Rise of the Planet of the Apes

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Run Time 96 minutes.
OK for children.

The true star of this prequel (it started with the 1968 classic starring Charlton Heston) is the performance capture technology that enables Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar the Chimpanzee, to really look like an ape with intelligence. According to Fox, this film could only be made due to the technology that was developed for the film Avatar. Unlike Avatar, however, this was not filmed in a controlled environment. Rather, it was filmed on various locations, including San Francisco, which is the locale of the story.

Caesar the Chimpanzee, played by Andy Serkis, in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

Basically, the film is a setup to explain how technology ran wild, enabling apes to obtain human intelligence and, eventually, take over the world, resulting in Heston’s famous discovery when he returns from a space mission. However, they don’t take over the world in this movie.

It’s told from the POV of the apes, sort of a modern Call of the Wild, Jack London’s classic story of an Alaskan dogsled dog told entirely from the dog’s POV.

There are some good performances by humans, too. James Franco gives a good performance as Caesar’s adoptive father, and John Lithgow is effective as Franco’s father who is suffering from dementia.

Director Rupert Wyatt keeps the pace up throughout the film, aided by a smart script by Amanda Silver, with her husband and writing partner Rick Jaffa. These Planet of the Apes movies need good direction to keep them from descending into ludicrous satire, and Wyatt accomplishes that very well.

But, as I said, the true star of the film is the performance capture technology, so how they did it needs to be explained because that was what was running through my mind throughout the film. Says senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, “As we did with Avatar, we used the performance capture suit and headgear to capture the actors’ facial expressions and get the full range of their performances. But here, for the first time, we used performance capture as a fully integrated part of the live action performance. Working on Rise of the Planet of the Apes became all about the performances and the actors interacting with one another. We would take care of the rest – the actual visual effects – later.” Clearly, what they accomplished is Oscar®-quality.

This is a fun, entertaining movie.

The Change-up

Run time 112 minutes.
Not for children.

From l, Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds star in “The Change-Up.”

I am sick of filmmakers with high school sophomore-caliber intellects foisting scene after graphic scene of people accomplishing their daily bodily functions, or, in the vernacular, going to the bathroom. This film, which had good potential, is replete with toilet and groin gags. They aren’t funny; they are revolting. My feeling is that some people who have progressed beyond their sophomore year in high school might laugh because they are uncomfortable, not because they find these scenes humorous.

Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star in this profane story of identity switch. Bateman, an uptight attorney yearning for partnership, finds himself in the body of Reynolds, his high school buddy who is a womanizing, shiftless lout. It’s kind of an untalented rip-off of the two Freaky Fridays. The last one, in 2003, was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It didn’t need profanity or toilet humor to be funny. Director David Dobkin and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore are apparently from the modern school of comedy-killers because they do their best to destroy a good idea and spoil fine performances by Reynolds, Bateman, Alan Arkin and Olivia Wilde. Surpassing all of them, however, is Leslie Mann who gives a wonderful performance as Bateman’s physically and emotionally neglected wife.

There are some scenes that have the potential to be laugh-out-loud, mainly involving Bateman as he is trying to impersonate his buddy’s job as an attorney. But the crummy level of the rest of the film destroys any semblance of reasonable humor.

Memo to Dobkin, Lucas, and Moore: You don’t have to be profane and disgusting to be funny. But if they were to recut the film to eliminate the scenes of people urinating and defecating, they wouldn’t be left with enough to produce a full length feature.

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