Archive for August, 2011

Paul Rudd shines in a role tailor made for him as “Our Idiot Brother”

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on August 26, 2011 by Steve Mesa

“Our Idiot Brother”, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a very funny movie with Paul Rudd in the title role and a good supporting cast to help back him up.

Ned (Rudd) is a naïve organic farmer who was recently released from prison after selling drugs to a uniformed police office. When he comes back to his farm, he is dumped by his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) and refuses to give his dog, Willie Nelson, back to him. With nowhere to live, he asks his sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer) if they can stay with them temporarily. As they take turns taking in Ned, Ned’s honesty causes nothing but trouble for his sisters as their brother begins to unknowingly wreck havoc on their lives.

Actor Paul Rudd has been paired with a variety of comedic actors whether it is as a supporting player with Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up or as a lead actor with Jason Segal in “I Love You, Man”. This movie is a perfect role for Rudd as he is playing a different character that is quite unlike any character that he has played before. While he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Ned is such a likable character because he is so kind that he even trusts complete strangers to hold a large sum of money for him. Rudd plays with such an easy-going nature that it seems easy to forgive him whenever he gets himself or his sisters in trouble.

While Rudd turns in a good performance as Ned, director Jesse Peretz’s has ensemble a good supporting cast for Rudd to share the screen with including Deschanel, Banks, Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones and Adam Scott. All of these gifted actors have their own individual moments in the movie to shine. However, “Our Idiot Brother” does suffer a bit when it focuses away from the dysfunctional family to show other characters that are one-dimensional and unnecessary whether it is Hugh Dancy as a philandering artist having an affair with Deschanel’s character or T.J. Miller as a hippie farmer whose every sentence always ends with the word “man”.

The familiar character of the accident-prone man child has been seen in many movies like “Step Brothers” and “Dinner with Schmucks”. Even though this film treads on familiar territory seen in those films, “Our Idiot Brother” has a much more believable cast of characters that the audience can easily relate to. However, the trouble with treading on familiar territory is that the story suffers a bit from predictability complete with a lame rip-off ending from “(500) Days of Summer”.

The majority of the comedy films that have come out recently in the summer have been under the R-rating banner. While this movie is also rated-R, there are great comedic moments in “Our Idiot Brother” that did not have to rely on gross-out moments or profane language to make cause me laugh out loud in the movie theater.

Even though the film treads on familiar territory, “Our Idiot Brother” is a funny and fresh film that features Rudd’s best performance to date and a good ensemble cast. 

“Our Idiot Brother”: 4 stars out of 5

“Fright Night” is an average remake with some interesting moments

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on August 18, 2011 by Steve Mesa

The 2011 remake of the 1985 horror/comedy film “Fright Night” is more enjoyable to watch compared to the “Twilight” films, but that’s not saying much.

Teenager Charley (Anton Yelchin) lives with his mother (Toni Collette) in a suburban neighborhood that is just a bit outside of Las Vegas. His best friend (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) thinks his next door neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire, but Charley doesn’t believe him. When he eventually discovers the horrifying truth about Jerry, he does everything in his power to make sure Jerry does not talk to his mother and his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots). With no other option at his disposal, he seeks the help of Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a self-proclaimed vampire killer.

Today, there seems to be some kind of resurgence of vampires with books, movies and TV shows such as “Let Me In” and “True Blood” coming out in droves by putting a spin on vampire mythology. It feels more like vampire overkill to me.

I have never seen the original “Fright Night” until a week before I was set to watch this movie, which was directed by Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl”). The original movie was an enjoyable and campy film, but it has not age well thanks to the special effects of the movie that include stop-motion animation and puppets.

The film does not stray away from the main story except for a couple of noticeable changes that keeps it from being an exact carbon copy like changing the character of Peter Vincent from a corny horror talk show host to a Las Vegas magician or setting the story in Las Vegas instead of California. While I do admire the changes they made to make this into a contemporary remake, the story is still predictable because you know who is going to live and who is going to die. It would be better if you don’t see the original movie before watching this glossy remake.

The remake does have its moments with scenes like Jerry tries to confront his neighbors by forcing them out of their home so that he can confront them and a long shot in a moving vehicle ala “Children of Men” where Charley, his mother and Amy is trying to flee from Jerry.

The cast of this film is average with good actors in subpar roles like Toni Collette, but Colin Farrell’s performance as the vicious vampire is entertaining as hell. He displays several degrees of viciousness as he relishes in being evil and menacing. Kudos goes to Anton Yelchin, who turns in a good performance as the endangered teenage by making the character more believable and incredibly different then William Ragsdale’s Charley. David Tennant’s take on Peter Vincent looks like a cross between Russell Brand and Criss Angel, but his character get annoying as he gets ready to battle vampires alongside with Charley.

“Fright Night” was shot in 3D, which Gillespie takes advantage of this format by hurling a variety of objects from arrows to body parts to the camera via some special effects. It is not a total lost to watch it in 3D, but for the majority of the movie, it is not necessary. The CG is another weak link in the movie especially in the vampire transformation scenes, which does not make any of those scenes scary at all.

“Fright Night” is just your average remake that is not really necessary, but it does have some descent moments in the film and a good performance by Farrell.

“Fright Night”: 3 stars out of 5

“The Guard” is a really f—ing funny cop film set in Ireland.

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on August 18, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Irish actor Brenden Gleeson has had supporting roles in films like “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “Green Zone”. This time around, he has a leading role set in home country where he co-stars with an American Oscar-nominated actor in “The Guard”.

As the sound of N.E.R.D’s “Rock Star” blares out in the opening sequence of “The Guard”, we are treated to a “Fast & Furious”-like scene where we see two kids driving at high-speed in a red sports car. However, this car eventually crashes where Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brenden Gleeson) approaches the crash site, confiscates drugs from the body of one of the boys and says “What a beautiful f—ing day”.

Boyle is a naive and sometimes clueless Irishman policeman in the village of Galway, Ireland small town. He has no interest with the international cocaine-smuggling ring that has brought FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to Galway because it happens to occur on his only day off. However, several things happens to Boyle that gets him embroiled with the investigation that includes his new partner missing, hookers blackmailing him and drug traffickers trying to buy him off. When Boyle decides to take matters into his own hands, he seeks the support of Everett to help him take down the bad guys.

“The Guard” is a hilarious and interesting take on the buddy cop movie because of its Irish setting. The film’s clever script written by John Michael McDonagh and the pairing of Gleeson with Cheadle is makes this film quite memorable and sometimes unforgettable at times.

Three years after the release of his brother Martin’s first full-length film “In Bruges”, his brother John Michael McDonagh makes his directorial debut with “The Guard”. “The Guard” is a hilarious and interesting take on the buddy cop movie because of its Irish setting. The opening sequence is one of the most memorable opening scenes this year because it sets the tone for this film and it introduces the main character that we will get to know as the movie progresses. He also takes familiar formulas that we have seen from other films whether it is a fish out of water tale or an odd couple pairing to add some refreshing and welcoming new elements to this crime flick.

The characters and the actors who portrayed these characters are just as colorful and profane as the characters in “In Bruges”. Instead of two hit men, we get Brenden Gleeson and Don Cheadle as two cops from different parts of the world and different methods of investigation. Whether they are exchanging banter with one another or just hanging out at a bar drinking their sorrows away, these scenes with Gleeson and Cheadle are truly terrific. The bad guys in the film are just as entertaining thanks to the brilliant casting of Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and David Wilmont; along with a young boy who is always riding a bicycle and plays the useful role as an informer for Boyle to get information from.

Despite how many colorful and interesting characters there are in “The Guard”, Brenden Gleeson delivers his most memorable performance to date. His heart is the right place, even when his racial statements (which he blames on his Irish heritage) and filthy mouth gets him in trouble. There are scenes in the movie whether or not there is a method behind his cluelessness because there are hints to some kind of intelligence and wit from Boyle. It is best summarized by Everett when he says to him, “I can’t tell if you’re really f—ing dumb or really f—ing smart.”

There are some things in “The Guard” that I had a few problems with. There were a couple of times in the film where the dialogue is a bit muddled because of how fast they are talking in which would subtitles would have been useful. The ending to the movie is very ambiguous as it questions the fate of one of the characters that does not seem be resolved by the time the end credits roll.

The bickering tandem and chemistry between Brenden Glesson and Don Cheadle makes “The Guard” is a unique buddy cop movie that also has a clever script and a variety of colorful characters that are just as interesting as the main characters.

“The Guard”: 4.5 stars out of 5

“Final Destination 5” is a thrill-a-minute ride complete with 3D gore

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on August 12, 2011 by Steve Mesa

The “Final Destination” franchise is a horror franchise unlike any other horror franchise in which the killer is not a mask-wearing psychopathic killer, but Death itself. Lights flicker and a slight chill is the usual MO for the presence of Death, who sets Rube Goldberg-esque booby traps that would cause the victim to die in bizarre ways. In “Final Destination 5”, another group of “lucky” people cheat death when they survive a major disaster, but they soon realize that Death does not like to be cheated and this ominous force will eventually cause their imminent demise.

A group of employees from a paper company are on their way to a company retreat. As they get on a bridge, Sam (Nicolas D’ Agosto) has a premonition of the bridge collapsing. He snaps out and warns his fellow passengers including his girlfriend (Emma Bell). Before you know it, his premonition comes true. This brings the attention of a FBI agent (Courtney B. Vance), who thinks it was more than just a mere accident. After being warned by an ominous coroner (Tony Todd) that death does not like to be cheated, the survivors soon begin to drop like flies one-by-one in freak accidents.

As a fan of this horror franchise, I liked every single one of these movies because it sticks to a formula that is unlike any other horror franchise by using the Grim Reaper as an ominous force that cause people to die in unusual and sometimes ironic ways. When the fourth installment came out two years ago, it seemed like the franchise ran out of steam.

“Final Destination 5” is the best sequel in the franchise and it as good, if not better, then the original movie. The movie is successful and entertaining thanks to the addition of some new blood franchise from Steve Quale, who has worked with James Cameron on several projects, and writer Eric Heisserer. They keep the audience on the edge of their seat as they use many techniques to create some great tension along with some subtle misdirection that eventually leads to some gruesome Grand Guignol moments.

Quale, who has worked with James Cameron on several 3D films, understands how to shoot a movie like this in 3D. The 3D element in this movie helps elevate the death scenes with some help from the special effects department. There is a guarantee that you will certain appendages will be flying and pop up in your face. The opening title sequence is fantastic in 3D with a variety of deathly objects that were feature in past films like knives and pipes that makes it feel like they are actually coming at you.

“Final Destination 5” does pay homage to the previous films that die-hard fans would appreciate whether it is a picture frame from that features the rollercoaster from “Final Destination 3” or a callback to death’s “greatest hits” from the previous installments to the tune of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”.

With movies like these, the death scenes are always the best part of the movie and the opening disaster sequence is no exception. The bridge collapse is easily tops any of the disasters that have occur in the previous installments as you see cars falling into the water and people impaled by several objects. While the scene is awesome, the accidents that befall the survivors are just as great as these moments feels more realistic compared to the cartoonish and ridiculous deaths seen in previous installments. It is understandable that a scene involving laser eye surgery is intense with just the sheer mention of it, but you will think differently about how you see gymnastics and massage parlors after you see this movie.

While it sticks to its basic formula, it also introduces some new concepts to the mythology. The film’s previous installments has told us that if you intervene and save someone from dying, it messes up Death’s plans and skips to the next person or the concept that you can’t kill yourself no matter how hard you try. In this movie, they introduce the idea that if you kill someone when your number is up, you take whatever life that they had left. This leads to some of the survivors considering about doing this dirty deed as this concept does lead to some fascinating pay-offs. The climax has a great scene that has some thrilling moments that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud, along with an ending that makes this film come full circle and possibly bookends the series.

There is no Oscar-winning performances in “Final Destination 5”, but this horror film does have passable performances that are nor atrocious. Nicolas D’Agosto and Emma Bell manage to play characters that we would care about if they were on the verge of being endangered. The supporting cast is just as good as they are not your typical fodder for Death as the character are more fleshed out this time around that include P.J. Byrne providing comic relief as a sleazy womanizer. Miles Fischer, who likes a cross between a young Tom Cruise and Christian Bale, has a great character arc as a man who takes survival of the fittest to a whole different level. It is also good to see the return of Candyman himself, Tony Todd, as the coroner who knows more about Death’s design then he lets on. Another good addition is adding some sense of police authority to the story with Courtney B. Vance investigating in the freak deaths of the survivors.

Watching “Final Destination 5” was the most enjoyable experience I have had in a movie theater for a long time. Not only is this one of the best movies to see in 3D, but it is also the best horror movie of the year that has characters you actually care about this time around, new twists to the mythology and outstanding death scenes. If this is the last movie of the film series, I am glad that it went out with a bang. However, I am totally up for more films from the franchise if they can be as fun and entertaining as “Final Destination 5” was.

“Final Destination 5”: 5 starts out of 5

The Grim Reaper’s greatest hits: the ten best “Final Destination” deaths

Posted in Features on August 10, 2011 by Steve Mesa

For nearly a decade, the Final Destination movies have taken the premise of Death haunting unfortunate souls and turned it to a money-making franchise. The formula for these movies is this: person has premonition of a horrible accident, person freaks out that causes other people to follow him, accident happens and horrible things happen to the survivors. The excitement of the franchise is not the acting or script, but the elaborate Rube Goldberg-like ways that the survivors are killed off to make it look like an unfortunate occurrences or freak accidents. With “Final Destination 5” ready for wide release on Friday in all its 3D glory, I thought it would be appropriate to recount the ten most elaborate and best deaths in the “Final Destination” franchise.

#10 Hunt: “The Final Destination”

Let’s all agree that “The Final Destination” was the weakest entry in the “Final Destination” franchise, even though the 3D experience in the theater saved it from being an overall horrible film. The only death that was worthwhile was the death of male bimbo Hunt (Nick Zano), who loses his life in a horrifying way. When he is at the town swimming pool, his lucky coin falls into the water. He dives in to retrieve his coin, except he ends up getting sucked, ass first, on the pool’s drain. When the pressure escalates, he ends up getting his intestines sucked out in geyser of blood.

#9 Ian: “Final Destination 3”

Still stunned from witnessing her girlfriend’s death, Ian (Kris Lemche) looks for payback and planned on killing Wendy. His plan did not succeed as he confronted Wendy at their town’s centennial celebration and they were nearly get incinerated by stray fireworks. As it seem like the fireworks did not do the trick, the nearby cherry picker with McKinley’s name on it (he was named after the town) surely did Ian in as it dropped down upon him, splitting his body in half. Originally, Wendy was supposed to squashed by the cherry picker, but Ian inadvertently took her place instead.

#8 Frankie: “Final Destination 3”

Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Kevin (Ryan Merriman) narrowly escape the “drive-thru from hell” when a runaway semi crashes into Kevin’s truck, which was sandwiched between a convertible and a beer truck. The semi crashed into his truck, causing Kevin’s truck engine to propel into the head of the convertible’s driver. Unbeknownst to them, the driver was their classmate Frankie (Sam Easton). In the end, all Frankie got was a REAL bad headache that resulted in his brains being splattered all over the drive-thru window.

#7 Evan: “Final Destination 2”

This “lucky” bastard not only avoided dying in a highway pileup, but also won the lottery. When he arrives in his apartment after a spending spree, Evan’s (David Paetkau) apartment catches on fire after his microwave malfunctions when was trying to retrieve a newly bought ring in his sink. After nearly escaping a fiery demise, he climbs down an escape ladder and slips on some spaghetti he threw away earlier. In classic fake out fashion, the ladder comes close to hitting him in the face with a resounding “Oh S–t” from Evan. However, his luck runs out when the ladder does fall and impale Evan’s right eye socket.

#6 Lewis: “Final Destination 3”

In the moments that lead up to the death of Lewis (Texas Battle), there are several objects that give hints to the audience on what the weapon of choice would be. A domino effect occurs that causes the loosely mounted swords hanging above Lewis to cut the wires on his weight machine. As the arrogant jock defiantly curse off Death and finishes his last shoulder row, the weights on the machine crushes his skull like a tomato.

#5 Billy: “Final Destination”

After Alex (Devon Sawa) and Claire (Ali Larter) save the life of Carter (Kerr Smith) from being crushed by oncoming locomotive in his car, Billy (Seann William Scott) stands by the rails of the train and scolds Carter. A piece of scrap metal from what was left of Carter’s vehicle flies off the train tracks and brutally decapitated Billy through his mouth. Alex realized that in Death’s design, if someone is saved by another person, it skips the lucky person (Carter) and moves on to the next person (Billy).

#4 Erin: “Final Destination 3”

You would think working at a Home Depot-like store would not have any deadly consequences on their workers. This unfortunate soul met her end at the end of nail gun after her boyfriend, Ian, is saved by Wendy and Kevin from falling debris. This act causes Death to skip Ian and move on to the next person, which was Erin (Alexz Johnson). As one of the debris penetrates a bag full of sawdust, this caused Erin to be blinded by the dust and slip on slip on some nearby liquid, causing her to fall backwards and headfirst into the nail gun. The nail gun ends up giving Erin eleven skull-crushing piercings from the back of her skull that penetrates through her cheek, hand, wrist, nose and eye. 

#3 Kat and Rory: “Final Destination 2”

It is not enough for people being dispatched in weird ways, Death also happens to literally kill “two birds with one stone”. After getting into a near fatal accident, the remaining survivors escape unscathed except for Eugene (T.C. Carson), who was sent to the hospital. Bitchy career woman, Kat (Keegan Connor Tracy), was nearly impaled by a plastic pipe and is stuck in the driver’s seat. With fire rescue arriving on the scene, they use the Jaws of Life to rescue Kat. Irony strikes here as the Jaws of Life activates the car’s airbag, which causes Kat’s head to retract her into said pipe and impale her through the head. As Kat’s lit cigarette falls from her hand, it ignites a gas leak that triggers an explosion that propels a barbed wire fence towards the direction of stoner Rory (Jonathan Cherry), which goes through him and causes him to fall to pieces.

#2 Terry: “Final Destination”

Not only is this one of the most shocking moment in the original, but it is also one of the most unexpected movie deaths of all time. As Terry is scolding his boyfriend, Carter, she makes the mistake of crossing the street backwards without looking. A few seconds later, her face and body has a meeting with an oncoming bus that just shows up out of nowhere and looks like it is going 150 miles per hour. I would think that Alex’s premonition of the reflection of the bus on a store front would have clued him in on what was to come.

#1 Tim: “Final Destination 2”

After nearly choking on a toy fish in the dentist’s office, Tim walks out the dentist office with his mother to see Officer Thomas Burke (Michael Landes) and Kimberly (A.J. Cook) waving at him. Unfortunately, his short attention span draws his attention to some nearby pigeons that he wants to chase. The flying pigeons causes a construction worker to lose control of an enormous piece of glass which ends up dropping on poor little Timmy, folding his body up like a bloody accordion.

It is all about “Beats Rhymes & Life” for Michael Rapaport

Posted in Features on August 5, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Directed by actor Michael Rapaport, “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Calles Quest” follows the band A Tribe Called Quest they go through some serious and tumultuous drama while on tour for the 2008 “Rock the Bells” concert series. The film also explores the Tribe’s past from their earlier days as the pioneers of alternative rap to their big public breakup in 1998.

I was able to sit down with Rapaport at the Lowes Hotel in South Beach when he was in town promoting the film.

Hialeah Movie Examiner: First off, congratulations on your film winning the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. What was your reaction?

Michael Rapaport: I was just flattered, humbled and excited for the movie and for everyone who worked on the movie. It is a very nice to win anything.

HME: What lead you to direct this documentary?

Rapaport: Obviously, I am a fan of this group. When they broke up in 1998, I was curious into why and if they will ever record another album. Whenever I would see Q-Tip or people around the group, I would always ask if A Tribe Called Quest is ever going to make more music. That sort of curiosity about that and me being a fan of the group is what led me to wanting to make this movie.

HME: How many hours of footage during the production of this movie?

Rapaport: We shot over a hundred hours of footage. During the concert tour, we shot with multiple cameras. We also used a lot of b-roll. We had at least over a hundred hours of material.

HME: How long did it take to edit this movie?

Rapaport: We edited for two and a half years. We didn’t edit for two and a half years straight. We would start, stop and shoot. We would look at stuff and take a little perspective. It was a two and a half year process to finish the movie and by the time it took me to come here to Miami, it would be three years in total.

HME: How hectic was it going from project to project as an actor while still working on the documentary?

Rapaport: This movie became a part of my life that grew and grew and grew because of the reality that it was happening and the work overhaul. It became a full-time job doing this movie that I wasn’t getting paid for. It was like a side project, almost like a secret thing that I was doing.

HME: I read in your director’s statement that you had the most highs and lows in your life during the making of this movie. Could you elaborate on that?

Rapaport: The highs were the making of the film, the shooting of the film, being on stage with cameras knowing I’m shooting a movie about A Tribe Called Quest, that I am actually getting the opportunity and that I’m actually directing this film, the excitement of that, the excitement of talking to the group and how enthusiastic everyone was about the film. The lows included the editing process because it was extremely intimidating, overwhelming and frightening. Getting music clearances were scary at times because you edit scenes around certain music. With that, dealing with the band and the disjointedness of the group was sometimes hard to deal with.

HME: Some documentarians like to be in front of the camera and some don’t. Did you originally just wanted to stay behind the camera?

Rapaport: I did not want to be in front of the camera. I didn’t want this to be Michael Rapaport’s journey with A Tribe Called Quest. I love what Michael Moore does, but I wanted to focus on Tribe. I know I had some kind of presence, but I didn’t want to ham it up like “Alright guys, let’s knock on Phife Dog’s door and see what happens”. I just wanted it to be exclusive and about them. I wanted it to keep focus on A Tribe Called Quest because I didn’t want to be in front of the camera for this. I just wanted to be a director. I really truly wanted to be the director and this was my chance to be a director. I think it would have invalidated me as a director to constantly be in front of the camera. I knew this was an opportunity and I wanted to direct a movie for a long time so I just wanted to be just an ordinary filmmaker.

HME: What is your favorite Tribe album and song?

Rapaport: It is hard to just pick one album. The first three albums are so good and told with such perfection, but I would say “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” because it is such an innocent album. They would talk about many different things, as told through a youthful point-of-view. “Footprints”, which is off that album, is my favorite Tribe song because I love the sample they use for that song and the way the song this build within.

HME: With an episode of “Boston Public” under your belt as a director, did you carry any previous knowledge of directing as you got ready to make this film?

Rapaport: I wanted to direct film for a while. I’ve been on hours and hours of sets as an actor on films and television show. I asked a lot of questions to see how directors work, talk to cinematographers about lenses, how they work and why they use certain lenses. I was always curious about filmmaking. In the back of my head, I would ask questions because I knew I wanted to make a movie.

HME: Following your experience on this documentary, would you direct again?

Rapaport: Absolutely. I would love to do another documentary. It would have to be something I was compelled to do emotionally because it is such a hard process and such a grueling task whether it is financially or technically. I would love to do a narrative film. I’m always going to act and I’m going to always love acting along with the excitement about acting. This movie gave me the confidence to know that I have all the skills to make some sort of film.  

HME: What do you want people to take away from this film?

Rapaport: What I want people to take away from this film is a story about friends, relationships, the struggle to keep those relationships and the story of the golden era of hip-hop. I want people to be revisit or maybe, if you have been living on another planet, get introduced to A Tribe Called Quest because they are one of the most influential and exciting bands to ever do it.

“Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” opens at Regal South Beach 18 tomorrow.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES reboots a franchise that was in need of resuscitation

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on August 5, 2011 by Steve Mesa

If you thought the “Planet of the Apes” franchise was dead thanks to Tim Burton’s 2001 remake, do not fear because “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is here to make your forget about that Burton debacle.

In “Rise” scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) is testing a serum on chimpanzees that could cure Alzheimer’s, which his father (John Lithgow) suffers from. When tragedy occurs that leads to all the tested chimps to be put down, he decides to take home a baby chimp that would be named Caesar. Will eventually finds out that Caesar has been affected by his serum, which makes him super smart, leading to Will tasting the drug on his father. When an incident lands Caesar in primate reserve, he is treated cruelly while trying to get along with own kind.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is not just your standard sci-fi film, but a strong and dramatic character-driven film where the audience can identify with most of the characters in the film whether they are human or not.

The story of the film focuses on many themes with antagonists to go hand-in-hand with the themes whether it is corporate greed in the form of Will’s boss (David Oyelowo) to animal cruelty in the form of one of Caesar’s captors (Tom Felton). When Caesar is placed in the primate reserve, the story gets more interesting as it is played more like a prison movie ala “Cool Hand Luke” and “A Prophet” with Caesar transforming from naïve chimp to a tough militant leader thanks to his ever-increasing intelligence as he develops an ape army and plots out an elaborate escape from the reserve.

The last twenty minutes is filled with memorable and amazing sequences that involve apes rampaging through San Francisco. The sequence culminates in a showdown on the Golden State Bridge between the apes armed with spears and the whole San Francisco Police Department including the SWAT team. The monkeys in the film, believe or not, are all computer-generated and created by Weta Digital. The animation is so impressive that it makes you believe for a second that the primates on screen are real with so much incredible details to the animals’ skin, hair and facial structure.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is all about Caesar, who is played brilliantly and convincingly by Andy Serkis and brought to physical life by the animation team of Weta Digital. As the king of motion capture, Serkis understands the technology more than any actor can thanks to his roles as Gollum in the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy and Kong in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”. His performance as Caesar gives you an immediate and emotional connection to his character as he manages to make us care about this digital monkey as much as we would care for flesh-and-blood human actor.

James Franco is a bit stiff compared to his on-screen digital companion, but he manages to stick to it with an average performance that is nowhere near the caliber of his brilliant performances in “Milk” and “127 Hours”. John Lithgow fared much better as his father with his performance making you understand the scariness and frustration of a man who is mentally fading away. In the role of Will’s girlfriend, Frieda Pinto add nothing to the film as she is more like eye candy. The role could have been played by any actress in Hollywood whether it could have been Olivia Wilde or Blake Lively. Even though Brian Cox and Tom Felton happens to be good in their roles, they are once again typecast here as untrustworthy characters.  

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” also happens to become somewhat of bridge that would connect this film to the original film with a couple of nods that fans of the first movie would recognize.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is not only the last great summer blockbuster of the year, but a terrific reboot/prequel to the 1969 sci-fi classic with a fascinating story, award-winning CGI work and an amazing performance from Andy Serkis.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”: 4.5 starts out of 5