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Review – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

In the last two hundred and fifty years, there have been revolutions in America, France and Russia, to name three of many. Now, due to the entertaining, if flawed, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there has been an ‘Ape revolution’ to add to that (tragically) long list.

Baby Caesar, the future leader of the ‘Ape revolution.’

The film’s plot centres round Will (James Franco – 127 Hours, Your Highness, Sausage Party) and his incredibly bright pet chimpanzee, Caesar (played by Andy Serkis – The Lord of the Rings I, II & III, Burke & Hare, The Hobbit I ). Will is a scientist, who believes that he has found the cure for Alzheimer’s. He uses data readings from apes – Caesar in particular – to prove it. The cure also increases brain function and intelligence considerably. This enables Caesar to communicate with Will, as well as facilitate the former’s ability to learn compassion and love; not to mention help set up Will with the beautiful Caroline (Frieda Pinto – Slumdog Millionaire, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Immortals).

Nevertheless, the cure also makes Caesar realise that he is different from humans. After being taken into captivity, and being maltreated by Dodge (Tom Felton – The Borrowers, Harry Potter I-VII(i) & VII(ii), The Apparition), Caesar uses his brain to the maximum. Then, in a Lenin-like moment, he calls upon all the apes of San Francisco (rather than the workers of the world) to unite and fight back against human rule. Thus, begins the ‘Ape revolution.’ But where will it end?

Dodge (Tom Felton) making sure that all the apes are locked in their cages.

For a little over an hour, the storyline and the dialogue for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is easy to follow, engaging and intelligent. Christopher Wyatt’s (The Escapist) film appears to hold great promise, but, alas, it goes badly off on a tangent for the last forty minutes. Several elements of the movie are left incomplete and unexplained; for example, at the sanctuary there are at most two dozen apes, but when Caesar leads the revolution there are hundreds. Where did they all come from, and how did they all become so intelligent?

The plot may have its flaws, but the acting by Andy Serkis makes the film worth watching. Serkis, in another Gollum-like role (albeit without the schizophrenia and dual-personality disorder), delivers another impressive performance. Using facial expressions, gesticulations and sign language, Serkis gives Caesar some very human characteristics that force viewers to empathise with Caesar’s situation (at least for the majority of the film).

Serkis’ performance is undoubtedly the best of the cast. Nevertheless, James Franco and John Lithgow (Shrek, Dreamgirls, New Year’s Eve), who plays Will’s father, don’t play badly either, even if their roles are not especially challenging. The same, though, cannot be said for Freida Pinto, Tom Felton and David Oyelowo (Derailed, The Last King of Scotland, The Help), who plays as Will’s boss at the laboratory. Again, none of their roles are challenging and they may not have much screen time. But when they do appear, they all have two-dimensional characters that sound awfully contrived. And, in Felton’s case, if he plays a character similar to Draco Malfoy once more he risks being type-casted.

Brotherly love between the fully grown Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) and Will.

With the exception of Serkis, the acting may not be notable. Nevertheless, the music is uplifting and apt for every scene, thereby making the movie that bit more gripping. Similarly, the special effects throughout the film are pretty decent. More often than not, one would believe that it is a real chimpanzee climbing through the trees, rather than it being part-Serkis, part-CGI.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an enjoyable movie. Serkis delivers another sterling performance. With the aid of some brilliant CGI, he is able to give his ape a very human feel. It is a shame for him that most other aspects of the movie are not on the same level. In many ways, Rise of the Planet of the Apes epitomises revolutions in general. It loses its way.

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Review – Your Highness (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

We’ve had spoofs of horror films, action films and even vampire love-stories. Now, for the first time since the amusing Robin Hood: Men In Tights, there is a parody on a medieval-based kingdom; albeit, this movie has elements of fantasy and magic in it. Your Highness may not be the most hilarious film one will see this year, but it certainly has many funny moments.

Thadeous (Danny McBride) watches as Fabious (James Franco) waits for the magical compass to indicate which way will lead them to the Sword of the Unicorn.

The film revolves around Thadeous (Danny McBride – Due Date, Despicable Me, Up In The Air), the fat and lazy second son of King Tallious (Charles Dance – Game of Thrones, Aliens 3). Thadeous is a stark contrast to his older brother, Fabious (James Franco – 127 Hours, Spiderman I, II & III, The Rise of Planet of The Apes), the handsome and athletic heir, who is the hero of the nation. Not long into the film, Fabious’ fiancée, Belladonna (Zooey Decshanel – Yes Man, 500 Days of Summer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy), is taken by the evil sorcerer, Leezar (Justin Theroux – American Psycho, Megamind, Miami Vice). Fabious must rescue her, and do so before the two moons come together. Otherwise Leezar will defile Belladonna, impregnating her so she can give birth to a dragon that will enable him to take over the kingdom.

As Leezar is a powerful sorcerer, the only way Fabious can defeat him is with the mystical Sword of the Unicorn. Thus, Fabious, Thadeous and a couple of others go on a quest to find the fabled sword. En route, they come across the beautiful warrior Isabelle (Natalie Portman – Star Wars I-III, Black SwanThor), who has her own reasons for wanting to defeat Leezar.

The plot is ridiculous and amusing at the same time. Your Highness does not take itself remotely serious and nor do the actors. If one were expecting another award nominating display from James Franco and Natalie Portman, one should think again before seeing this movie. The actors see the film for what it is (a joke) and play their roles accordingly. Indeed, one wonders how they kept a straight face whilst they recited some of their cliché and ludicrously laughable lines.

The evil one, Leezar (Justin Theroux), smirking as he waits for the two moons to merge.

Nevertheless, the dialogue in Your Highness does make viewers laugh quite frequently. It is a very modern, crude dialogue though; devoid of any real reflection of the medieval era. This is not necessarily a criticism; however, if one were going into this film believing it to be a satire of a by-gone age then one will be disappointed.

There is little else to note about Your Highness. The structure of the film has been done reasonably well by the director, David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, The Sitter, Joe), but the special effects are nothing special,  and the music is a comical mishmash between Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings (plus probably a handful of other scores from films that I am unaware of).

Ultimately, Your Highness makes people laugh and, as a comedy, it therefore fulfils its prime purpose without being anything noteworthy. One will not be in hysterical laughter throughout the entire film, but will find much of the movie amusing if one likes crude humour.

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