Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review - War for the Planet of the Apes

“Apes together, strong” is a fitting mantra for Caesar, the super-smart lab chimp played by Andy Serkis around whom 20th Century Fox's Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy orbits. First it was his righteous rallying cry as he led a simian revolt against human oppressors in 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Then it became a plea for peace and unity in the superb 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, as fear and war-mongering rent his ape utopia asunder.
With War for the Planet of the Apes now wrapping up the story, it also serves as an 'ape-ropos' meta-assessment for the series itself. Under the sturdy guidance of husband-and-wife producers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (who co-wrote the first two chapters before turning scripting duties over to writer-director Matt Reeves, who also helmed Dawn), these three straight-faced precursors to a verbose and silly 60s sci-fi represent the best of what the modern studio culture can accomplish; A high-minded dramatic saga driven by emotion over spectacle, and serviced (rather than shadowed) by technical innovation. Taken as a whole, these Apes reboots leave an impression far more enduring than any of them do as standalone entities. Even if War doesn't quite match the sprawling Shakespearean complexity of Dawn, it still delivers a grand conclusion to what has stealthily become the finest blockbuster franchise of its decade. Apes together, strong.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Early Predictions 2017

Let's take a tentative look ahead to the coming Oscar year. Needless to say, these early predictions are far from a comprehensive survey of what award movies are coming down the pike in 2017, but some of the conversation is likely to revolve around the titles I'm guessing.

Best Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Downsizing
The Glass Castle
The Greatest Showman
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara
Mother
Mudbound
Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Project
Untitled P.T. Anderson Project

Full predictions after the cut.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Top Five Highlights of the 2016-17 Awards Season

I've vented my biggest frustrations, but the only proper way to put the season to rest is by celebrating those moments which made me most happy.

Top Five Highlights of the 2016-17 Awards Season:

5. Biopic curse broken
We were this close five years ago to having a winning lineup of actors who played four fictional characters, but then Meryl's imitation of Maggie Thatcher thwarted that plan by beating Viola Davis' ordinary hero Aibileen Clark in what we can only speculate was a photo finish. How fitting it then is that Viola is now part of the first winners' circle to feature no real life roles since the class of '97. Chalk it up if you must to a year that was a bit leaner on biopics than usual, but it's still refreshing to see four thespians clutching Oscars for playing the kinds of 'ordinary people' that Viola so passionately celebrated in every acceptance speech this season.

Top Five Pet Peeves of the 2016-17 Awards Season

Alright, the time has come to move on from this craziness. A new year in cinema is upon us, with its own horrors and treasures to discover. But first, one final look back at the horrors and treasures from the recently concluded Oscar derby:

Top Five Pet Peeves of the 2016-17 Awards Season:

5. Back-ended release calendar
This gets me every year, but why are distributers so bent on waiting until the last minute? Nearly all of my essential viewing for the year had to be crammed into December, January and February, which is no way to consume movies. Spread them out, for God's sake! At least Moonlight had the good sense to begin its roll-out in October, and look how that turned out for them. Compare that with another marvelous little movie, 20th Century Women, that held off until freakin' January. You do the math.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Oscars Post-mortem, Part 4: Favourite Nuggets

You can't catch everything there is to catch at the Oscars in one viewing. Half the joy is going back and putting the telecast under a microscope, looking for all the tiny bemusing details. These are my favourite such nuggets from the show:

Someone from Alessandro Bertolazzi's cheering section records his Oscar speech on a phone with a Suicide Squad Joker skin. How apropos.

Oscars Post-mortem, Part 3: Kimmel & the Show

Somewhat forgotten amidst the flurry of reactions regarding Moonlight's unprecedented victory last Sunday night is the Oscars telecast itself, which -- besides that historic blunder which seems to have superseded all that came before it -- was mostly a breezy and passable affair as far as awards shows go.
Justin Timberlake's interactive crowd-pleaser "Can't Stop the Feeling" (already discussed along with the other musical numbers) was a smart, engaging way kick things off, segueing into Jimmy Kimmel's opening monologue. The routine, while not the most memorable stand-up we've seen open the show in recent years, was probably the most successful. Besides leaning a bit too often on easy pickings about movies having not been seen, Kimmel batted a pretty high percentage with his jokes, most of them landing well and earning deserved laughs on cue.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Oscars Post-mortem, Part 2: Ranking the Numbers

I love me some musical numbers at the Oscars. I know not everybody does, but I've always considered it a vital part of the show. Even though three consecutive years of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron wore me down a bit (and ABC too, given how reigned in the musical moments have been these last two years), I never say 'no' to some song and dance on Hollywood's holy night. I even welcome time for the orchestra to perform the Best Original Score nominees, which used to occasionally earn a 3-4 minute spotlight, but have been largely relegated to 10-second soundbites lately.

While Sunday night's warbling was limited to a mere five performances, I treasure them all, and do soever much enjoy celebrating them through a quick (and mostly arbitrary) ranking:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Oscars Post-mortem, Part 1: Fashions

Nothing snaps me out of an Oscar hangover quite like gawking at red carpet eye-candy, and there was lots of it going around on Sunday night. I'm no style a-fashion-iado, but I know what I like, so humour me while I drool over the hottest looks one last time before digging into the telecast itself...