REVIEW: This Is 40

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This Is 40
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Written by: Judd Apatow (screenplay)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow

Paul Rudd is the only main character in Judd Apatow’s latest movie who isn’t part of the comedy auteur’s actual nuclear family.  The wife (Leslie Mann) and two children (Maude and Iris Apatow) are basically playing out better-written scenarios of their lives with a cuter dad.

This makes everything about This Is 40 feel both a little weirder and a little more alive; it’s like making your family relive an awkward Christmas on camera.  Apatow is a keen observer of white upper middle class life, though his considerable success as writer, director and producer over the past few years has made his class standing considerably higher than that.  This movie is his best since his other movie with 40 in the title, albeit much more pensive and mature.

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REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Written by: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (screenplay), Pierre Boulle (book)
Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, and John Lithgow

Rarely does anything even hinting at the label “philosophical” come close to being produced by a Hollywood studio, especially in the summer.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes is such a movie, though.  More than half of it is spent meditating on the birth of free will and the nature of violence.

This reboot is actually smart, and it’s propelled by a volcanic lead performance.  I’m not talking about James Franco.  He plays a fairly typical scientist motivated to cure a disease for personal reasons (his dad has Alzheimer’s).  I’m referring to Andy Serkis, who breathes so much life into the role of the ape Caesar that it comes close to touching what he did in the Lord of the Rings films.  He shows the true artistry of motion-capture acting.

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