Tag Archives: James Franco

Something Something of the Planet of the Apes

Ah the reboot, the Hollywood method of pumping new life and new revenue from an existing intellectual property. A way  of turning each franchise into a choose-your-own adventure story. In many ways and though to far less profit, it is what we have done recently here at The Cool Ship.

Image property of 20th Century Fox

Image property of 20th Century Fox

The Planet of the Apes was an absolute revolution when it first hit theaters in 1968. The film boasted the largest FX budget of the time and the sweet baritone of future NRA president, and the guy who seems to love screaming at the end of sci-fi movies, Charlton Heston. The film also starred Roddy McDowall as a frightening realistic (at least for the time) talking ape.

The film is about a team of astronauts who crash land on what they think is an alien planet, but turns out to be the Earth in a distant future. In this future, apes have evolved beyond men while man as we know him has experienced a sort of devolution and has been enslaved. The movie’s beautiful climax when Heston’s character enters “the forbidden zone” and discovers the remains of the statue of liberty is one of the most heartbreaking on celluloid. Planet of the Apes grossed very well for the time.

From that moment forward, for about 10 years, a Planet of the Apes sequel was released bi-yearly, each with an even more ridiculously long title ; Beneath The Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Stop The Planet of the Apes I Wanna Get Off the musical. That last one was a joke… and not even my joke… it’s from the Simpsons.

Image property of Fox television

Image property of Fox television

The Planet of the Apes sequels are all horrible. I know The Planet of the Apes sequels were awful because they only cost about $4 on Blu Ray… for all of them. That’s roughly 80 cents per film. The original film is available in a standalone Blu ray for $16, or you can get a boxed set of the entire series for $20. I could cite any number of reasons, from decreased budget to watered down scripts to less interesting actors for the shift in quality, but I think you get the idea. I won’t even go into the 2001 reboot except to say that Mark Wahlberg is a pretty poor substitute for Charlton Heston (keep in mind this is 2001 Marky Mark), and the final scene posed questions that could only be answered in a sequel that never came.

image property of 20th Century Fox

image property of 20th Century Fox

2011’s Rise of the Planet of The Apes has taken us back to where it all began. It attempts to answer the question that no one was asking; “how did those apes get so smart, and the humans so dumb”.  The CGI is like nothing ever seen before and as an action movie it does pretty well.

James Franco is a scientist (still with me?) testing a drug meant to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s in humans on chimpanzees. The tests are shut down when one of the apes goes… oh I can’t help myself … Ape S@#! and cause the entire lot to be destroyed. Franco smuggles one infant chimp out of the lab. The chimp called Caesar is crazy smart due to the Alzheimer’s drug passing from his mother. Caesar ultimately is responsible for giving “rise”, if you will, to The Planet of the Apes.  You can see where this is headed, right?  All and all a fine if unnecessary film addition to an incredibly overworked concept. However, it is successful in showing a logical path to the world we were exposed to in the original film.  The most amazing thing about this movie and the coming sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is Andy Serkis as Caesar. His movements are recorded by a state-of-the-art suit and transcribed for CGI. This setup makes for a most believable sentient monkey. Has he ever been in a movie? As a person?   Serkis achieves what took Roddy McDowall hours of make-up in the original.

I look forward to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with cautious optimism: we may yet get the follow-up film we have been waiting for since 1968, or we may just as likely get another 80 cent sequel.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Starting Summer With ‘The End’

This Is The End

Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel take the world’s worst trip to a convenience store.

I have a weakness for bro humor. I wish I could say this developed recently due to exposure to high school boys. The truth is that my appreciation for boorishness goes back long before my teaching stint. It’s only when I see movies like This Is The End that I realize just how lowbrow I am.

The premise is simple: Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel head over to James Franco’s housewarming party. While there, the end of the world begins. Safe in the confines of the fortress-like estate, the two friends band together with fellow survivors James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride.

SPOILERS

As expected, This Is The End takes full advantage of its R rating. People get impaled, crushed, and eaten. Survivors spend time getting high, roughhousing, and making cracks about their bodily fluids. Of course there are some line-crossing moments in this cavalcade of crudeness (rape jokes being the most distasteful example). Yet, for me, there were enough instances of badassery, bromance, and buffoonery to compensate for the parts that weren’t so agreeable.

These fellas get what’s coming to them in ‘This Is The End’.

First of all, Emma Watson makes a cameo that will cause any Harry Potter fan and/or feminist to cheer. There’s also a fantastic rap soundtrack, an appearance from a beloved boy band, a mock trailer for Pineapple Express 2, and copious pop culture references (especially about the actors’ own failures). In addition to all of that, This Is The End incorporates a surprising amount of heart. I went into the theater expecting nothing more than mindless humor; I came out actually caring about the characters’ friendships and fates.

What I arguably enjoyed most about This Is The End — aside from the aforementioned highlights–was its unique approach to the dystopian/apocalyptic genre. By executing the film as a comedy and by having the actors portray themselves, Goldberg and Rogen effectively buck conventions. When the box office is saturated with hackneyed dramas and thrillers, it’s refreshing to come across a film that’s willing to make fun of itself and its competition with equal gusto.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

What 2013 Has to Offer on the Big Screen

I thought I’d take a moment this week to briefly look at what’s hitting the box office this year and give a quick prediction on the outcome of each.

  1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – January 25th. Premise: Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) play the fairy tale brother and sister who are all grown up and have become professional witch hunters. Prediction: Van Helsing meets Brothers Grimm, which means a lot of action with an intriguing story but hopefully with more Grimm and less Helsing.
  2. John Dies at the End – January 25th. Premise: You take a drug, it sends you through time and space, you might come back normal, or you might come back as something else. Something otherworldly. Now the world is in danger of a sinister invasion and it’s up to two college dropouts to save it. Prediction: Dude, Where’s My Car? meets Buckaroo Banzai but with Paul Giamatti for added effect. Definitely worth a viewing, high or not.
  3. A Good Day to Die Hard – February 15th. Premise: John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his son travel to Russia to fight Russians and stop a nuclear weapons heist. Prediction: I think it might be getting to the point where it might be a good idea for John to die. Hard.
  4. Warm Bodies – February 1st. Premise: A zombie becomes human again through the power of love, other zombies follow suit. Possible hilarity, horror, and action ensues. Prediction: I think someone might be trying to “Twilight-ize” zombies. Let’s hope not.
  5. Oz: The Great and Powerful – March 8th. Premise: A prequel to The Wizard of Oz telling the story of how Oz (James Franco) becomes the Wizard. And it’s directed by Sam Raimi. Win win. Predictions: I think this film will be fantastic and be the magical wonder that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland failed to be.
  6. G.I. Joe: Retaliation – March 29th. Premise: All but a few Joes are killed off by Cobra. Now it’s up to the remaining Joes (The Rock, Channing Tatum, some other people), including the original Joe (Bruce Willis) to, for lack of a better word, retaliate. Prediction: Hopefully this film will offer some retribution for the let down that was G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.
  7. Evil Dead – April 12th. Premise: A remake of the original with a female lead (Jane Levy) in place of Bruce Campbell’s Ash. It’s also promising less humor and schtick and more blood and gore. Sounds promising. Predictions: Hardcore fans will be difficult to convince, but from what I’ve seen so far of this flick, they’ll be won over. It looks wicked.
  8. Iron Man 3 – May 3rd. Premise: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) returns to take on his greatest foe yet, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). From the looks of things, this might be the Dark Knight Rises of the Iron Man series. Ya know, a very powerful foe shows up, strips him of everything, and then Tony must find the hero in himself to defeat his enemy. This also begins Marvel’s Phase II. Prediction: Probably won’t be the best of the three films but I’m sure it’ll outdo Iron Man 2. And make Marvel a lot of money.
  9. Star Trek Into Darkness – May 17th. Premise: Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the Enterprise crew return to take on a most deadly foe, possibly Kahn, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Prediction: This film will be epic, just like the first, and seeing Benedict as a bad guy is going to be sweet. This is a can’t miss flick.
  10. Now You See Me – June 7th. Premise: A film about bank-robbing illusionists, directed by Louis Leterrier and scored by The Chemical Brothers. Enough said. Prediction: I have a feeling this is going to be one of those twist-and-turns, mind-f*ck types of film. But with bank-robbing illusionists.
  11. Much Ado About Nothing – June 7th. Premise: Joss Whedon adapted this classic Shakespearean tale while making The Avengers. He cast it with people from Firefly, Buffy, Angel, and The Avengers. He made it because of his insecurities with taking on a huge project like The Avengers. It’s Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare….do I really need to say anything else? Prediction: I love Joss Whedon. I love Shakespeare. Without even seeing it, I love this film.
  12. Man of Steel – June 14th. Premise: Zack Snyder directs, Christopher Nolan produces, and a bunch of great actors star in what is sure to be the best Superman film ever. And a film that will hopefully restart the series and lead into a Justice League film. Prediction: The more I see of this, the more I believe that this film will be one of the greatest comic book films of all time. But I’ve been wrong before.
  13. World War Z – June 21st. Premise: Brad Pitt stars in this adaptation of Max Brooks’ bestselling novel about a U.N. employee trying to stop a worldwide zombie outbreak. Prediction: I’m pretty much done with the whole zombie genre, and I haven’t read the book, so I’ll probably wait until this comes out on Blu-ray.
  14. Pacific Rim – July 12th. Premise: Guillermo del Toro writes and directs this film about giant robots fighting to save the world from giant alien monsters. Prediction: I was sold at Guillermo del Toro. The rest is just icing on the cake.
  15. wolverine_jackman_660The Wolverine – July 26th. Premise: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels to Japan to train with samurais and take on a powerful new foe, The Silver Samurai. Prediction: This has to be better than Wolverine Origins. If not, I give up on Hugh Jackman. And Wolverine.
  16. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – August 16th. Premise: Part 2 of the series finds Percy (Logan Lerman) and his friends searching for the mythical Golden Fleece. Prediction: I enjoyed the first film, so I may go see this one. I’m hoping this film will fill some of the void that Harry Potter left, but I doubt it.
  17. Riddick – September 6th. Premise: Vin Diesel returns to his most badass character to take on new alien predators, new mercs, and an old foe. Prediction: I will watch this film because I love the others. I will hope this film is the last in the series because I don’t want this series to be run into the ground like Diesel’s other popular series, Fast and Furious.
  18. Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers – September 27th. Premise: Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) discovers that the machine he’s created is still creating food-animal hybrids and wreaking havoc. Now it’s up to him to stop it once and for all. Prediction: If you don’t like the first film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you have no soul. No but seriously, the first film was hilarious and great for the whole family. This one will be too. I can’t wait.
  19. Oldboy – October 11th. Premise: Spike Lee’s remake of the ultraviolent Korean cult classic about a man (Josh Brolin) who has five days to figure out why he was imprisoned for 15 years without explanation. Prediction: Of all the films on the list, this is one I’m looking forward to the most. I love the original, and I cannot wait for this remake.
  20. The World’s End – October 25th. Premise: Edgar Wright directs a film about five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival. Prediction: This is the final film in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “blood and ice cream” trilogy, so I hope it’ll be pretty damn good. I have a feeling it will be.
  21. Ender’s Game – November 1st. Premise: Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, 70 years after a horrific alien war, an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Prediction: Die-hard scifi fans will go ape over this film and then probably rip it apart. That’s how it works. I want to read the book before I watch it.
  22. Thor: The Dark World – November 8th. Premise: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles an ancient race of Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who threatens to plunge the universe back into darkness. Prediction: Part two of Marvel’s Phase II looks to be another epic win with the addition of Doctor Who number nine as a baddie. Get ready to nerd out, kids.
  23. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – December 13th. Premise: The journey continues for the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) as they seek to retrieve their gold from the dragon, Smaug (voice by Benedict Cumberbatch). Prediction: Do I really need to predict anything for this? People will flock and empty their wallets for this film. We all know what’s going to happen.
  24. Anchorman: The Legend Continues – December 20th. Premise: The Channel 4 News Team returns for more crazy on-set adventures. Predictions: Probably won’t be a hilarious as the first but I’m sure it will be freakin’ hilarious! And filled with many great one-liners that will be quoted for years to come.

I know I’ve missed a few films here and there, but I don’t really care. I think the list is long enough as it is now. It doesn’t need any more.

What films are you looking forward to this year?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

After Going Back to Wonderland, Do We Really Need to Return to Oz?

Oz: The Great and Powerful.

Michelle Williams as Glinda. [source: totalfilm.com]

Once again, Disney feels the need to venture into another fantastical world with an eccentric director as our tour guide. This time, however, it’s thankfully not Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp is nowhere to be found. Disney has chosen Sam Raimi as their kooky auteur-of-the-moment and James Franco as their star. He plays Oscar Diggs, also known as The Great and Powerful Oz, a small-time magician who becomes the savior of the Land of Oz. Rounding out the cast is Rachel Weisz as Evanora (The Wicked Witch of the East), Mila Kunis as Theodora (The Wicked Witch of the West), and Michelle Williams as Glinda (The Good Witch of the South).

The film is actually a prequel to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland. It tells the story of how Oscar ended up in Oz and the events that lead to him becoming “The Wizard.” From the trailer, you can see he gets caught up in a tornado, just like Dorothy, whilst hot-air ballooning away from the black-and-white, pre-technicolor Kansas to accomplish greater things. Once through the twister, he finds himself in a strange new place, and in color, where he must battle an evil witch and save the inhabitants of this fantastical new world.

Seriously…WTF?! [source: rottentomatoes.com]

Although I’m a bit excited to revisit The Emerald City, I’m a bit leery to take the trip after Disney’s last “magical” journey, Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t hate the film, but by that point, I had my fill of Burton/Depp/Bonham Carter collaborations. It was a visually beautiful film, though. The costumes, characters designs, and set designs were all incredible. Except for Depp’s Mad Hatter. I enjoyed the way he played him, but not the way that he looked  like a cross between Madonna and a cracked-out clown.

The title of the film also should’ve been changed. There was a lot of confusion as to whether the film was a remake or a sequel. Upon viewing the film, it was easy to see that it was a sequel, but many were still perplexed. I overheard a lot of angry people talking about how it was a completely different story than the original, and Disney ruined it because they changed the story. The story wasn’t changed, just continued. In all fairness, it would have made more sense to call the film Through the Looking Glass or something other than Alice in Wonderland. It would’ve helped with a lot of the confusion and anger.

Thankfully, Disney is not making the same mistake twice, and hopefully, people won’t see the word “Oz” and think this is just a remake.

I will admit that I am a bit more excited for this film than I was for Alice, even though I’m more a fan of the story of Alice. However, I am still skeptical. Sam Raimi is one my favorite directors, but he has made some stink bombs (i.e. Spiderman 3, Drag Me to Hell), so there’s a chance this film might take a nosedive into the Poo-town City Pool. His good films (i.e. Evil Dead trilogy, Spiderman 1&2, The Gift, The Quick and The Dead) do outweigh the bad ones, but after Spiderman 2, most of us thought Spiderman 3 was going to be phenomenal; it was nothing but a huge letdown.

James Franco as Oz. [source: ifc.com]

Strangely, James Franco playing the lead does not worry me. He’s quickly become one of my favorite actors and is a greater talent than most give him credit for. I believe he will carry this film quite well, and his supporting cast, especially the actresses cast as the witches, will make his performance stronger. I’m not worried about the visuals or designs either. I think this film will look stunning, better than Alice.

I’m not gonna hold my breath, thinking this film is going to be the greatest film ever, but I will say that I am eager to see how this all turns out. And I hope it turns out well. I don’t need another film taking a crap on a favorite story from my childhood. I need one that’ll knock the dust off and polish it up, give it a new shine.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,