBRO action toys, in which giant robots beat the bejesus out of one another. Does this really warrant as many sequels – and a 165 minute running time? The answer, of course, is a resounding NO. Unless you’re a 12 year-old boy, I suppose. Or a studio that’s aware that these franchises are critic-proof licenses to print money. Seldom in the history of human endeavour has so slender a plot been stretched over so long a movie. Each noisy battle sequence lasted far too long, and, when it would finally grind to a halt and I was hoping that the closing credits weren’t far off, I’d be shattered to discover that there were many more to follow. (Remember when movies had one climactic sequence? And we didn’t feel robbed?)

The plot, such as it is, centres around Mark Wahlberg as a largely failed inventor with a gorgeous teenaged daughter who – though she loves her pop – is starting to lose faith in him. He’s bought this old truck, which just happens to be a dormant Transformer, and … oh; who cares?

Here again I must take issue with the battle scenes. We *know* that the good guys will triumph, so can’t we just bing-bang-boom and get it over and done with? But no; the director and computer operators want to show off their CGI toy-boxes, so they gleefully string every element of the conflict out, as if they were producers of a daytime soap opera. I can just see them proudly strumming their bowties with each new explosion they create. And, to make matters worse, the hulking robots are forever mouthing inanities that could’ve been scripted by stoned teenagers playing video games in their parents’ basements.

What are the film’s virtues? The 3-D cinematography is spectacular – and is seen to gobsmacking advantage in IMAX theatres, if you have the opportunity to do so. Also, when the two villains (played by Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer) are on screen, one can feel the intelligence level of the experience rise – admittedly, not a huge feat.

Much has been made of the fact that the new Digital IMAX 3-D camera has been partially deployed in the making of this film. You will notice, if you’re watching the film in an IMAX theatre, that the regular shots, which have been up-converted from the digital cinema master, don’t fit the entire screen; they leave black strips over and under the picture. When the shots from the IMAX camera kick in, the picture fills the entire height of the screen. An irritation here, is that scenes in the film are often made up of shots from both cameras, so we keep switching rapidly between reduced screen and full screen, from shot to shot. It’s very irritating, and I don’t get why director Michael Bay went with that. Entire sequences, yes; they make sense. But this ongoing click-in-and-click-out? No.

If the film had been 95 minutes long, I might’ve possibly enjoyed it as a matinee distraction, but damn; Hollywood is taking these comic-book/action figure adventures far, far too seriously. It’s also a stupid move, commercially, to make these things so long, as the distributors would be able to fit in more shows per day if they were of a reasonable length.