REVIEW: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver & Mark Bomback (screenplay), Pierre Boulle (novel)
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell

(Spoilers throughout) 

Aside from a prologue where the spread of a humanity-eradicating virus plays out in mock news footage projected on a map of the globe, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins and ends with the same pair of enraged eyes.  Those eyes will be familiar to anyone who saw the spectacular first installment of this rebooted series, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  They are Caesar’s, the ape brought to inquisitive, now-domineering life in yet another astonishing motion capture performance by Andy Serkis.

Part of what made Rise such a thrill was they way it surrounded its outbursts of action-movie violence with an emotionally resonant, elegiac beauty.  CGI apes were utilized not just as disposable bodies for battle scenes, but as characters even more important than the humans.  Images of young Caesar sitting at a piano with an old man with Alzheimer’s, or a horde of freed apes swinging through rustling trees as pedestrians stop on the street to look up are just as memorable as the incredible action set piece on The Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a summer blockbuster that insisted on taking its time, making its big finale (and the shouting of the word “No!”) all the more rousing.

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REVIEW: Let Me In

Let Me In
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Matt Reeves (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist (book)
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas

Cinema purists (this one included) were dreading the inevitable day they would have to sit through an American remake to the beloved Swedish film Let the Right One In. It was the vampire movie that didn’t suck, and we’d be damned if Hollywood was going to take that away from us with a big budget redo with A-list stars. Some watchers would never let this one in; never consider the possibility that it could be good.  They’d be missing out.

As it turns out, Let Me In is a surprisingly competent remake of the excellent Swedish version.  Like so many other films, this one originated in literature, though the films are more widely known.  Matt Reeves, known mostly for Cloverfield, takes the story from Sweden to Reagan-era New Mexico.  A seemingly odd choice, but setting it in a desert during winter effectively recreates the barren Swedish landscape so vital to the mood of the original.

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