Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens
There are certain movies where the title gives them away, and Cowboys & Aliens is one such movie. A cowboy with no name, and actually no memory, arrives in the small Western town of Absolution, which is the theme of the entire movie. The cowboy, played by Daniel Craig, obviously has a dark past, one that he wants to be absolved of, though it is tough to be absolved for one's sins when demons (a.k.a. aliens) attack the small Western town and abduct the town's inhabitants. Cowboys & Aliens is an odd sort of mash up of two clashing genres (Sci-Fi and Western), but it actually works to create fun action set pieces, and the credibility comes in the fact that the aliens are never called aliens but are often referred to as demons (of course, us from the 21st Century know what they are). The movie co-stars Harrison Ford as a gruff old rancher, not all that likable, and ultimately a forgettable character, and that really sums up the whole movie. Like Daniel Craig's character, this is a very gruff, straight forward movie that just doesn't have anything fresh or intriguing enough about it to make it memorable. While we have seen these Western and Sci-Fi tropes played again
and again, there is a cheap thrill that comes in seeing these things come together in the entertaining action sequences shot by director Jon Favreau, but the thrill doesn't linger.
I give Cowboys & Aliens a B-!
Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes can almost be seen as an ad protesting experimentation on animals, apes in particular. Scientists use apes to test experimental drugs, one drug in particular to try and cure Alzheimer's. We watch as certain apes develop higher brain functioning, rivaling that of humans, this is how we meet our story's hero, Caesar. We go from the sadness of seeing Caesar's mother dying trying to protect him from the scientists, to Caesar growing up as actor James Franco's surrogate son, but when Caesar tries to protect his family by attacking another human, Caesar is taken away to an ape sanctuary. Throughout all of this, we feel Caesar's joy as he first climbs a Redwood tree, and we feel his anger and sadness when he is left in a cage by his surrogate father, lending emotional plausibility to Caesar becoming embittered and rising to lead the apes in a revolt against the humans, rioting across San Francisco. What is more impressive is that not a single real ape was in this movie. All of the apes were portrayed by actors in motion capture suits, with their ape exteriors being added on in post production via CGI. The effects work is expertly woven into the story by WETA digital, and there are moments within the movie that even a seasoned eye can barely tell the difference between CGI trickery and a real ape on Animal Planet. This is just a pure spectacle that only a blockbuster can deliver. Tight storytelling, high emotion, and marvelous action, wrapped up into a wonderfully written, solidly directed, immaculate technical showcase.
I give Rise of the Planet of the Apes an A!