The tepid message-ism of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes starts with its title. Dawn comes after Rise? The context of both labels mislead in their order. In the tale's mythology, ape rule is inevitable, so why not impart something to the mysterious nature of great titles? It doesn't have to be cubist ("March of the Planet of the Apes"), just don't take a step backwards in the definition. Unlike it's dementedly off-kilter predecessor, Rupert Wyatt's zany and affecting Rise, Matt Reeve's Dawn is strictly rote. It's practically a checklist disguised as blockbuster. Undeveloped human characters are passed onto the audience as underdeveloped, muted while an absurd game of connect the dots is played through a series of linear, contrived grand gestures. As the ultimate film of the twitterverse, Dawn wants its thematic potential reduced to blank stare messages: guns are bad, hate is bad. This is the ultimate blockbuster of the PC-era, aimed directly at our 2nd amendment conflicts. And it overtakes our understanding of the apes, transitioning them from complex to noble. All is sacred yet no sacrifice occurs to validate it. That's the diffusion, when the political issues of our era's are grafted onto the holistic ones of the film's, projecting our simple conflicts onto their future 'complexity.' The worst part of the film's mythology is Ceasar hasn't learned his lesson, in fact he's regressed. Maybe the inetlligence drug stopped working (that'd be too subtle a jab at the new Bourne era). The most stifling realization is Ceasar doesn't seem to be the same chimp we last met walking into Muir Woods "ten" years ago, this isn't the brilliant adapter-adopter who chessmoved his way out of Brian Cox's grips. Ceasar's devolved to concilliator and his take on humans verges on 'plain dumb' or 'real-stupid.' He under-reacts to the shooting of a fellow chimp (mechanically so the script can evince rebellion within), then marches his whole gunless brigade to confront heavily armed humans in their hangout in a decrepit San Fran. The brilliant strategist who outlasted corporatocracy and animal welfare imprisonment in Rise walks into the crosshairs apparently hoping the absurdity of a chimp on horseback might stun the audience. His bargaining chip? A dropped back-pack. Jason Clarke, fumbling after his suave torture style in ZD30 can't seem to decide if he's suicidal or overconcerned father (he's both: a split-personality that doesn't register). Which character decides in nearby breaths that his teenage son has "seen too much" then capitulates when the teen wants to join his dad on what appears to be a suicide mission back to the ape's homeland? Sure, logic is never a foregone conclusion in blockbusters, but here, the story is served only with cherries and no true villains (leaden sarcasm: how modern). Of course nothing is purely realistic in film events, but the reality building has to have enough internal paradoxes so we can look easily past contrivance. Here, there's no main course. No appetizer. No one to root for, no one to revile. No pleasure, just messaging. Even reality TV can clumsily manufacture personalities, here we're in 70s realism redux, only Reeves has no tricks to let us emote. Moments feel like bravura museum dioramas of these same events. They flash by. It looks like the exhibit Anthropocene, late decline. And dioramas by their nature condense the most simplistic essence of the occurence. This is an anti-human, anthropocene warning nightmare, without an emotional overhadow. Just plot turns in search of emotions that can't keep any logical flow. Each decision only serves a purpose for a moment and then it's gone, each turn of the plot functions at what seems to be an entirely different emotional horizon. And because the characters are so minimal, so glacial, their interconnections are largely gear-like, stiff, written only into dialogue, not evoked visually. The dam's trigger-happy engineer, a laughably forgettable character, shoots off his gun in the first scenes and then, on the second trip north, he's handed a gun as if the first scene never occurred. In what movie-logic do you rearm the guy that almost started a war of annihilation? Answer, in this movie, where anything goes if it makes humans look foolish and yet there's no clear-cut villains or heroes to receive the overspill. That's the dunderheadedness of Blockbuster 3.0 (or is this 4.1?), a return to the film rhetoric of the late fifties/early sixties, the return of the Stanley Kramer 'message-picture.' How's it work? Reduce the emotions to words, pretend it's real.
Despite the dour pedagogy peddled, it's must see for the effects alone, as it's filmed in true 3-D.
This taut exercise in Blockbuster reductionism-revisionism is the best film of the summer. Actors and gestures of the golden age of blockbusters meet their younger generation in flip-mode. Aliens's Bill Paxton graduates from grunt to sarge (the squad seems cloned private by private from the Sulaco's), while usual leader-like Cruise enters cowardly, praying he'll just survive the day. Restaging Normandy starring Joan of Arc over and over even loads a perverse comment on the immutability of anniversaries by way of timelessness. Here everyday is D-day. Edge's Joan is Rita, a name copped from Groundhog Day inhabited by an actor from a recent looping film, Emily Blunt, who managed to avoid any loops in Looper. Here in Tomorrow she's a recent looper herself. Although the filmmakers keep the plot as simple as possible, they let the overlap and gaps in the repeat let us fill in the blanks for much of the film. Certain mutations are seen on their first go around, others on the umpteenth, and that's how the weaving gets us, we don't know where we are in the loop numbers (and neither do the other actors). We're in Cruise's Private Cage's drama, whose keeping some kind of headcount, it's his 'film.' Unexplained arrivals are left just that, that's where the film's magic sits. When we piece together the logic, the audience guesses Cage can't succeed unless he goes off-the-grid: the humans don't have the imagination to realize Cage's value vs. the alien Mimics inability to use the gift of their own being, we realize the in-between is the only safe place to fight a war of time from. The resultant contrast, how Cage is treated on arrival at the first lair (far behind enemy lines) with his hunting after stealing a choice weapon, has Liman stating pretty bluntly that innovation has enemies on both sides. The Mimics feint their head honcho as a lure and then Cage barely grasps the set-up in time. These touches like the Dam-lure verge on abstraction proving Liman's ability to slide unexplained phenomena into what seems to be a pretty straight story (despite the daily loop, the narrative pretends to be videogame simplistic). Creativity is about riding a particulary dangerous edge with unlimited outcomes. The best part is the cake-and-eat-it ending, which plays coldly impossible at first, but slowly worms around in the gray matter pushing a profoundly cinematic impact. The crescendo's Spielberg ape (from the very parallel War of the Worlds) is its funniest homage, you realize Cruise was meant to be reborn. It's some aura he's earned, and now it's more popular in export than stateside.
When will the scourge of 3-D post-conversion be over? This film is FAR SUPERIOR in 2-D.
Addendum: Somebody wrote and asked why Looper was never reviewed here...except in rare cases like Edge, overt time-travel flicks never seem to support their weight in ideas. For all the cleverness in Looper, each chess-move creates far more holes. Go to the basics in the story. If a young looper erases his escaped elderly version by dying (demo'd at the end), why create Old Seth's body-part subtraction game in the second act? Just kill him, right? You're not letting noseless Seth go off to finish out his life. But of course, that erases the film's choice gimmick of messaging-by-scar. Now take the ending at face value: if the 'Rainmaker' was so all-powerful, instead of his focused goal killing loopers in revenge, wouldn't he have just sent a team to head off his mom's death? Time is obviously mutable in the film's logic. The loopers that headline then become sub-plot players in a story centralized later on Mom-saving. The implications there are far more absurd than the play we're shown (and might have lead to a more adventurous film). But Johnson is wedded to his genre-stablizing version, with the self-Oedipal conflict posed by 12 Monkey's Willis vs. Young Joe strung out against a parody of Matrix-like 20th century crime tropes. Imagine a showdown using four timeframes converging instead of the three we're shown. That's the loop we should have seen breaking. A son that didn't need saving against a backdrop of two versions of the same person fighting for an identity, one of whom wanted to save that son. There's a far nuttier movie hiding in the dry logic of Looper. And beyond plot and structure, there's the retrograde females in the film: strippers, mothers, waitresses and idealized saviors. That's the residual effects of Lynch on the generation, a fifties view of gender stuck to millenial anxieties. This isn't Kubrick where women's roles are explored through male collapse, here they're ecclipsed. Johnson has the storytelling skills for the decade, he knows how to build ghastly tension, but his overall approach peels conservative, maybe even nostalgiac. And the trouble is it's both conscious: the time-travel expediency, and unconscious: the calcified gender roles.
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The resulting image, made from 841 orbits of telescope viewing time, contains approximately 10 000 galaxies, extending back to within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang. (- Hubble takes the most complete image of the universe ever seen) http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1411/
Muesum of the Moving Image's Mizoguchi retrospective has all the usual suspects, and the rarely seen, including Miyamoto Musashi, a stark 51 minute tale of the legendary ronin who invented two-sword combat. Banned from view by censors in 1944, Miyamoto's brutal confusions of justice (clarified in one stroke at the end) were underlined by emergent feminism that worried the leadership. It hinted women might be the next bearers of arms in a population rapidly depleting of men. The plot's best left to the film, but this short film directly follows the four times longer 47 Ronin, a massive hit in a war suffused country. Where 47 Ronin was restrained, court-intrigued, this is roadside violence. A must see despite the 16mm print. A real rarity.