Monday, 21 July 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (12A)

Credit where credit is due, Cineworld's allocated seating plan may be a joke (front half of screening empty, sat where I wanted), but at least when you tell the poor under-paid lackey that the lights haven't been dimmed he's on it in a flash.

Fortunately, having to go and find someone to tell (have I talked to you about the dearth of ushers?) didn't get in the way of the start of DoTPoTA, which is just as well as I was already being forced to see it in 3D.

And there's nothing dafter than walking up to a cinema wearing sunglasses, knowing full well you'll be putting another pair on in five minutes...

Anyhoo, such is the lot of the modern multiplex attendee, moans almost making you forget you actually went there to watch a film.

Thankfully, thirty seconds into DoTPoTA (screw it, I'm switching to Dawn - it's easier to type) the outside world is but a distant memory.

Picking up, sort of, where Rise left off, Dawn has us ten years into the future - the man-made virus has wiped out all but the genetically-immune humans and the apes (last seen beating the crap out of everything) have set up home in the woods above San Francisco and are quite happy thank you.

Until an human wanders in. With friends.

From here, we not only learn where the humans are holed up, but what conflicts and factions exist within the Ape world.

It's safe to say, things won't be the same again for anyone - ape or human.

Like all good sci-fi films, Dawn is holding a mirror up to the world - in this case, war, conflict, racism... You know, pretty much the cause of everything going on in Ukraine/Palestine/Anywhere else you can think of.

And it's this parallel that helps to make Dawn such a powerful film.

What also makes it land with such a wallop is the performances.

Among the humans, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman are all perfectly good, interacting well with the Ape co-stars when needed and generally holding their own.

But it's the apes that are the stars.

Led by Andy Serkiss as Ceasar, the whole gang have weight and heft far beyond their pixels.

You are drawn into their world quickly and easily, you care when Mrs Ceasar is unwell (surely a future film title), and you really really care when Koba starts kicking off.

And that is really where this film comes into its own.

No other film in recent memory (and I'm purposefully excluding Pixar here) has managed to create such emotional depth from CGI characters.

Yes, Serkis and the other key players are in mo-cap suits (as you kidz call them), but they don't have thousands of apes tearing across the screen on horse back. But it feels like they do.

And as the film unfolds, and unions are fomed and quashed, sides switched and reason faces rage, you find yourself rooting for the right side, hoping they will rise above it all and triumph.

And I'm not talking about the humans.

It's a bugger talking about this film in such a way as to not give anything away, because the plot shifts about at a frantic pace - but not once do you get bored.

Coming in at around the two-hour mark, Dawn has you gripped throughout - and bar a sequence late-on the 3D is so unobtrusive as to be almost pointless.

There is very little wrong with it.

OK, if you want to be picky a couple of the back-story bits are a bit schmaltzy, you can question how apes travel as fast as cars and they grasp machine guns with alarming ease (not a spoiler, we've all seen that clip), but none of this - none - detracts from what is a stunningly powerful movie.

Even the setting up of an inevitable third film fits and feels like a natural progression of the story.

Basically, Dawn has the lot - fights, family tensions, talking apes with big-ass spears, politics, drama, tension, and a comic turn with a gun.

What else do you want?

Well, yes, an Oscar for Serkis, but other than that?

Nothing. Exactly.

Think I'll go and watch it and be blown away by it all over again.

Hail Ceasar.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Transformers: Age Of Exitinction (12A)

Many moons ago, someone realised that Transformers were popular, and lo did Michael Bay step forward and give us all the film we didn't know we were waiting for.

And it was fun.

Dumb as nuts, loud as hell and not a film you need to think about, sure, but it delivered what the fans wanted - robots hitting each other. A lot.

And then Bay decided what a Transformers film needed was plot.

He was wrong, and we all had to endure Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. A film so bad it has taken people years to have the courage to actually take the piss out of it.

In fact, Revenge was so bad I still haven't seen the follow-up, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.

I know I should, but after Revenge I really can't face it.

But after Transformers: Age Of Extinction I might just summon up the courage.

That's not to say Extinction is good - it's not. Far from it. But at least Bay's stopped trying make A Film and has just gone back to car chases, explosions and lots of robot-on-robot violence.

Because that's all we want.

And that's all we get. For nigh-on three bloody hours.

And that's where the problems begin.

There is a plot of sorts - father-daughter relationship set against the backdrop of government chicanery and scientists trying to make their own Transformers - but really it's not important.

Mark Wharlberg is strangely convincing as down-at-heel inventor Cade Yeager (it helps to not think about him as an inventor) while Nicola Peltzer manages to be daughter Tessa without being the complete object of lust Bay is known for.

Elsewhere, Kelsey Grammar (sinister branch of The Man) and Stanley Tucci (well meaning billionaire inventor sort) both steal every scene they're in without breaking sweat, while Brit comedic actor James Bachman livens things up, even if you are left wondering how he ended up in this mess.


Among the myriad of issues we have, in no particular order, bad accents, terrible dialogue, woeful continuity, the running time, the 3D elements, the running time, the script and the fact it's too long.

Oh, and geography.

And it's not that these things are small and I'm being picky - they leap out at you.

There's the moment Whalberg does his 'shocked' face, there's the fact they're supposed to be going to China yet it turns out they were in Hong Kong, the moment they all get in a truck to escape (seemingly forgetting the four Autobots nearby), Sophie Myle's moment in the sun as she tells Tucci she's proud of him (honestly, I laughed out loud at this one) - I could go on, but I can only remember the final 40mins (the rest having been wiped from my mind).

Oh yes, and there's the moment Peltzer is trying to escape along a high-wire cable thingie. She's supposed to be being chased buy Transformerdogs, only they vanish. Then come back...

There are positives here.

As I've already said, some fine performances and it's better than the Fallen. And the female characters actually get to wear almost-decent clothes.

But it really is just a big dumb mess.

As ever with Bay there are moments of attempted gravitas and weight, but it's all cobblers.

Underneath all the boom and bombast, there's sod all. It's a loud, shallow mess.

Which for some reason I'm still struggling to understand, I didn't hate...

Oh yes, that was the other thing - transformium.


No, really.