War For The Planet Of The Apes
20th Century Fox / Chernin Entertainment
Rated PG-13 for action, violence, mature themes and disturbing images
Trilogy Finale Pits Primates vs. Humans in Epic Showdown
War for the Planet of the Apes is the ninth episode in the legendary film franchise that began almost a half-century ago with Planet of the Apes. The groundbreaking sci-fi adventure was based on the novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle, who also wrote The Bridge over the River Kwai.
The original was adapted to the screen by a couple of consummate scriptwriters in Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone) and two-time Oscar winner Michael Wilson (The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Place in the Sun). So, it’s no surprise that the movie’s thought-provoking social commentary would resonate with critics and audiences alike.
Furthermore, the apes’ masks were such a hit with the Motion Picture Academy that it awarded the movie’s makeup artist, John Chambers, an honorary Oscar that year. And it would take until the ’80s for Best Makeup to become an official category.
War for the Planet of the Apes is the finale in a trilogy which rebooted the series in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and was followed a few years later by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The good news is that one need not recall or even have seen the earlier installments to fully appreciate this captivating conclusion.
The better news is that its use of next-generation CGI has been so painstakingly crafted that you never once question whether you’re watching real apes interacting with humans. But the best news overall is that the movie is a magnificent morality play of Shakespearean proportions which explores a host of universal themes en route to an epic showdown destined to settle the fate of both species once and for all.
This go-round, the simians are again led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) who must match wits with a ruthless army colonel (Woody Harrelson). Between the sophisticated storytelling and the state-of-the-art special f/x, War for the Planet of the Apes turns out to be a touching swan song well worth the wait.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 140 minutes
Rated R for pervasive profanity, crude humor, graphic sexual dialogue, drug use and brief frontal nudity
BFFs Party in New Orleans in Raunchy Reunion Romp
Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Dina (Tiffany Haddish) and Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) have been friends since their college days in the ’90s. Back then, the tight-knit Flossy Posse partied as hard as they hit the books. After graduating, they curtailed the carousing considerably for the sake of their professional careers.
Today, journalism major Sasha’s still struggling to pay the bills as a gossip columnist. Divorced Lisa’s exhausted between her demanding nursing job and having to raise a couple of kids alone. And short-fused Dina just got fired for assaulting a colleague.
By contrast, self-help guru Ryan seems to be on top of the world. Not only is her new book, You Can Have It All, on the best-seller list, but she’s happily married to Stewart (Mike Colter), a handsome and charming, former football star. Plus, the successful couple is on the verge of landing their own, nationally-syndicated TV talk show.
At the point of departure, Ryan is set to deliver the keynote speech at the Essence Festival, an annual celebration of African-American music and culture. She can think of no better occasion to reunite the Flossy Posse for the first time in years, so she invites her BFFs to join her for an all-expenses paid trip to New Orleans.
The girlfriends jump at the opportunity to share a wild weekend of debauchery all around the Big Easy. What ensues is jaw-dropping: there’s explicit sex chat… male frontal-nudity… hallucinating from substance abuse… even urinating on revelers from a zip line strung above Basin Street.
Directed by Malcolm Lee (The Best Man franchise), Girls Trip is a relentlessly-raunchy romp which starts out as a shock comedy before turning into a message movie towards the end. The adventure unfolds like an African-American variation of Rough Night and Bridesmaids, at least until Ryan’s marriage is exposed as a charade. At that juncture, it morphs into a morality play reminiscent of a Tyler Perry production.
Since I saw the film in a theater full of sisters, it’s easy for me to report that this female empowerment flick will certainly resonate with its target audience. In fact, they laughed so loudly that I must have missed half the picture’s punchlines. And what better stamp of approval could you ask for than a standing ovation as the curtain comes down?
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 122 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening July 21, 2017
Dunkirk (PG-13 for intense battle scenes and some profanity) World War II saga recreating the evacuation of over 300,000 Allied soldiers from the shores of France after they were surrounded and on the verge of being slaughtered by the Nazi army. Ensemble cast includes Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan and One Direction’s Harry Styles. (In English, French and German with subtitles)
Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (PG-13 for action, violence, suggestive material and brief profanity) Adaptation of Valerian and Laureline, a graphic novel set in the 28th century chronicling the exploits of a couple of time-traveling government agents (Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne) assigned to neutralize a mysterious, dark force threatening a metropolis and the future of the universe. Supporting cast includes Rutger Hauer, John Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Clive Owen and Rihanna.
The Fencer (Unrated) Golden Globe-nominated biopic, set behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, chronicling the life of legendary fencer-turned-political fugitive Endel Nelis (Mart Avandi) who risked his liberty by entering a children’s team in a national tournament being staged in Leningrad. With Kirill Karo, Lembit Ulfsak and Liisa Koppel. (In Estonian, Russian and Armenian with subtitles)
First Kill (R for profanity and violence) Action thriller about a successful Wall St. broker (Hayden Christiansen) who finds himself pressured to cooperate with the gang of bank robbers that took his young son (Ty Shelton) hostage for ransom. Supporting cast includes Bruce Willis, Gethin Anthony and Magi Avila.
Landline (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Skeleton-in-the-closet comedy, set in Manhattan in 1995, about a couple of sisters (Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn) spying on the father (John Turturro) they suspect of cheating on their clueless mom (Edie Falco). With Jay Duplaa, Finn Wittrock and Ali Ahn.
The Midwife (Unrated) Bittersweet drama about the unlikely friendship which blossoms between a high-strung midwife (Catherine Frot) and her late father’s, free-spirited mistress (Catherine Deneuve). Featuring Olivier Gourmet, Quentin Dolmaire and Mylene Demongeot. (In French with subtitles)
The Pulitzer At 100 (Unrated) Writing retrospective reflecting upon the centennial celebration of America’s most prestigious literary award. Featuring commentary by prior winners Toni Morrison, Carl Bernstein and Thomas Friedman.
Romeo Is Bleeding (Unrated) Grassroots biopic about idealistic poet/activist Donte Clark’s effort to put an end an escalating, deadly turf war in his Richmond, California ghetto by inviting rival gangstas to participate in a production of Romeo and Juliet.
Santoalla (Unrated) Missing persons documentary revolving around a grieving Dutch widow’s investigation into her husband’s mysterious disappearance a decade after they moved to a tiny Spanish village inhospitable to outsiders. (In English and Galician with subtitles)
Scales: Mermaids Are Real (PG for mild peril and mature themes) Coming-of-age fantasy about an 11-year-old girl (Emmy Perry) who, on the eve of her birthday, learns that she’s destined to morph into a mermaid when she turns 12. With Morgan Fairchild, Elisabeth Rohm, Nikki Hahn and Judy Tenuta.
Who The [bleep] Is That Guy? (Unrated) Prestige biopic about Michael Alago, a gay Puerto Rican from Brooklyn who grew up to become a legendary A&R exec only to have his career wrecked by a combination of AIDS and substance abuse.