Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

DotPotA poster20th Century Fox/Chernin Ent./TSG Ent. (2014) 130 min. PG-13

Director: Matt Reeves

Screenplay: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver; inspired by Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Cinematography: Michael Seresin; Editing: William Hoy & Stan Salfas

Production Design: James Chinlund; Set Decoration: Amanda Moss Serino

Costumes: Melissa Bruning; Score: Michael Giacchino

Stars: Andy Serkis (Caesar), Jason Clarke (Malcolm), Gary Oldman (Dreyfuss), Keri Russell (Ellie), Toby Kebbell (Koba), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Alexander), Kirk Acevedo (Carver), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Nick Thurston (Blue Eyes), Terry Notary (Rocket), Doc Shaw (Ash)  

Cinema’s umpteenth Planet of the Apes film isn’t a great movie, but it allows a director brand new to the franchise to take a great crack at interpreting the theme. In Matt Reeves’ unusually sensitive hands, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes manages to be unaccountably moving at times, even while we’re laughing at ourselves for being so easily taken in and emotionally manipulated. It should be impossible to take these Ape films seriously on any level other than silly camp but the last two titles have both managed to be deeply affecting. They’re too excessively well-made to brush off lightly and Reeves shows respect for his talking monkeys, rather than approaching them with mockery. True, the concept demands some getting used to. Initially it seems like something Michael Crichton might have conceived, like Congo or maybe even Konga.

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The Tree of Life

TOL posterFox Searchlight (2011) 139 min. PG-13

Director: Terrence Malick

Screenplay: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki

Editing: Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber & Mark Yoshikawa

Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jeanette Scott

Costumes: Jacqueline West

Score: Alexandre Desplat

Stars: Brad Pitt (Mr. O’Brien), Sean Penn (Jack), Jessica Chastain (Mrs. O’Brien), Hunter McCracken (Young Jack), Laramie Eppler (R.L.), Tye Sheridan (Steve), Fiona Shaw (Grandmother)

“Think of a tree, how it grows ‘round its roots. The branch breaks off, it don’t stop, but keeps reaching toward the light.” – The New World

Terrence Malick has always been an acquired taste. His movies are mood pieces paced to the cadence of internal monologues whispered rhetorically by his characters in hushed, reverential tones onscreen. Striving for more than the movie medium can encompass, he’s a visionary seeking to push past its restricting barriers to self-expression. When the man stays focused there’s no director better at vividly evoking the sentient, existential sensations of simple human perception. His movies pulsate with the vibrancy of life as we experience it at almost a subliminal level. They heighten our awareness in a way that makes us feel as if we were experiencing a movie fully awake and responsive for the first time.

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