Movie Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: A beautifully produced film that once again gets to show off the brilliance of Andy Serkis of Gollum fame.  Some third act implausibilities spoil the movie some, but it’s still a worthy successor to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.

Andy Serkis is pretty awesome.  He plays Caesar, the leader of the ape tribe that escaped in the end of the previous movie as it maintains its empire 10 years later.  Serkis does all of the acting for Caesar, the movements, the voice, the facial expressions.  He does such a good job that Caesar might as well be human.  That isn’t to say that the other apes are two-dimensional, but Serkis makes Caesar almost four-dimensional.

The other headliner apes are also well played and the personality of each was well fleshed out, all without words being spoken, but with sign language and facial expressions.  Not an easy feat.  My only complaint about the apes in general was the insistence of the director to adorn the female apes with jewelry so the audience could distinguish sex.  Maybe there’s something else going on there that I just don’t recognize, though.  It was also annoying how much of a backseat the female apes took given that I’m pretty sure that most ape societies are fairly egalitarian about such things.

While the apes definitely stole the show, there were some good human performances as well.  Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman play the leaders of New San Francisco, with Jason being the ape friendly one and Gary being the ape hostile one.  As with the ape society, the human society was very patriarchical with only one female (Keri Russel) given any real role to play.  At least they didn’t make her the damsel in distress, which they very well could have.

The plot is mostly believable except for a few sticking points.  There’s a part in the beginning where Ceasar claims they haven’t seen humans in 2 years which seems unlikely given how close New San Francisco is, but it’s really a throw away point that doesn’t add or detract from the story.  Then there’s the apes’ use of guns.  What do you think would happen if an ape society that has absolutely no experience with guns suddenly gets hold of an arsenal and attacks the humans with it?  The apes would pretty much accidentally slaughter each other in the attack.  But no.  In this, they are really good marksapes and are able to perform a successful frontal assault on the heavily guarded human position.  I know, this was for special effects fun and allowed the movie to keep moving, but it still bothers me.

Aside from those minor quibbles, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a good time and I would highly recommend it.  Be sure to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” first if you haven’t yet.  It’s not necessary to see the first, but it will add some context and it’s really a better movie in general.

I Bet You’ve Never Had This Dream

No matter how many weird dreams I have, I continue to be amazed at how weird dreams can be.  The one I had last night may be the strangest.

I was my adult self and I was playing kids games with all of my adult friends outside what I am pretty sure was my childhood home.  At some point during all of our frivolity, a large something falls down and hits me on my right upper arm.  The impact of this hit forces almost my entire humerus bone to be forced out of my elbow in some macabre Wolverine-like claw.

“Someone should probably take me to the hospital”, I state matter of factly as I pull the rest of the bone from the orifice.

What ensues is a giant argument among my friends as to who will take me to the hospital.  At one point they decide that they’ll all take me and pile into a sub-compact car leaving no room for me to fit in the car.  At another point, I somehow lose my erstwhile attached humerus and a great hunt commenced.  “Guys, if someone hid my humerus, this isn’t funny”, I said proving that even in my dreams I crack crappy puns.

I also remember being really weirded out by the motions I was able to still perform with my hand and that despite my missing bone, I was able to put pressure on my arm.  There was no pain and no blood to speak of.

I woke up before we ever figured out how to get me to the hospital.  Worst friends evar.

Movie Review: Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Jean-Paul’s Rating: -10/ 5 stars

Bottom Line: Every time you see a Michael Bay film, god kills a kitten.

I am a masochist.  That is the only reason I can give you for why I went to see this movie after hating every other “Transformers” movie that Michael Bay has released.  “But this one will be different,” I reasoned with myself, showing all the signs of being in an abusive relationship.  “This one has Mark Wahlberg, I like Mark Wahlberg.  Michael Bay has changed, I just know he has.”  I need an intervention badly.

The movie started off decently enough in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way.  You have an intro where it is revealed that aliens destroyed the dinosaurs by turning them all into metal despite the fact that none of the present dinosaur remains are actually metal for some reason except one that they find in a mining complex.  There is all of this really amusingly bad dialogue and acting between Mark Wahlberg, the Michael Bay token hot chick, and the Michael Bay token annoying sidekick guy.  Then Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci show up as the villains and I’m thinking that this may be a decent movie after all.  Boy was I wrong.

The rest of the movie was an insult to good taste and intelligence.  There is not a single plot point that makes even the remotest sense.  For instance, all the transformers are being hunted by a special branch of the CIA because of their metal which should have been in abundance on Earth because of the previously alluded to dinosaur extinction.  The action scenes are an assault on the senses that make no coherent sense whatsoever (except for a pretty decent fight scene between Optimus Prime and random space robot dude #1).  This, too, must explode for no reason at all because there hasn’t been a good explosion for over one second.Even ignoring the fact that there were supposed to only be 30 enemy robots in the final epic battle but the good guys ended um killing umpteen millions of them, the enemy robots have the ability to transform into this swarm of metal that can apparently fly anywhere and yet they consistently decide to turn into cars and robots.  All the better to shoot you, my dear.

I feel stupider after having seen this movie.  The following is a partial list of what would have been a better use of my time than spending the 2 hours and 40 minutes it took to watch this clunker: watching lead paint dry, peel, and crack for 40 years and then eating the paint chips, running a barefoot marathon over a surface of broken glass, getting killed by a pair of tweezers that was only used to pick the skin off of my body one tweeze at a time.

Best Man Speech

I recently had to give a best man speech at a wedding.  Believing that anything worth doing is worth going overboard, it was longer than the actual ceremony.  I was also really nervous which is strange for me, but I think it only manifested itself in shaky hands.  Despite that, it was fairly well received so I thought I’d share it with the world so that all may bask in my ability to speak words from paper.  It’s like 1500 words so I’ll put it below the fold.  A quick note, the stuff in parenthesis were not spoken but I added them in because it will makes more sense to the reader who doesn’t have the benefit of seeing my awesome acting ability.  It starts:

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The Speed Of Light Slows Down

Once upon a time, there was a blast of neutrinos detected on Earth, followed three hours later by another blast of neutrinos.  7.7 hours after the initial blast, a star brightened in the tell-tale signs of a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud.  This is highly unusual because neutrinos and photons both travel at the speed of light and while it is known that photons spend the first 3 or so hours bouncing around inside a supernova, there’s still 4.7 hours unaccounted for.  Since scientists couldn’t explain the arrival time difference, they dismissed it as two separate occurrences even though the probability of them being related is quite high.

Now, scientists have a mathematical solution for the time difference.  Basically, it goes like this.  Neutrinos for the most part do not interact with matter at all.  They can go right through the Earth as if it were empty space.  Photons are not so lucky.  They can be bent by gravity, they can run into matter, and they can cease to be photons for miniscule moments of time to form an electron-positron pair.  The latter is where things get interesting.  An electron-positron pair suddenly has mass that can be much more affected by gravity than a lone photon.  It last for no time at all before going back to a photon, but scientists found that this new gravitational potential of the electron-positron pair corresponds to the missing 4.7 hours.

This is fascinating because a quantum mechanical effect has been combined with a relativistic effect to produce a result.  If this explanation for the missing 4.7 hours is correct, could this discovery lead us down the path of other discoveries that will lead to a unified field theory?  I also wonder what this means for our calculations of distances of objects.  If the Large Magellanic Cloud is 4.7 light hours farther away than previously thought at 160,000 light years distance, how much farther away is UDFj-39546284 at 13,370,000,000 distance?  What if the effect isn’t linear?

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

“Frankenstein” is not at all what I expected.  And, yes, I was well aware that the popular fiction versions of the movie were nothing like the original book.  The novel reads more like a travelogue than a story about a man who created a monster and reaped what he sowed.  It is a well written travelogue to be sure, but a good portion of the prose is spent describing the journeys from place to place.

Interspersed in between the travelogue are some fascinating psychological insights into both Victor Frankenstein and his Monster.  I’m sure massive bottles of ink have been spilled arguing back and forth on the plight of both Victor and his Monster.  If anyone can recommend a good one, I’d happily accept your recommendation.  They are both interesting characters and, while I sympathize somewhat with both, I think Victor is much more of a dick than the Monster.  The monster’s motives make sense throughout, while Victor warbles back and forth feeling both sympathy and hatred for his creation.

All that’s great stuff, but the story itself is lacking a good editor.  It inexplicably begins with a long introduction to a character, Captain Walton, who plays zero role in the book whatsoever except to accidentally meet Victor while trapped in his boat on the icy Arctic.  Again, it’s kind of cool and well written, but why is it even there?

I was also surprised at how little time was spent establishing Victor’s abhorrence for the Monster.  Man brings body parts together.  Man animates body parts.  Man can’t stand the sight of what he’s created.  Run away!

Another thing that bothered me was how much of the story was left to simple chance and willful ignorance.  There are many times when Victor could have easily created a pitchfork mob (but with guns!) and hunted down the Monster.  (And, by the way, there is not a single pitchfork mob to be had in this book.  Oh, popular culture, how far astray you have led me!)  But the biggest problem for is Victor’s complete misreading of the situation when all evidence both past and present point to a very obvious conclusion.  I guess it could be argued that Victor’s path to insanity lead him to believe what he did, but the only acceptable conclusion that I can come to is that Victor is a narcissist of the highest order.

“Frankenstein” was not an enjoyable read, but neither was it horrible.  There is a lot of literary juice to be squeezed from it for those with the propensity to do so.  It is a rare book that makes me want to read literary criticism of it and “Frankenstein” succeeded in doing that.  In the end, though, I read for enjoyment, and this book was only a moderately enjoyable one.

Movie Review: Edge Of Tomorrow

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: A gripping, fun adventure that fails slightly in the third act.

When you go into a movie whose premise is time travel, you try not to get your hopes up.  “Edge of Tomorrow” sounded so cool from the previews, though, that my hopes were up and I am happy to report that the movie didn’t disappoint.

Most of Europe has been taken over by an alien species.  Tom Cruise plays Cage, a major in the U.S. army who starts the movie much like I’d expect Tom Cruise to be in real live; smarmy, manipulative, and just a general asshole.  Through a series of events that I won’t spoil, Cage ends up repeating the same day over and over again.  The montage of him performing this Groundhog Day makes for some really entertaining film viewing.

Cage eventually runs into Rita, played most bad assedly by Emily Blunt, who had once experienced the same thing Cage is now experiencing.  She eventually ends up training Cage to be as bad assed as she is and with the help of a theoretical physicist, they hatch a plan to defeat the aliens once and for all.

An interesting thing about living the same day over and over again is that you get to learn a lot about the people you interact with on that day, but they learn nothing about you.  Thus, Cage falls in love with Rita, but she keeps on just meeting Cage for the first time.  It was very cool how they developed this relationship even if the director decided to go the complete cop out feel good ending route.  Stupid test audiences.

The movie keeps up a pretty good pace throughout except for some slowdown in the third act.  They spend a little too much time on the day where Cage decides to go completely off script and visit London instead of joining the battle.  I also would have liked that day to end a different way, but that’s a small complaint for a decent movie about time travel.  There are some weird “oh, but this is what the enemy wanted us to do all along” problems with the movie that don’t really make sense when you stop to think about it, but the movie moves quick enough to make this stuff not really matter too much.

All in all, “Edge of Tomorrow” is an entertaining movie that kept my interest throughout.  You should go see it.