‘The Planet of the Apes’ (1968)

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‘The Planet of the Apes’ (1968)
Cast

Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter

Directed by

Franklin J. Schaffner

Written by

Michael Wilson (screenplay), Rod Serling (screenplay)

Other Info

Adventure, Romance, Sci-Fi
Rated G
1h 52min

Writing this review now in 2016, I was shocked to find this film had a G rating. As a kid growing up 0-10 in the 70’s, I remember certain images from this film that used to creep me out. Plus, it’s so rare that you find a G rated sci fi nowadays. I didn’t understand it in those years but when I hit my twenties, this was one of those films my scooter buddies and I would rent along with other classics like The Godfather and Blade Runner to just trip out on and talk about. It’s of course a timeless classic now and there has been a resurgence of the franchise with a whole new set of CGI movies that are surprisingly good in a different way.

The concept of the franchise is pretty simple: Apes have evolved above man and use him as their slave. In the 60’s the evolution arguments were rampant of church and university grounds so this fit right in with that. Actually seeing these apes likely had a polarizing impact on the religious folk who saw man as greater tha ape. At the same time, I think it infused strength to the IMG_0626argument that man was just another animal and we shouldn’t rule over animals in the sometimes harmful ways that we do. BUt that is just the “ape level.” There is much here about science and faith. In the original film, there is talk of “scrolls” and “heresy” by the humans and apes who help them. f you know Christian subculture or have observed it, these references are accurate and quite funny.

I love the prosthetic masks in the movie. They look camp at first but you really get used to them after a while because the costumes and backgrounds are so masterfully crafted. It reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode for good reason: Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone, co-wrote the screenplay. This movie is something to look at. Most the outdoor footage was filmed at Lake Powell. It resembles Mars or some other uninhabited planet. In this film, a crew was sent into the future but something went wrong. As a result, they have to try to survive and escape from a civilization of apes that speak and are much like intelligent humans.

While there among the apes, they see the effects of man’s greed and imperfections. The apes have an opportunity to see themselves as well but they are not as interested. There is a bit of a “not-friendly” history in the scrolls and therefore humans are not to be listened to.

Charlton Heston plays the lead human, George Taylor, and he is so much fun to watch. He has interaction with a slave who cannot speak and there is some chemistry there but hardly enough to call the story a romance, as IMDB does. Roddy McDowell plays Cornelius, the scientist ape that buys in to the intelligence of humans. His partner Zira, played by Kim Hunter, is devoted to humans as much as she can be in her society. It was sort of like a Jane Goodall and the chimps kind of thing. At the end Taylor asks her for a kiss and she says shyly, “But you’re so ugly.” That is a fun scene because it’s an opposite scene. If you recall the Twilight Zone episode when the woman is in face bandages the whole episode and at the end you find out they are trying to make her ugly, she is actually beautiful. It is in the eye of the beholder. Serling loves taking structures apart and letting the audience put them back together, or not. Planet of the apes is one of the most classic examples of his style in doing that. We may not question our own systems but if we see an ape and an actor talking, maybe we cab deconstruct theirs and return smarter, changed for the better. Most of all, this movie is for the open-minded or those who are open to becoming more open-minded. *raises hand*

Speaking of being open-minded, the stunts in this film are about as real as an outdoor rodeo during the clown show. When Taylor gets sprayed with a firehose, you see every sinew in his neck flexed. I love his over acting. The movie is meant to be serious sci-fi but watching some of these stunts makes you think of the comedy of later decades like Airplane or Scary Movie. Other props and effect in the film are almost comical in their representation of seriousness. There is a cadaver in the space pod that looks just like Norman Bates’ dear fake looking mummified mother in Psycho. My point is not to jeer or belittle these poor effects but rather to praise a film that evokes such a powerful response from so many people worldwide in spite of these simple stunts and props. Once again it is proof that directors don’t need a palette of CGI to make a film popular with audiences. This film evokes a response and takes itself seriously. If you have a good story, this film proves that is just about all you need to make a hit.

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In conclusion, I had a lot of fun going to see this film recently in the theaters through Fathom events’ TCM series. I was just as entertained as I have been with any recent films I really liked. I know almost every director out there has seen this film but I hope they can start to follow its movie making wisdom more closely. We need less CGI (done badly, I don’t mind it when it’s done well) and more good story surrounded by people with passion and the desire to evoke an audience response.

‘Colonia’ (The Colony)

Life in a cult, specifically in a commune sounds horrible to most people. This film shows the worst of the worst in history that eventually fell when its leader was captured.

*This review contains spoilers.

Emma Watson ladles through this historical drama, “inspired by true events.” There are elements of cults and what they do to their members in this but it’s really about one in particular that had a truly evil leader and was eventually tried and convicted as such.

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Colonia
Cast

Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist

Directed by

Florian Gallenberger

Written by

Torsten Wenzel, Florian Gallenberger

Other Info

Drama, History, Romance
Rated R
1h 50min

I often wonder in my life’s travels how many people know what a cult is? I do. I had experience with one in college that I’ll never forget. It started with me attending their little “bible talk” and before too long they were pressuring me to move into a “shepherd” brothers house and pay part of the rent. For God, nonetheless. Before I got too involved, my Dad got wise to what I told him and explained they were a cult on campus for years. That’s when I quit going to meetings. Colonia is a true story about a cult in Chile. I think it has existed up until the early 2000’s. In the film, once you enter you can never leave. In fact, up to the time the story takes place, no one had ever escaped the cult. That’s what makes this story interesting.

Emma Waston and Daniel Bruhl play Lena and Daniel, a Chilean Professor/activist and his English stewardess girlfriend. When a coup erupts in Chile, Daniel is captured. The activists tell her he has been exiled to the Colonia Dignidad, a world-famous frightening place where the members stay for life in a brutally neo Christian environment. Sins are punished by group slapping, to name one torture. When Lena hears her love has been taken there, she realizes her only chance to save him is to enter the cult voluntarily. She does, and a large segment of the film shows the torture she endures at the hands of this sick cult. Michael Nyqvist plays Paul Schäfer, the charismatic and frightening leader of the cult. We learn later he has impregnated, raped, and tortured thousands of members in the cult. He does a great job playing the part. I always wonder what the actor’s motivation could be for playing the part of a cult rapist. No matter, he finds it and he ends up playing this role quite well.

thecolony2It’s interesting watching Watson adopt the tenets of the cult. Several times, he tests her. It takes many days before she sees Daniel alive there. She has to go on faith that he is there and that she has done the right thing coming to the site. Daniel has to pretend he’s retarded as a result of a terrible beating he receives. It’s smart because they send him to the commune since they feel every person has a purpose. There are some terrible scenes of abuse. When Lena is working in the fields the first day she says she is thirsty. One of the leaders, an especially evil one, brings her a bucket of water telling her to not drink it but rather carry it with her all day. In another case, a woman shares she is to be married. This is forbidden in the commune so the leaders subject her to a public “slapping” or beating session to the point to where she must be hospitalized. Even the man who she was supposed to be married to must deal blows on her face. It is a barbaric scene and apparently the kid of thing that went on in Colonia.

Emma Watson plays the role barely well. I find her a little too unaffected by everything. I think she plays sheltered roles well but when it all comes down to her and her agony, she falls short. In this role, she is a bit weak that way. In a similar fashion, Daniel Bruhl is hard to relate with. I found both of their faces and delivery of dialog vanilla. These roles call for a dynamic set of emotions and neither seems to exude that. But, at the end of the day, the story itself is not all that engaging either. It was not promoted well and there is a bit of false advertising in it. You can watch the trailer or read the ads and then later in the film think to yourself, “I’ve been duped, this is not what I thought.” I like historical films and this is based on a story but it didn’t play out like a movie about cults. Instead, it was about torture and evil people. It would have been nice to see a little more on the psychology of cults and communes and a lot less of the coup material.

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Years ago I had a college writing teacher who would tell the class “Focus on one thing.” I think Colonia focuses on too many things. Occasionally a film can get away with multiple items to focus on but usually, the good ones I remember have that overall focus. The one in this film should have been the Colony because that was the title. It should have started at the gate going in. The coup in Chile really has little to do with the cult stuff. It could have been portrayed quickly in the introduction. As it is you have to wait almost 1/3 of the film to get into the commune and even then, they are still building up to what’s really going on in there. The final scenes are great. You feel elated as they escape to the airport and somehow convince the pilot to fly them away, even with Chileans with assault rifle banging on the door. It’s a great ending to a so/so movie. It lost points with me in its story because it wasn’t focused enough. Furthermore, I thought Emma Watson was miscast. This role needs someone who wears their emotion on her face, blood sweat, and tears. Maybe in 20 years we’ll see that from Emma but she’s not showing it enough in this film.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

“Pull my neck back, I’ll pull yours.” -relatives posing for a photo

Sequels are rarely good and this one isn’t good at all. Written by comic, Nia Vardalos, it shows a definite need for a writing partner or team. It’s a redo of the gags from the first movie with no real “new” message for the audience. I was shocked to see this film was produced by Tom Hanks. I suppose he thought it would make him money based on the first film in the franchise. I wonder if he visited the set and offerred his advice to the director.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
Cast
Nia Vardalos

as Toula

John Corbett

as Ian

Michael Constantine

as Gus

Directed by
Kirk Jones
Written by
Nia Vardalos
Other Info

Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
94 min

The best part of a good date movie is one that makes your wife or girlfriend laugh. There is nothing more satisfying on a movie date than hearing her laugh out loud. There were just a few ties in this film I heard my wife laugh: so there you go. In the first movie, the Greek father showed how Windex was a cure for everything but even Windex can’t save this long movie.

It’s about another wedding but this time it’s her parents. They find out the wedding was never fully sealed since the priest was not fully ordained, or something like that. There are a lot of significant particulars in this movie that I just didn’t care about. The script goes all over the place and when it seems it’s too far afield, they just crack a joke from the first move assuming that will save the scene. It doesn’t.

I never walk out on a movie but when the old mother and father were planning their wedding it really was like fingernails scratching down a chalkboard: irritating. There were a few gags here and there that worked but overall it was a mediocre comedy moving at a snails pace. The angle of having the parents remarry could have been expanded thus making the movie better. Unfortunately the directors were content to show that Greek women do best married with children. It’s also shown that Greek men rely on their wives for too much and nothing really changes even now in modern times. There were a few laughs and it was a light-hearted movie. That only took me as far as to give it 2 stars though. I wouldn’t recommend this film unless you are just in love with the actors. It lacks the charm of the first film in the franchise.

Spring

Small budget films achieve suspense and horror through little or no financial means. That’s one reason I love watching them. “Spring” makes the grade as a love story with a spoonful of creepy … Make that two.

Spring is a 2014 American romantic science fiction horror film directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.[ The film stars Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. Wikipedia

I’m in the zone of avoiding spoilers at all costs today. For that reason, this is a short review. Nothing in the film is interesting except the parts that would be spoiled. The girl is well cast, the guy is meh. Oh yes, and those spoilers we won’t mention. It takes place in beautiful Italy, mostly in the streets where slithering things can hide. It’s a romance/horror. Don’t let me spoil anything more for you. I recommend this film.

Cactus Flower

As you look into the history and legacy of this film, you see it’s undeniable influence on motion pictures. It’s very well written and the acting is superb.
Title: Cactus Flower
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Comedy, Romance
MPAA Rating: M
Year: 1969
Director: Gene Saks, known for “The Odd Couple”
Top Billed Cast: Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn
Brief Synopsis: A dysfunctional romance gives way to an unexpected love affair for the couple with other people.

Goldie Hawn looks to be about 20 years old. Walter Matthau’s character ought to be slapped for having an affair with her. Of course, I’m joking. The characters weave together in this film like mixing paints, The ending is unexpected, somewhat, my wife saw it coming. If they had more romantic comedies like these, I think there’d be more happy couples in the world. I highly recommend this one 100% just like the critics at Rotten Tomatoes do.

Nina Forever

“I’m so sorry.” Rob

I think viewers will find there isn’t much more that Rob can say. His girlfriend has come back from the dead to haunt him and his new love interest every time they have sex.

Nina Forever (2015)
Cast
Fiona O’Shaughnessy

as Nina

Abigail Hardingham

as Holly

Cian Barry

as Rob

Directed by
Ben Blaine
Chris Blaine

Written by
Ben Blaine
Chris Blaine

Other Info

Comedy, Horror, Romance
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, bloody images, and language
1h 38min

The film is a surprising triumph as a horror movie. I didn’t detect much romance. The black humor is such that we’ve never seen but you find remnants of it in “American Werewolf in London,” “Reanimator” and other campy horror extant. There is a lot of nudity but it’s hard to find it sexual given the subject matter. I kept asking myself, “What is really being said here?”

For me it worked on one level as that nagging depression one feels after a breakup or even after a romantic lover has died. Thankfully for me, I haven’t had to experience the latter. Rob has. He even unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide to escape his sadness. Nine is never going to let him forget her, or so it seems.

I like the tone of this film, both somber and scary with a bit of sarcastic humor thrown in. It’s blood along with sexual content is woven into a really great horror movie. I kept wondering what would happen next. For me that’s the sign of a great “any genre” movie. This one didn’t make me jump out of my seat but I liked being out of control, watching how far the movie would venture out beyond what we’ve seen before. There is a twist I didn’t see coming, nothing earth shattering but I applaud the writers for it.

I’ll look for more for this directing duo in the future. I did feel it got a little repetitive toward the final 1/4 of the film. We’d see the events go in a circle enough and it could have ended about 2-40 minutes earlier ad I would have been content. I think they fell victim to thinking their quirky idea was so innovative it would carry a movie of 1h 38min. For me, I wanted another smaller idea to break things up. Unfortunately, it dragged toward the end for me so it lost a star. For horror fans, this is a MUST SEE! I recommend.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)

Enter Hemingway, Melville, London … you will like what’s being served at this table. We’ve heard of nature being our indifferent enemy but what to do when that enemy is our own nature. We have not yet begun that process in film and literature, but it’s here in this film … along with a few others through the years.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)
R | 1h 36min | Drama, Romance | 16 December 2016 (USA)

Set in a small town near the North Pole where roads lead to nowhere, the story follows Roman (DeHaan) and Lucy (Maslany), two burning souls who come together to make a leap for life and inner peace.
Director: Kim Nguyen
Writer: Kim Nguyen
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Tatiana Maslany, Gordon Pinsent

I almost always love the film when the director also wrote the film. In this case it is Kim Nguyen doing both artistic roles. My hat goes off to him, and I assume he wears a hat also because like me, he is shaved bald. (Gotta love the brother!). I don’t know much about him other than he is known for this and two other films and he is a Canadian: War Witch (2012), Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) and The Marsh (2002). I would put stock in him because this film is something quite different than we are used to seeing. Human v Nature/Human v Self. It’s a gritty psychological drama and God forbid IMDB plot keywords would let us toil in ignorance of these features:

“Plot Keywords: sex on table | sex scene | topless female nudity | female nudity”

Yes, Orphan Black star, Tatiana Maslany, bares her breasts. That’s the easy part of nature no one is too worried about.

All these facts plus the plot basically is two lovers at the North Pole in a barely functioning town. Why they are there is not explicitly mentioned, at least not as much as the breasts are displayed. 😉 There is something about an abusive father in her past and he … likes the drink and he likes the hard drink. Sometimes you gotta just go “right now.” Other times maybe your demons are better dealt with by a heater. This couple is fraught with demons and they decide it’s time to go into the snow, into the storm but not without the help of a very helpful? bear. Dane DeHaan seems to like him. BTW DeHaan is there and does a good job as such. Not much more is needed from the, I wonder if he even likes the White Stripes.

This is no family movie. It’s also not a sweet romance, unless you think of Moby Dick as romantic. Having said that, there is a lot to think about romance here, maybe how “not” to support a lover with baggage. For a gritty tale of love? turmoil and t*** on a table, I do recommend.

9/10

Streaming on Amazon video for $3.99

At time of publishing, July 2017, this film is streaming on Netflix.

Silver Linings Playbook

A romantic comedy about a form of bipolar that doesn’t exist telling an offbeat story that could never really happen with characters that are not realistic. Despite all that, it’s still an entertaining 2 hours.

In Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper plays a manic bipolar who is fixated on getting back with his wife who has cheated on him and secured a restraining order. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence plays an admirer with issues of her own. There is some trouble here, the movie starts off clearly being about bipolar and metal illness and later waters all that psychology study down making it like a low grade Hangover or other romantic film Bradley Cooper has starred in. I was hoping for a more realistic portrayal of mental illness. I don’t know why, Hollywood is never good at that. Maybe it shouldn’t be expected to be. It was still highly entertaining as a romantic comedy.

The film was Directed by David O. Russell known for The Fighter. I liked this film because it portrayed people in an unflattering state, as they are. Many times movies try to sugar coat families and individuals to make them seem superhuman. I don’t think this really helps humanity. This movie starts out portraying bipolar disorder in a believable and textbook way but later veers from the realistic path. I think if they would have made this a movie about bipolar disorder it would have not had been as interesting. Still, it would have been educational which might have made it better. As it stands, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy about a form of bipolar that doesn’t exist telling an offbeat story that could never really happen with characters that are not realistic. Despite all that, it’s still an entertaining 2 hours.

Les Miserables 2012 3/5 Stars

The film is quite successful in portraying a monstrously powerful musical on screen. Unfortunately it takes a back seat to the stage version.

Les Misérables (2012) is a film adaptation of a highly acclaimed stage musical that has been part of American culture for decades. So why make a musical cinema adaptation? After making more money as a motivation that is … It was likely meant to appeal to the growing number of younger people who never saw the stage version or all ages who would not have access to a stage. The movie makers took on a lot in this respect.

There are mammoth challenges when recreating musical theater on screen. This film was unsuccessful in meeting some of those those challenges. For one thing, stage musicals are seen from just one seat in a theater. They don’t provide close-ups and the bodies on stage of all the performers figure into the grand illusion known as stage performance. In a movie, there are close-ups. Furthermore, the focus is on whoever the director chooses to embrace. This leaves us with a flat image of a musical that never lets us turn our eyes away or have our own visual interpretation. In short, the cinematic musical adaptation rarely matches the power of the stage. As a person who has seen Les Mis (as it has been commonly referred to) on the stage when he was much younger, I can tell you the movie fails to measure up to that experience. Still, for what it tries to do, portray Les Mis in a new genre to a new audience, it is quite successful. It also may be safe to say it’s nearly impossible to portray a stage musical with justice on the screen. If that is the case, they get a huge handicap (if this were a golf game) and I would say it represents a gargantuan effort to get the Les Mis art piece to newer viewers by means of theater. For that, this film gets higher marks.

I think younger people (20’s and below) who have never seen the musical will like the movie because the music is so amazing. Still, the two lead actors, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, are not captivating singers. One has an annoying vibrato he must have cherished in Catholic school and the other is forced sounding. Most lines in the cinematic are sung. There are some excellent moments in the film make no mistake. The Ebony character was my favorite. I will be watching for what she does in future movies. Last but not least, Anne Hathaway does an incredible job with her 1 song. People her give her too much praise however should remember that she had only that performance to focus on. I wonder if her voice and presence would have grown old as a lead role? Just something to throw out there and suggest we think about. The movie is far too long, approaching 3 hours. I think this is a very tough genre to embrace on the screen. They tried it and unfortunately, in my view, failed.

Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks is a romantic comedy written by Zoe Kazan. Ruby is a fictional character thought up in the movie by a successful writer in his early twenties played by Paul Dano.

Much to his surprise, one day Ruby comes to life and takes on the role of his real life girlfriend. After that a roller coaster of emotions and love lessons ensues. For me, the strongest message in the movie is about the power we try to exert over each other in relationships. It has a truly all-star cast including Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould, and many more. Though the film started slow for me, it picked up in the middle and became a very fun and emotion-filled ride. I read online while watching the movie that the actress playing Ruby, Zoe Kazan, is the actual writer of the movie. For this reason, the audience gets the perspective of a woman being invented and controlled by an actual woman writer. I was impressed by Miss Kazan and will look for more from her in the future.

Final Thought: Relationships are often funny but more often perplexing. This movie uses metaphor and satire in the form of this invented woman to address some of those difficult issues. Paul Dano does a very nice job as a young writer trying to figure out life and love. He has definite ideas about what Ruby should be and he writes them clearly. I felt a real-life connection to what he was doing when he “wrote Ruby.” I thought at one point, “How would I ‘write’ my wife if I had the magic typewriter?” Through most of the movie I knew I would not rewrite her one iota. I think that is the message of the movie. We want “the perfect spouse” but in reality, we don’t know what that is for us. Better to let our spouse have her/his imperfections than try to craft them into something “perfect.” If those themes sound interesting, you’ll love this romantic comedy. I give it 5/5 stars. In some ways for me it was a perfect film experience.