Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for intense violence and frightening images.
Prequel To Fabled Franchise Again Pits Primates Against People
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is the seventh installment in the fabled Fox franchise that began way back in 1968 with the legendary Charlton Heston as the leading man. This episode stars James Franco as the protagonist of an origins adventure dedicated to explaining exactly how an antagonistic army of anthropomorphic primates came into existence.
The film unfolds in present-day San Francisco where we find Dr. Will Rodman (Franco) working feverishly on a cure for Alzheimer’s at Gen Sys, a prominent biotech corporation. Besides having an altruistic concern for the general welfare of victims of the disease, the dedicated scientist also has a personal stake in the research, since his father (John Lithgow) has recently started showing signs of senility.
Dr. Rodman meets with some very promising results after testing a genetically engineered retrovirus he’s developed in the lab. ALZ-112 appears to not only repair damaged brain cells, but the miracle drug even has his favorite chimp, Bright Eyes (Terry Notary), exhibiting several signs of human-like intelligence.
Unfortunately, on the very day that the doctor arranges to announce the exciting news to the company brass, the chimp escapes from her cage and goes on a destructive rampage all around the facility. And when she finally crashes through a plate glass window into the meeting of the board of directors, she is shot to death on the spot by a security guard.
Next, Gen Sys’ mortified CEO (David Oyelowo) impulsively orders Will to euthanize any other animals already administered ALZ-112. However, with the help of a sympathetic orderly (Tyler Labine), he secretly saves Bright Eyes’ newborn by sneaking it out of the suddenly hostile institution.
Will and his gorgeous veterinarian girlfriend, Caroline (Freida Pinto), are able to raise little Caesar (Andy Serkis) like a child because of its ALZ-112 altered DNA. Although the sensitive couple manages to forge a tender bond across species, sadly, the same can’t be said for their neighbors and the rest of humanity which remains cruelly inclined to judge a chimp by the covering of its skin instead of by the content of its elite mind.
Therefore, it’s no surprise when Caesar finally gets fed-up enough to steal some canisters of Will’s new and improved formula, ALZ-113 in order to free and inoculate legions of fellow apes from zoos and labs en route to a bloody showdown on the Golden Gate Bridge. A feel-good flick thar proves that primates are people, too!
Excellent (4 stars).
Running time: 105 Minutes.
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and ethnic slurs.
Segregation Era Saga Explores Unquestioned Socialite-Maid Relationships
Kathryn Stockett made an auspicious debut in 2009 with the publication of The Help, a poignant period piece examining the unquestioned relationships of entitled, white socialites and their deferential black maids in Mississippi. Although the story is set in the author’s hometown of Jackson in the early ‘60s, her best-selling novel is more fictional than autobiographical in nature.
The screen adaptation unfolds from the point of view of Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), a long suffering nanny left bone weary by a life spent “lookin’ after white babies.” Born in 1911, she is currently raising little Mae Mobley Leefolt (Emma and Eleanor Henry), a recent addition to a prominent Southern family.
As narrator, Aibileen is able to admit to the audience the existence of a “bitter seed” planted deep inside of her soul since the recent death of her only son. Still, she is not one to risk her job by allowing her face to reveal even a trace of that resentment in the presence of her employers. Instead, the grammatically-challenged domestic dutifully nourishes the impressionable toddler in her care by regularly reciting the same spiritual mantra she’s shared with all 17 other children entrusted to her over the years, namely, “You is kind; you is smart; you is important.”
By contrast, Aibileen’s relatively mercurial best friend, Minny (Octavia Spencer), is not nearly as stoic, which explains why she frequently finds herself fired for insubordination. After all, the strictly enforced housekeeper code of conduct prohibits spanking, touching or sassing white folks, and using their bathrooms, all of which tend to test her patience.
Passive aggressive Minny is lucky even to be alive after her latest outburst, which led to her being dismissed by Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), an insufferable shrew who only got what she deserved. Minny next lands a position with Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), a newcomer ostracized by other well-to-do ladies because of her white trash roots.
The plot thickens, upon the arrival back in town of cotton plantation heiress Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone). Having spent time away from the racist region, the aspiring journalist now finds herself offended by a way of life everyone else around her seems to take for granted.
Feeling for the plight of the long-suffering black servants who had raised her and her friends so lovingly despite the discrimination, Skeeter decides to write a book recounting what life in Jackson is like from their perspective. So, starting with Aibileen and Minny, she starts approaching sisters to cooperate with the project, which is no mean feat, given that this is Mississippi at a time when it was often fatal to challenge the status quo.
Truth and reconciliation belatedly achieved, like a dream deferred.
Excellent (4 stars).
Running time: 111 Minutes.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening August 12, 2011
30 Minutes Or Less (Unrated). Crime comedy loosely based on a real-life incident that transpired in Pennsylvania in 2003 when a couple of crooks (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) strapped a time bomb around the neck of a pizza delivery man (Jesse Eisenberg) to force him to rob a bank on their behalf. With Fred Ward, Aziz Ansari and Michael Pena.
Final Destination 5 (R for profanity and gruesome violence). Harrowing high body-count horror flick revolving around a motley group of co-workers’ struggle to survive in the wake of a suspension bridge collapse en route to a corporate retreat. Cast includes Emma Bell, Tony Todd, David Koechner and Courtney B. Vance.
Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie (Unrated). Musical documentary including both onstage and behind-the-scenes footage of the cast of Glee during its recent sold-out tour, featuring performances of hit songs from the Emmy-winning TV series’ first two seasons. With Jane Lynch and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Aarakshan (Unrated). Political potboiler questioning India’s controversial practice of basing access to education and government jobs on the country’s caste system. Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone. (In Hindi with subtitles.)
Bad Posture (Unrated). Romance drama, set in Albuquerque, NM, about an awkward graffiti artist (Florian Brozek) who seeks to make amends with the beautiful woman (Tabatha Shaun) whose car and purse was stolen by his felonious-minded roommate (Trey Cole). Supporting cast includes Seth Mossman and Ryan Jason Cook.
Littlerock (Unrated). Road flick about the adventures of a couple of young Japanese tourists (Rintaro Sawamoto and Atsuko Okatsuka) stranded in a California desert town after their rental car breaks down on the way to San Francisco. With Cory Zacharia, Roberto Sanchez and Lee Lynch. (In English and Japanese with subtitles.)
Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story (Unrated). Female empowerment drama, set in Cairo, about a TV talk show host (Mona Zaki) whose controversial coverage of women’s rights issues comes to imperil the career of her politically-connected husband (Hassan El Raddad). With Mahmoud Hemida, Nahed El Sebai and Sawsan Badr. (In Arabic with subtitles.)
Senna (Unrated). Bittersweet biopic recounting the abbreviated career of Ayrton Senna, the Formula One race car champ from Brazil who died doing what he loved at the tender age of 34 in front of a television audience of 300 million. (In English and Portuguese with subtitles.)