Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Matt Reeves

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

The War of the Rise of the Dawn of the Why Are These Titles So Long?

After their last battle with the humans, due to the actions of evil Koba, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are still fighting for their lives and are still forced into a deadly conflict with the humans, who see their extinction coming and coming very soon. That’s why the ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson) wants Caesar and all of the apes gone, prompting the apes to suffer unimaginable losses. And as a result, Caesar sets out to find this colonel and take him down, once and for all. But on the trip, Caesar and his fellow band of trustees find something odd is happening – people are losing their ability to speak. How, or better yet, why? Caesar doesn’t know, or understand, but the further he adventures into this cold, dark and cruel world, the more answers he gets and the more he discovers about the possible end of the world, where the apes may take over, the humans may become extinct, and nothing will ever be the same again. It’s only a matter of time, though, and it’s a coin-toss of who is going to win this battle and continue to habitat the planet.

Comedic-relief? In the ape-apocalypse!??!

This new, rough, tough and re-vamped Apes franchise has been a pretty solid one, to say the least. I say “has” because apparently, it’s going to be the last. Well, at least, for now, and it’s odd because the movie seems like it still could continue on, getting better and better, and make more money for all of those involved. It’s one of the rare franchises that, if over, I’d be a little sad to see gone because, hey, these movies were actually pretty good and considering that the word “franchise” nowadays brings about gag-reflexes, it’s nice to have something that makes up for all of the marketing and tie-ins.

That said, War for the Planet of the Apes is still a fine movie that, whether or not it being the end, still works because it presents a pretty dark and disturbing future that the past two movies have tried to build-on. The only issue that I’ve had with these movies, and especially this one, is that they’re just so dour and mean at times, it almost feels like they’re trying way too hard. Director Matt Reeves knows exactly what he’s doing with this material for the second time around and it’s clear that he’s taking this premise, this world, and this idea incredibly seriously, without barely any jokes or goofiness thrown in there for good measure, but often times, it feels like he’s maybe trying to out-serious himself.

It’s basically the only summer blockbuster you’ll ever see that may depress you and mean to do so in the process.

And that isn’t to say that movies such as these can’t be ultra, super duper serious, because that’s fine; in this world, where the apes have taken over, the humans are struggling, and yet, for some reason, we’re still supposed to root for the more powerful species, things are allowed to be told to us without a punchline. But Reeves can also get a little sucked into this sadness and depression and because of that, the movie can often feel slow, plodding and above all else, a little boring. It’s too in-love with its own dourness that it’s almost too afraid to get its act together and start moving somewhere, hell, anywhere.

But as usual, once it does get going, War is quite the ride, mostly because, like I’ve stated before, Reeves knows what he’s doing with this tale. It’s actually quite interesting how the story plays-out – not by hitting the same sort of beats and conventions that we’re used to seeing with these kinds of stories, but keeping us, the audience, in the dark, for as much and as long as possible. Reeves always seems to have a little trick up his sleeve and because of that, the movie almost feels dangerous, as if anything bad, disastrous, or awful, could happen at literally any second.

“The horror.”

I know, it sounds all so simple and easy, but trust me, this is the kind of stuff that so many movies get wrong and/or can’t do, like at all.

But that’s why War, even despite it being the saddest thing since Trump’s Twitter, still works – it does get moving and can be fun, exciting, and hell, even a little scary. It’s the right kind of blockbuster and honestly, I’d say more about it, but basically, it does everything that the last movie just did, except also wants to provide some closure. And sure, that’s fine; possibly saying goodbye Andy Serkis’ Caesar is a bummer, because Serkis is always so good in the roles, as well as the fellow new apes along for the ride, like Steve Zahn’s possible comic-relief. But a possible ending also does provide a better hope and future for the state of franchise flicks, in that they don’t always have to be about the Easter-eggs, the tie-ins, the merchandise, the references, or even about the greater universe.

Honestly, all it needs to be about is telling a good story, with good characters, and a compelling arch that we want to see continue on, for many, many more movies. That’s what this franchise was able to do – even though, back in the day, it seemed like it was a dead brand – and it’s the hope that for the future franchises to come, they’ll take a lesson or two.

Let’s just hope they brighten up the damn rooms, though.

Consensus: Undeniably thrilling, emotional and exciting, War provides all of the action and adventure, as well as the darkness you’d expect from this ramped-up franchise by now.

8 / 10

And they’re not monkeying around! That works in this context, right?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz


Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Let Me In (2010)

Children are creepy and not just ones from Sweden either.

When 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends his mysterious next-door neighbor, Abby (Chloe Moretz), the two outcasts form a tight-knit bond that gives Owen the courage to stand up to school bullies. But he slowly begins to suspect his new friend has a secret.

After checking out the original Swedish classic, ‘Let the Right One In‘, I got all of these people just saying I need to check this out and what not and I have to say that having director Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield‘) didn’t really spark too much of my interest but it doesn’t do much to make me hate it anyway.

The one thing I have to say that Reeves does and he does it well is that he doesn’t try to eff around with the original, and instead gives us everything we practically saw in that one but with his own little slight takes on everything as well. Reeves creates a lot of tension within this film that got my blood really tingling and also isn’t afraid to let loose on the blood and gore when it came to the actual “action” of this film. It’s a good thing he made this flick R and didn’t try to go for a lame-o PG-13 rating, which he could have easily used as a cash grab.

The highlight of this whole film was probably my favorite car wreck I think I have ever seen in a film for a long time. Reeves keeps the camera in the back of a car, while it’s toppling over and it was a really cool thing to see because I almost felt like I was watching a video of someone on a roller-coaster, but instead I had Blue Oyster Cult playing in the background. Now adding a little bit of Blue Oyster ain’t so bad either and that scene just totally rocks.

The problem with this flick is that a lot of this is also Americanized which means instead of being a very subtle teen-horror romance there’s a lot of loud noises, driving score, and some unneeded special effects that look so bad. There is a score playing in just about every scene, just so we know that something crazy is about to go down and it was getting pretty annoying considering that it was only used to build-up tension, which it sort of did, just not as an effective way as the original did. The scares here were also pretty cheap because I constantly felt a lot of the annoying jump-scares, people jumping out of darkness, and silence-to-loudness kind of scares happen just about every time and I was less and less scared by it every time it tried to creep me out.

A lot of the scenes here that worked in the Swedish film, don’t really work all that well here because of the terrible CGI and special effects this film showed up on the screen. To put it kindly, they look cheap, and almost like they came off of a really crappy PS2 game that was around when the console first started coming out. Anytime Abby ran up a tree, attacked someone, or turned into her evil werewolf-like self, it all looked pretty crummy and although the Swedish version had its fair share of bad effects, this one had too much of them and therefore lessened my impact of the film originally.

However, as much as I may talk shit on this film I still do have to say that the story still works here even if it doesn’t feel as original as it did the first time around. The story of these two falling for each other and basically creating their own little world together, still feels genuine and beautiful without ever feeling like it was forced or taken directly from another film (which it was, but still it somehow worked).

I think the real reason why this story works so well again is because of the amazing leads they have in these roles. Kodi Smit-McPhee is very good as the silent, and sad type as Owen, and Chloe Moretz does an even better job as Abby. These two work great together and right from the beginning you can feel their chemistry just popping right off of the screen and you start to feel this little innocent and sweet love they build together. Basically, if you need a great chemistry between two young actors, just cast kids with some funky first names (Chloe and Kodi, come on!).

Richard Jenkins has about 15 lines of dialogue the whole film but is very good as the strong and silent dude who’s looking over Abby. The guy has a lot more development as a character this time and it also helps that Jenkins is just a perfect actor for the role as well. Elias Koteas is also very good as the cop who’s investigating all of these little strange murders that keep happening around town. Both aren’t really the high-lights of the story but they still show why they deserve these roles.

Consensus: Let Me In may not be as great as the Swedish classic, but it still features great performances from the cast, a surprisingly good direction from Matt Reeves, and just a great idea of not trying to mess around with the original too much but still standing on its own terms.


Cloverfield (2008)

A gimmick used well.

A going-away party in Manhattan is interrupted when a mysterious monster of epic proportions launches an attack on New York City. With camcorder in hand, a small group of friends make their way out into the chaotic streets, scrambling to stay alive.

Producer J.J. Abrams probably saw Godzilla way back in the day and thought it was awesome, and then saw The Blair Witch Project in 1998 and thought that was awesome too. Never would I have imagined, such a combination of two.

People will complain about the gimmicky camera use and how it made people sick and throw-up, but for me I really did like this element. I felt like I was there through all of the mayhem, and what this film does so well with the camera use, is how it doesn’t show us everything that’s going on and doesn’t spoil too much for us so it keeps the juices flowing in our system.

Director Matt Reeves also does a great job of creating this claustrophobic atmosphere of where we feel trapped in the city but it also brings out some of the best scares in any horror film. The film focuses more on what’s going on off-screen, rather than on it and I thought that was what scared me the most. You’ll probably get a lot of jump scares out of this, but with no score music at all, you never know just when their going to happen.

My main problem with this film is that the script, and yes there is a script, just feels so fake and dumb. With a lot of  “found footage” films, the one thing that always does it for me is how realistic the acting and what they say is. Here, it doesn’t feel all that realistic. The script is terrible, and you can already tell from the first 20 minutes that this is just going to be corny line, after corny line and it totally just annoyed me at how these people would talk.

Without giving too much away in this film, they decide to go back for someone, and it was a completely stupid idea because they go right to the middle of Center City, where all of the havoc is. If that was me, I would be out of that city right away and no turning back. The acting is also pretty bad too but then again, I guess you have to realize that this film is all about the spectacle and less about the actual story and characters that inhabit it. I also noticed that a lot of these people are way too good looking for this material. This may sound like a dumb complaint, but you can’t tell me that any of these people actually look like you or me. Especially Odette Yustman. Now that is what I call sexy.

Consensus: Though it has problems with it’s script and the dumb things that usually are done by all characters in every single horror film, Cloverfield is well-filmed, scary, and at-times, clever gimmick. However, it’s a gimmick that works and makes you feel like you’re on a roller-coaster, including the nauseating side-effects.