Rise of the Planet of the Apes (May Contain Spoilers)

With all of the prequels, sequels and reboots coming out of Hollywood in recent years (and quite likely, for the foreseeable future as well), after a while they can tend to become a little like background noise – you know they’re there, but tend not to take much notice of them. A few of these films that have tried to pin themselves to the success of others have proven to be worth watching and genuinely add to what the originals had to offer, and some just tend to let everyone down and ruin what could have been something great. Luckily, Rise of the Planet of the Apes sits firmly in the former.

Taking place many, many years before the original Planet of the Apes (and just to clarify, I am talking about the original Charlton Heston version, and not Tim Burton’s re-imagining. It may have had better visual effects, but still, that’s just not an excuse anymore…), Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes everything back to the very beginning of the simian revolution, and ties up all threads that led up to how apes became the supreme beings on Earth. It all starts with Will Rodman (James Franco), a brilliant scientific mind who is on the verge of creating a cure for Alzheimer’s disease which has struck his father (John Lithgow) very hard. The most successful ape in his trials manages to break free and gets shot right before a presentation, but leaves behind a baby ape with the chemical cure passed down genetically. What Will soon finds out is that his chemical isn’t just a cure, but enhances brain activity as well, and so he studies the ape he’s named Caeser and along with his love interest Caroline (Frieda Pinto), teaches him things no normal ape could comprehend. Eventually, Caeser is an ape with an extraordinary mind and has proven that Will’s cure for Alzheimer’s works. But as his boss (David Oyelewo) begins work on a stronger version of his cure, Caeser gets put into an ape sanctuary where the handlers (Tom Felton and Brian Cox) are cruel and merciless, and the other apes fight for dominance. Before long, Caeser unites his fellow apes together and plots an escape from their prison to the freedom of the outside world.

I can’t really express how impressive and generally exciting Rise of the Planet of the Apes is in a way that is short and sweet enough to mean I don’t go on forever about every little bit, so I’ll try and stick to the basics of what I liked, and just say that it definitely lived up to my expectations of it (I also want to mention that I avoided making any monkey-puns during the writing of this review. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it).

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the fact that you end up being very sympathetic towards an animal main character, as Andy Serkis manages to bring some amazing effects and facial emotions to the character of Caeser. You end up truly feeling the plight of this creature and partly feeling that him leading the apes on a revolution is somewhat deserved. Then you remember “Oh wait, I’m a human, I should really be on their side”.

The effects in general are amazing, as well, as each ape manages to take on some kind of personality and play a part towards the end, and you can see how parts of what happen in ROTPOTA leads into the hierarchy of the original.

What I perhaps liked the most about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, though, is the very end parts. Not only do you get to see Caeser with his fellow (now smarter) ape brethren in the freedom of the forests where they belong, but midway through the credits we are all treated to an explanation of how humans died out from the virus created by the stronger version of the Alzheimer’s Cure, and how it spreads throughout the globe, showing how it wasn’t apes themselves that killed off humans, but a virus instead that left Apes as the dominant species. This tied everything together neatly into one, very solid storyline and one amazingly visual film.

It’s actually hard to find too many things I can really fault Rise of the Planet of the Apes on. One small thing perhaps would be the scene on the San Francisco Bridge when a mounted policeman is charging a silverback Gorilla. Now while I admit that I’m no scientist when it comes to animals, it seems to me that no matter what kind of horse you’re riding, if it were to see a gorilla running at it it would almost definitely turn and run the other way and not carry on running! But, as I said, this is a science fiction film and is only really a small flaw in an otherwise brilliantly put together film.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets 9 out of 10 for having incredible visual effects an tying everything together in a well-rounded way that also manages to lead in nicely to the original films and have a good script and acting at the same time. It’s a lot to be able to pull off in one film, but Rise definitely seems to have covered all the bases.

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LISTED Film Previews – August ’11

Carrying on the big Summer Blockbuster hits of the season, I very nearly ran out of space in this months section as there was SO much that I wanted to write about these films, but had to limit what I could put for each of them. Never the less, all the best films (and worst) films for this month managed to get a mention, so get your great big dirty eyes round these and pick something to watch!

COWBOYS & ALIENS (12A) (Dir. Jon Favreau)

This neo-Western sci-fi epic set in Silver City, Arizona in 1873 sees Daniel Craig as a man on the run who wakes up in the wilderness to find an unusual mechanism attached to his wrist. After journeying back to town, the colonel (Harrison Ford, back in a hat again!) puts him in shackles. At that moment, the most unlikely of events occurs – an Alien spacecraft arrives in the town with bad intentions. Now, a posse of cowboys and Native Americans must band together to fight the extra-terrestrial invaders. Expect bucket-loads of epic action and effects in this comic book adaptation from the director of Iron Man. Released August 19th.

SUPER 8 (12A) (Dir. J.J. Abrams)

In a small Ohio town in 1979, a group of teenagers shooting a super 8 movie witness a train crash and capture it on film. But later they suspect that the crash was no accident as strange events start taking place in their town, and as their deputy begins to investigate, a monstrous phenomenon emerges. This highly anticipated film from the director of Star Trek and Cloverfield will have both cult followers and mainstream film-goers excited in equal measures! Released August 5th.

THE SMURFS (PG) (Dir. Raja Gosnell)

Call me cynical, but the more films that try to rejuvenate classic cartoons from the past into CGI money-makers shows a growing lack of originality. Both Marmaduke and Yogi Bear went South, and it could be that The Smurfs being magically transported to New York could head down the same dangerous path. However, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry as Smurfette and Hank Azaria as Gargamel could be what saves this from being a total smurf-up. Released August 10th.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (12A) (Dir. Rupert Wyatt)

Finally seeing a prequel to the famous Sci-fi film series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes stars James Franco as a research scientist working to create a cure for Alzheimer’s by experimenting on a chimp named Caesar. But the consequences of his research are bigger than anyone could have expected, and the development of animal intelligence brings around a war for dominance between apes and humans. Just the effects in the trailers are entirely mind blowing, and with Andy Serkis getting his primate on again after King Kong you can bet that this will completely re-define everything that was known about this series until now. Guaranteed, this will be a big hit on all accounts! Released August 12th.

THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE (15) (Dir. Ben Palmer)

Alright, so it may well be like a modern day Kevin And Perry Go Large, but considering that The Inbetweeners has been one of the biggest sitcom hits of recent years, the fact that the boys are getting their own movie comes as little surprise! Will (Simon Bird), Jay (James Buckley), Neil (Blake Harrison) and Simon (Joe Thomas) are all heading out on a group holiday to Crete. But, as with all the best laid plans of the foursome, things are bound to go awry. This could end up being the British answer to The Hangover, so don’t see this if you don’t want your sides split! Released August 19th.

As published in Listed Magazine and online at http://www.listedmagazine.com

LISTED Film Previews – June 2011

Yes, it’s almost summer time and it does seem a shame to spend sunny days inside watching movies (well, for some of us it’s a shame). But should there ever be rainy days, and you find yourself with too much cash in your wallet and need to get rid of it quickly, then at least you’ll have these films to see! There are some blinders this month, and they’re only going to get better as we head into Summer Blockbuster territory, so wrap your eyes round these if you care to:

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (12A) (Dir. Matthew Vaughn)

If the last instalment in the X-Men franchise was an origins story for Wolverine, then this is the origin of Professor X, Magneto and the entire X-Men team. It’s 1963, and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) are discovering their mutant powers and band together to find others like themselves. But as a threat to the world emerges, a rift grows between the two and they begin to divide into opposing sides. X-Men: First Class will also see January Jones as Emma Frost, the questionable Nick Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast, and Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, as well as a whole host of other big names from Marvel Comics’ X-Universe. Also, Bryan Singer (the original director of the first two X-Men films) is on-board as producer, and director of Kick-Ass Matthew Vaughn takes control of bringing the origins of the ­X-Men to life. Expect a lot of what made the first X-Men films so great, but not quite as you recognise it. Released 1st June.

KUNG-FU PANDA 2 (PG) (Dir. Jennifer Yuh)

The hungriest martial artist in the animal kingdom returns for a second fistful of action. Po (Jack Black) is sent on a journey with the Furious Five to stop an evil master (Gary Oldman) from releasing a deadly new weapon which could eradicate kung-fu forever. If you allowed yourself to be a kid again and enjoyed the first one, then there are plenty more gags to entertain you in this sequel. And for once, having it in 3D might not be such a bad thing with all the action scenes and explosions! Released 10th June.

GREEN LANTERN (12A) (Dir. Martin Campbell)

One of the most highly anticipated comic-book films of the year (alongside the three Marvel Comics releases), Ryan Reynolds is Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot who comes into contact with a dying, crash-landed member of an intergalactic police force. He becomes the first human to be granted membership into the Green Lantern Corps, and is given a ring that grants him otherworldly powers. But his admission into the squadron coincides with the appearance of the Parallax – a fear entity which threatens to destroy the universes balance of power. Even though there seems to be plenty of material to satisfy long-term fans of one of DC Comics’ forefront superheroes, there have been suggestions that the visual effects might not be up to scratch. While the alien world of Oa has been brilliantly created through CGI, the decision to have Hal’s Green Lantern suit done entirely in CGI as well might give the film a questionable look, and might end up relying on the action and story to save it. Released 17th June.

BAD TEACHER (15) (Dir. Jake Kasden)

Cameron Diaz stars in this slightly more adult comedy than what it appears to be as a recently jilted, unsaintly high school teacher who targets a colleague as her next lover, only to spark a war with a fellow teacher. Probably not one to see if you’re looking for something more original. Released 24th June.

As published in Listed Magazine and on http://www.listedmagazine.com

VersaEmerge @ The Joiners, 17/5/11

Mere minutes after the doors have opened and already a large crowd has gathered around the front of the stage at The Joiners on a bright Spring evening. Although the fact that not one of them is old enough to remember Thundercats being on TV and the PA is pumping out new age pop-rock-rap should be cause for concern. But tonight is no ordinary night – it is the first night of Floridian rockers VersaEmerge’s first ever headlining UK tour.

Kids Can't Fly start off the evening.

But first, opening up the night is the schoolboy ska-punk stylings of local boys Kids Can’t Fly. After the younger audience members at the front are done going crazy for them coming on stage, Kids Can’t Fly jump straight in with their fresh and funky mixture of punk-rock and duelling vocals with added Sax appeal, showcased by their songs Open Wide and Vicious Circle which both rock and bounce in equal measures. Kids Can’t Fly round off their set with the bouncy summer anthem The Summer and their big, catchier-than-H1N1 single She Called Shotgun which is currently making the rounds on rock music TV channels. By the end of their set, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Kids Can’t Fly are higher up the bill after the crowd reaction they get, so hopefully we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

Southampton's Finest - Not Advised

After the room is plunged into darkness and In The Hall Of The Mountain King chimes through the PA, it can only mean that Southampton’s Pop-Punk prodigal sons are being heralded to the stage. The second their intro music ends, Not Advised plunge headfirst into I’ll Call You a Winner, straight away showing they are a force to be reckoned with. The A.R.K and Jane Says Left work wonders in getting the crowd to sing and chant along in time with the band before Not Advised decide to bust out brand new songs All I Need and the slower, brooding Good News for the first night of the tour. To close off their set, Not Advised go from zero to hardcore in no time with their anthemic single Right Now before finishing on crowd sing-along favourite The World’s Not Ready. If Not Advised are the future of home-grown pop-punk-rock, then the future is definitely bright!

The atmospheric, ethereal sounds of VersaEmerge coming to the stage, softly blending into Stranger, are broken only by rock-vixen Sierra Kusterbeck’s siren-like vocals building into the kind of punk-rock scream that could shatter the glass in your hand, to which the crowd go equally as mad as they take no breaks before playing Fire (Aim Your Arrows High).

Sierra and Blake kicking things off.

While it might be easy to compare VersaEmerge to other similar female-fronted rock outfits signed to the Fuelled By Ramen label (yes, we’re looking at you, Paramore…), Kusterbeck and Co. do a fantastic job of setting themselves firmly in a league of their own with their dark-tinged alt-rock style and the pure energy of a band hungry to make a name for themselves. While guitarist Blake Harnage bounces with energy during their set, Sierra stalks about the stage like a cat preying on a small furry creature its spotted and you can tell that there is something darker at work in VersaEmerge’s music tonight.

The point at which Sierra’s haunting vocals shine the most is after their older material, including fan favourite and breakthrough single Past Praying For, when she announces “This song is about someone… but they’ll never know”  and they blend into You’ll Never Know and Your Own Love.

Latest single Figure It Out works well in getting the crowd jumping and moving before they go into Mind Reader, but it’s their big hit single Fixed At Zero that brings down the house as they close their set to deafening cheers and screams from the feverish fans.

Kusterbeck lulls the crowd to a close

After only the slightest encouragement from the crowd, VersaEmerge grace the stage again for an encore of their hauntingly melodic Clocks from their EP, Sierra’s hypnotic vocals bringing the evening to a chilling close.

If this evenings show is anything to go by, VersaEmerge are indeed out to make a name for themselves – and if they’re able to keep delivering shows this memorable, then it’s hardly going to be challenge for them!

LISTED Film Previews – May 2011

Yes, once again it’s the lead up to the big Summer of blockbuster movies, and you can already tell that production companies are gearing up for the big summer releases when the sequels start appearing more and more towards the Summer months. Having said that, a lot of them look quite interesting this year and I’ll more than likely end up at most of them. But until then, here are some previews for you lovely lot out there to have a gander at while I get comfy and watch my stories. SHHH, it’s about to start…

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (12A) (Dir. Rob Marshall)

Once again seeing Johnny Depp reprise his role as the iconic rum fiend Captain Jack Sparrow, On Stranger Tides is not so much a sequel but more of a continuation of a now on-going series. This time round, Cap’n Sparrow is on a search for the fabled Fountain of Youth, during which he crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz) and the infamous Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who takes over control of the Black Pearl. Personally, I’m not expecting too much that hasn’t already been done in the other films, and with Gore Verbinsky overboard from directing it might not have the spark that made the first Pirates so ground-breaking. But with Knightley and Bloom now dropped from the cast, Keith Richards returning again as Jack’s father and the inevitability of it being released in 3D, it might just be the Pirates that the previous two were so desperately trying to be. Released May 18th.

THE HANGOVER PART II (15) (Dir. Todd Phillips)

The Wolfpack is back for another outrageous series of events from the night before from hell. This time we see Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) travelling to Thailand to celebrate Stu’s wedding in Bangkok. But where there are celebrations, there are consequences. So when everyone wakes in a hotel room with memory loss, some shaved heads, facial tattoos and a monkey on the loose, they have to track down Stu’s fiancée’s brother by following clues from their night out leading them to a monastery, a tattoo parlour with a crazy artist, and all over half of Bangkok in the process. And if you thought that they got into some trouble in the first Hangover, then Part II is sure to top everything! As with the first film, The Hangover Part II is sure to be the breakout comedy hit of the year. Released May 27th.

PRIEST (15) (Dir. Scott Charles Stewart)

Set in an alternate world ravaged by centuries of war between humans and vampires, a legendary Warrior Priest (Paul Bettany) lives in a dystopian walled-in city run by The Church. But when his niece is abducted by a roaming pack of vampires, Priest chooses to break his sacred vows to the Church and leaves the sanctuary of the city in order to find her, aided by a young band of warriors like himself. The overall feel of Priest comes across like a mixture of Underworld or Resident Evil with a bit of Terminator: Salvation. Whilst it seems like it might be lacking some depth in its story, Priest could make up for it with some promising (if overblown) 3D action sequences, so check it out if you’re into big ridiculous action films! Released May 11th.

HANNA (12A) (Dir. Joe Wright)

A 16-year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan), raised by her father (Eric Bana) to be the perfect assassin, is dispatched on a mission across Europe while also being tracked by a ruthless intelligence agency and facing questions about her existence and her humanity. Bear in mind this is less of an action film but more of a drama with serious undertones, go and see it if you ever enjoyed the film Leon. Released May 6th.

As published in Listed Magazine and on http://www.listedmagazine.com

LISTED Film Previews – April 2011

Yes, intrepid film explorers, it’s time for another monthly round-up of my previews for the coming month of films. I think April is going to be the start of something very good this year, and is going to start the film juices flowing for easier digestion of the upcoming year. I can also only apologise for the lack of other posts recently, but I assure you, there will be more to come soon! Until that point in the future, wrap your eyelids round these for a while as a snack before the main course:

THOR (12A) (Dir. Kenneth Branagh)

The first (and quite possibly the best) of the big comic-book hero movies of the year comes in the form of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the famous Norse God of Thunder who, after defying his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), gets cast out from Asgard and must live amongst humans on Earth. When he meets the scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), he finds a new reason to defend Earth and retrieves his hammer Mjolnir, the source of his thunder powers. Expect big-time graphics and 3D during the scenes in Asgard and with The Destroyer from one of Marvel Comics biggest hits. And if this film manages to pull in the crowds, imagine how much The Avengers will do next year! Released 15th April.

SUCKER PUNCH (15) (Dir. Zack Snyder)

Snyder’s own original fantasy style vision will hit our screens in his true bombastic fashion. Locked away in a mental institute by her father, a young girl nick-named Baby Doll (Emily Browning) retreats into a Fantasy world with four other girl inmates (including Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie and Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea) of their own creation. But as they regress further into their fantasy world, a plan becomes clear to how they can collect 5 items from the fantasy world which they can use to escape their captors in the real world before it’s too late for all of them. Expect loads of amazing visuals and sexy steam-punk dressed girls battling dragons and other creatures with massive machine guns and suits of armour –a geeks dream come true? Quite possibly! Released 1st April.

SCREAM 4 (18) (Dir. Wes Craven)

The fourth instalment of Wes Craven’s genre-bending comedy-slasher series finally arrives to give a new generation a reason to not answer the phone. Neve Campbell returns as Sydney Prescott, the girl with a dark history who after a decade away returns to the town of Woodsboro. But along with her arrival comes a chain of copy-cat murders from a new Ghostface. Now, after a generation of horror films, the rules have all changed which means anything goes in this game of horror. With a new cast of possible victims including Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin, and with David Arquette and Courtney Cox returning also, who knows who will be the next to go… Released 22nd April.

FAST FIVE (12A) (Dir. Justin Lin)

Clearly, this whole car-porn line of films generates enough money that they can keep making sequels despite how little variation on a storyline there can really be. Still, saying that, Fast Five has been shot with the idea of releasing it in IMAX, so even the most un-car-savvy of us might actually be tempted into seeing some sweet rides race across floor-to-ceiling screens in high definition and 3D. At least this one still has the original cast of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, and with the addition of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, you can bet this will be as explosive as the other Fast and the Furious films. Released 29th April.

As published in Listed Magazine and on http://www.listedmagazine.com

LISTED Film Previews – March 2011

Yes sir, it’s those lovely Film Previews straight from the pages of Listed Magazine once again! We’re getting closer to a spring/summer of some BIG films this year, and so far it’s looking like there won’t be as many re-makes this year and instead just some good quality cinema action! In the meantime though, here’s March’s edition. Enjoy!

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (12A) (Dir. George Nolfi)

Based loosely around a short story by Phillip K. Dick, co-writer of The Bourne Ultimatum George Nolfi brings to life this story of an ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) who meets and pursues a ballet dancer (Emily Blunt) unlike any other woman he has known. As he realises he is falling for her, outside forces start to conspire against the pair, and they soon find themselves on the run from the men from The Adjustment Bureau – agents of Fate itself. Now, Norris must go against overwhelming odds to do whatever he can to evade these agents and take his fate into his own hands so that no one else can control it but him. With a slick mixture of Bourne-style action and some sci-fi mystery, The Adjustment Bureau looks as though it will keep its audience on the edge of their seat from two fronts – so if this sounds like your thing, make sure you catch it! Released March 4th.

WORLD INVASION: BATTLE LOS ANGELES (12A) (Dir. Jonathan Liebesman)

Lifted a bit from the District 9/Independence Day school of filmmaking, Battle: Los Angeles sees Aaron Eckhart as part of a Marine platoon who unexpectedly gets drafted in to fight an alien invasion in Los Angeles. The trailer for this shows off some pretty large-scale CGI, but at the end of the day it seems like there might not be all that much in the way of originality. Check it out if you’re a sci-fi buff, but save it if you’re waiting for other things to come up. Released March 11th.

INSIDE JOB (12A) (Dir. Charles Ferguson)

The tagline for this financial documentary about the USA’s economy situation reads “The global economic crisis of 2008 cost tens of millions of people their savings, their jobs and their homes. This is how it happened.” Inside Job is the documentary of the year that could potentially expose the most information about the economic crisis to people that might otherwise not know the finer details. Exposing corruption, rogue companies, and interviews with key financial insiders and politicians and narrated by Matt Damon, Inside Job will have you hating the government even more than you already did! Released March 4th.

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (15) (Dir. Woody Allen)

The latest offering of alternative comedy-romance films from Woody Allen follows the lives of two couples who separate and start heading towards trouble: Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and her husband Roy (Josh Brolin). Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and chases after the young, free-spirited call girl Charmaine whilst Helena starts to live a little too closely to the advice of her strange fortune teller. At the same time, Sally feels unhappy with her marriage and develops a crush on her boss (Antonio Banderas) at the art gallery while Roy becomes infatuated with a woman who catches his eye through a window as he eagerly awaits the response to his first novel manuscript. As you can guess, you can pretty much expect something very unconventional in the comedy-romance department if it’s coming from Woody Allen, and with a cast this strong you can also expect some very well played parts in this anti rom-com. Released March 18th.

As published in Listed Magazine and on http://www.listedmagazine.com