WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017)
Third installment of this series, that acts as both prequel and reboot, joins the war between humans and apes two years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that started it. The war is starting to turn against Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the apes due to the aggressive methods of a psychotic colonel (Woody Harrelson). Caesar suffers personal loss and while on a mission of revenge, the apes are captured and enslaved by the colonel and his troops. Can Caesar free the apes and get them to a safe haven across the dessert before the colonel sees them all dead?
Second sequel is again directed by Matt Reeves, who co-wrote the script with Mark Bomback. As with Dawn this is an intense film both in terms of action and emotional depth and it’s all expertly directed by Reeves. Like his last go around, Reeves really gives his characters a three dimensional-ity and that certainly includes his motion capture CGI simians. This might be the most dramatically intense of the three films and when the action does come it’s a fast and furious spectacle that evokes some of the best war films. There are also some very subtle but clever nods to the original series, such as a mute little girl with a very familiar name. The score is again by a returning Michael Giacchino and it adds atmosphere to a very solid entry in this clever re-imagining.
The cast are all strong, even though most of the principles are motion capture. Andy Serkis is once again very good as the ape leader Ceasar. He gives the character a lot of emotional depth through his body language and dialogue and it might be his best performance as the simian hero. Harrelson delivers another solid performance as the cruel, ape hating colonel. While he is most certainly the villain here, the script allows Harrelson to give him a human side, one built on fear and loss, so that he is not a two dimensional monster, but a human driven to hatred and cruelty due to his own inner pain and fear. Despite his heinous actions and cruel behavior, there is a person under the layers of anger and brutality. The supporting characters all do good work, too, from Karin Konoval as ape Maurice. Steve Zahn as the eccentric “Bad Ape” and little Amiah Miller as the mute Nova.
So, another top notch entry in this reboot series from Matt Reeves. It was as emotionally strong as it was filled with intense action. There was a good script and solid direction to go along with some very strong acting both from those playing humans to the motion capture performers behind our simian characters. A really good movie in a very solid series. If it is the last one, it is a fitting climax.
3 and 1/2 Caesars.
KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (2013)
Fun comedy/horror tells the tale of slacker mechanic Joe (Ryan Kwanten), whose beautiful girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva) dumps him after tiring of his unambitious ways. To cheer him up, his friends Eric (Steve Zahn) and Hung (Peter Dinklage) take him, reluctantly, to a live action fantasy role play game for the weekend that they attend regularly. There Eric performs a ‘spell’ to activate Joe’s status as a player, but uses an old spell book he bought on E-Bay instead of the regulation spells that are part of the game. Unknown to any of them, the book is real and it’s spells can summon actual demons and thus Eric unwittingly summons a succubus in the guise of Beth (also Margarita Levieva), who begins to literally eat any fantasy role player who crosses her sexy/hungry path. Once this grave error is discovered, it’s up to the three friends and the sexy Gwen (Summer Glau) to find and destroy this very real monster and halt the bloody body count that is steadily spiraling out of control.
As directed by Joe Lynch (the fun and gruesome Wrong Turn 2) Knights Of Badassdom is a fun and, at times, delightfully blood-soaked flick that has a lot of fun with not only the horror conventions, but the fantasy role-play world as well. The clever script by Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall never makes fun of the subjects it covers, but playfully pokes them in the ribs while also being it’s own horror with generous doses of laughs. And there is a lot of fun to be had here and it’s only in it’s finale where it sadly loses it’d grip a bit. After all we’ve been through with the lovable cast of eccentric characters, we kind of expected something with a bit more impact or at least a lot funnier. It’s amusing, but there are far better bits throughout and the ending obviously should have been the best bit of all and it’s not. The FX are a little mixed. The visuals are satisfactory digital FX, but not great. The gore FX, however, are top notch and not only are well executed, but very plentiful.
The cast all have a good time playing their oddball characters such as Zahn’s would-be sorcerer and Dinklage’s stoner who backup Kwanten’s more down to earth Joe. The ladies are enchanting as well with Glau being a strong and beautiful ‘pretend’ warrior woman and Levieva giving vampy life to both bitchy girlfriend and seductive monster. Nice to see Adventureland’s “Lisa P” in a role she can sink her teeth into…literally! The whole cast seems to have a really good chemistry and work very well together and it helps make the relationships in the film more believable and thus more entertaining. The script would not have worked so well if the cast didn’t make the characters so much fun to watch and they do.
Overall I had a good time with Knights of Badassdom, I laughed quite a lot, but just wish they had come up with a climatic confrontation that was worthy of all the fun that preceded it. Again, it’s not a bad ending, it just seemed weak after some of the consistent cleverness that came before it. Overall, I would still very much recommend this fun little flick. I had a really good time and the ending certainly doesn’t ruin a delightfully breezy and gory comedy/horror. Just be a little forgiving for the few times it stumbles as, more often then not, Badassdom takes it’s story and gleefully runs with it. Also stars Community’s Dani Pudi as one of the LARP players named Lando. Fun flick that would make a nice paring with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil for an entertaining horror/comedy film fest.
3 sexy succubus… or is it succubi?