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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mini-Movie Reviews- Apes, Guardians, Turtles

Hey there everyone! Old man Chaos is here with some mini-movie reviews. Now, am I reviewing miniature movies? Or will my reviews be brief? Ha ha. The jokes never stop around this joint. I'll be here all week.... At any rate, I have seen a couple of movies over the past month or so so I figured I'd give my 2 cents, as per usual. So, let us begin...

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I have a long history with the Planet of the Apes franchise. I love the originals. They are incredible films (yes, they are dated now, but you have to think about them in the context in which they were made). This series has every sci-fi staple that you can imagine: space travel, time travel, alternate timelines/realities, nuclear holocausts, mutants, environmental messages, distopian police states, war, racial allegory... I could go on. And the series is also very good at connecting the various threads, ideas, and names- its not perfect, but this franchise is an awesome universe.

Then, after Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the series ended (logically so, I might add). Recently,
there have been 2 attempts at rebooting the franchise. Tim Burton tried it first, and though the movie had some strong make-up effects and visuals, the plot was bad and well... let's not talk about that ending. The more recent attempt was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I am in the minority here I suspect- I didn't like this one either. My "brain" was interested- a totally different take on the franchise, with cutting edge effects. However, my "heart" wasn't in it- it did not engage me the way the old franchise did. I felt Rise was just dull.

Fast forward to this summer. All advance reviews said that Dawn was a game-changer- an excellent movie that did real honor to the old franchise while charting a new course. I decided, with some trepidation, to see it. And boy... it was amazing!

The story, actors, digital effects... it all combined to tell a great story of how humanity has just about collapsed and apes are in the ascendant. However, both species exist near each other- will they fight? Can they get along? This movie explores themes of war, suspicion, abuse of nature... The apes are just phenomenal- they look like animals, but each one has a soul. This is captured perfectly by Andy Serkis as Caesar- the leader of the apes. While he is suspicious of humans, he wants peace. His second in command, Koba wants to fight the humans- for all too human reasons, and actually rather compelling reasons, interestingly enough. What is set in motion is a multi- dimensional struggle within the ape community, the human community, and between the two species. The action is hard hitting, the quiet moments are pitch perfect. And, in PotA tradition, the ending is morally ambiguous, to say the least.

Ironically, with everyone saying this movie takes the franchise into "new waters"- I disagree- I feel that this movie borrows heavily from Battle of the Apes- the themes of peace and suspicion are there. Heck, change Koba's name to Aldo and presto... its a re-imagining of the weakest of the old franchise. I'm fine with this though. It borrows but is still very different (Koba's motivation is much stronger than Aldo's; Caesar here is more ambivalent toward humanity).

This was a real treat. I give it 3 1/2 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. Check this one out- fan of Apes or not, there is a lot of meat to this film, and it has lots of good action scenes for casual film goers.

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Marvel movie franchise has had its ups (Captain America 2, Avengers) and its downs (Iron Man 2), but overall this franchise is incredible. The Marvel characters have gotten incredible treatment in these films- movies that are fun, filled with character moments, and ultimately they are very loyal to the essence of these characters (no emo-Spidey here). This trend of fun movie going continues in Guardians of the Galaxy- though focusing on lesser known characters, the movie is still a blast and fitting with this Marvel spirit.

The actors give it their all here, with Chris Pratt doing well as the heart and soul of this rag tag team. Rocket Raccoon is also well realized, with Bradley Cooper's voice being almost unrecognizable (in other words, not his Hangover shtick).  Though he says little, Groot also tugs at the heartstrings. Dave Batista is a lot of fun as Drax, providing both action and some comic relief (nothing goes over his head ha ha). Last, Zoe Saldana is again the queen of sci-fi as Gamora- beautiful but dangerous, she realizes the error of her ways and tries to stop a terrible plan she has helped to set in motion.

The movie is fun. Lots of humor, great character interplay and banter. The action scenes are also quite good for the most part.The movie's soundtrack is almost a character in itself, with some fun 1970s tunes in there. The movie also gives the best explanation of Thanos and the "Infinity Stones" yet- setting the ground for all that cosmic stuff. I think Josh Brolin will do just fine as Thanos (he's here briefly). I am looking forward to his character taking center stage at some point.

There are problems here though. First, the bad guy Ronan the Accuser. Now Lee Pace is just fine in the role (menacing, etc). However, his motivation is paper thin, and he is never really developed. He's kinda just there. Red Skull, Loki, and Winter Soldier / Pierce all make an impression. Sadly, Ronan falls into the Malekith/Whiplash/Chitari realm of being boring and underdeveloped. This is too bad- it takes the teeth out of the tension and conflict.

Karen Gillan fares a bit better as Nebula (she is given a bit more to do) and her appearance and
attitude make an impression (hope to see more from her as well), but she's second fiddle to the bland Ronan. The climax is also too familiar and bland- destructive energy cloud, hero fights baddie, energy thing happens, battle won- we've seen this too often in Marvel movies (see Cap 1, Thor 2, Avengers).  Come on Marvel people- we can do better than this (see Cap 2).

So, I would give Guardians 3.25 out of 4. Cap 2 is still the absolute highlight of the Marvel franchise, but GotG was a ton of fun and I can't wait to see their further adventures (and more Thanos).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Oh. My. God.

I went into this with LOW expectations. I loved the old cartoon (had the action figures and all that), but I'm not a diehard fanatic as an adult. As the promotions began for this movie, I wasn't sure what to make of it. The more recent trailers convinced me that the prognosis wasn't good. But, a friend of mine was dying to see it, so off we went.

Thanos. End. It. All. Now.

This movie is a wreck. A horrible wreck. The plot is nonsensical, to put it mildly. Megan Fox looks nice, but can't act her way out of a paper bag. Will Arnett belongs in another movie. The Shredder seems to have been thrown in at the last minute (trust me- his relation to the plot is stupid and he acts basically as just muscle). William Fitchner is here for a paycheck, pretty much.

Nurgle... Take away my pain...

The turtles themselves are not bad- they have some good moments of camaraderie, and some jokes do well (most fall flat though). Then Splinter shows up knowing things that his character simply has NO WAY OF KNOWING AT ALL- he should be called Exposition, not Splinter. Poor plotting 101.

Dear. God. No.

The action scenes are haphazard and without stakes. There is no tension. No cohesive narrative. The villain's plot makes no real sense at all. Shredder looks good but that's about it. This movie was just awful. There are few times where I feel CHEATED going to a movie. Even weak movies have some redeeming value (For example- Machete Kills at least had a fun performance from Mel Gibson, most of the film was poor). Ask my friend Pete about Lost in Space (the joke is we "never" saw it, if you know what I mean). This movie was that bad.

Let's put it another way. I bought the 1990 Turtles movie on bluray for $4.99 at Best Buy in order to watch it and purge the crap I had just seen (and the 1990 movie isn't the greatest either- but it has heart and character development).

Zero out of Four Marks of Chaos. And for the record, it is films like this that makes Khorne want to collect skulls, by the way.

Anyways, that's my movie reviews. Planning on seeing Sin City 2 (hoping Rodriguez has brought his A game) this weekend. Until next time...


  1. Loved Guardians of the Galaxy ... it was a fun ride.

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