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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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Milk

Milk
Directed by: Gus van Sant
Written by: Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, and Emile Hirsch

Biopics may be one of the trickiest genres to pull off successfully.  This is because they are probably some of the most over made, over praised films made today.  It’s also because you need to tell an honest story that shows your subject’s dark side, but you also need to have some deep connection with them as well.  Gus van Sant’s Milk is so refreshing not because it redefines the biopic, but because it raises the bar impeccably, almost impossibly, high.

Thanks to a terrific cast led by Sean Penn’s bone-deep performance, a deservedly Oscar-winning screenplay from Dustin Lance Black, and van Sant’s film making moxy and deep connection to the material, Milk flies on the wings of creative passion.

This being said, it is not a perfect film.  If not for Penn’s incredible acting, Harvey Milk would almost be a two dimensional character.  It’s dangerous to have such a kind human being be the subject of a biopic.  Nothing against the kind, but they can be boring.  Luckily, Penn is a live wire, and lets us see the mischievous politician behind Milk’s crowd-pleasing rebellion.  His total immersion in the role earned him his second Best Actor Oscar of the decade, and he totally deserved it.

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