Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-WallpaperRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

A decade after the fight of San Francisco, Ceasar and his following of intelligent apes have adapted to life in the Redwoods. Suffering the consequences of developing the drug which created these apes are the humans who have spent the last 10 years surviving a Simian Flu epidemic.The apes are convinced that the humans have lost their battle against the disease, until a member of Malcolm’s (Jason Clarke) group runs into two apes and shoots one in excitement. Ceasar still faithful to his no killing rule lets the humans escape, unaware that they are searching for a power source to get San Francisco running again.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes joins the ranks of great sci-fi blockbusters this year among the likes of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow and Godzilla. Films which could really prompt the rise of genuinely good sci-fi films. For a sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes completely trumps its predecessor in all departments. Keeping Ceasar central to the story was a masterful decision and because of it we get a far more compelling story than that of the humans. We’re ultimately trying to get our way to the climax which is the planet of the apes, and it wouldn’t have felt right if Franco was still there fighting for screen time. Of course he is a massive part of Ceasar’s origin story which is where Ceasar’s compassion and empathy for the humans comes from, also a reason why Rise of the Planet of the Apes works so well, but telling the majority of the story from Ceasar’s perspective was definitely the right way to go. This way we have a protagonist who is unbiased and has an impartial view towards the world, a character we know we can trust in a broken society.

During Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we see Ceasar grow up among humans, absent to life with his own kind outdoors where he belongs. He doesn’t know what humans are capable of or where he came from, but asking the questions gives him answers he finds hard to swallow. Ten years on he and his family of intelligent apes have formed a sophisticated society living as one. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is great in so many ways, it could have easily turned into a cheap action crapfest but instead it’s an intelligent film not short of the human element. I think I join a large group of people who were attracted to this film purely because of apes with guns on horses, I mean I’ve never heard of anything as awesome as that. Anyone expecting 2 hours of apes with guns may be disappointed but I’d like to think that they’d be pleasantly surprised at the same time. We spend most of the film with Ceasar amongst his family contemplating how to deal with the humans. We learn their way of life and how they all live as one and care for each other, living without the modern necessities that we live with nowadays such as electricity and internet. It makes us question how we are as a modern society, everything that is wrong with it and everything right with it. Ceasar genuinely believes that Apes are better, but as the film unfolds he learns that ignorance and indifference is something you can’t prevent and maybe conflict is all but inevitable within nature.

This film not only shows us the potential of sci-fi but also how far performance capture has come. Andy Serkis has revolutionized the film making tool and proves that it shouldn’t be ruled out as a legitimate method of performance. A lot of buzz has gone around saying that Serkis deserves an Oscar nod after this performance, and I’ll have to agree. It’s amazing to even think that a man is literally playing Ceasar, all of his facial expressions, his movements, all these details which bring the character to life. Serkis expresses so many emotions just from these delicate details which is pretty amazing since Ceasar’s dialogue is quite limited. I’ve never felt such a strong connection with a non-human protagonist. That being said, Serkis is only one of many who use performance capture to play the ape characters. The likes of Toby Kebbell and Judy Greer prove that Serkis is not the only actor who can master performance capture. Kebbell especially puts in an absolutely terrifying performance as Koba, an ape who can’t forgive the years of torture ensued by the humans.

The only negative about the film would probably be the human characters, the only character which stands out is Malcolm (Jason Clarke), one of the few humans who see the apes in a much brighter light. He is to an extent quite an important character as he reminds Ceasar that not all humans are corrupt. Characters like Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Carver (Kirk Acevedo) represent how we find it hard to blame ourselves for the downfall of humans, even when the facts are right in our face. To an extent they mirror Koba’s same feeling of indifference.

As for the aesthetics, the CGI is a lot better than its predecessor by a large margin. The apes actually look real this time around, improving from the choppy CGI we had in the first film. The set design is incredible creating a post apocalyptic forest look to both San Francisco and the Redwoods, which sets up some incredible shots throughout the film. It’s just an overall great looking film. Also props to the sound mixing crew who created a genuine ape society atmosphere, sitting in the cinema and being able to hear apes surrounding you was not only awesome but put in perspective how many of them there were.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is definitely one of the best films of the year so far, not for its spectacle but more for its storytelling and direction. We’re being given an intelligent story about war and human nature, a film which makes us think rather than fry our brains, and for anyone who wants their brains fried, well apes on horses with guns!

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The East (2013)

The-EastRoze-Rating: 4 / 5

Sarah Moss (Brit Marling), former FBI agent, starts her new career at an intelligence agency forcing her to go undercover and collect information from anarchist group The East. All members of the group carry aggression against massive corporations that harm the environment around them. Determined to make an example of their careless actions they plan a number of “jams” to expose their true contributions to the world. During her undercover work Sarah grows attached to the groups cause, although disagreeing with their methods. 

The East is as much a political thriller as it is a study of humans in modern society. Throughout the film we contemplate who the bad guys are, who we should root for and our way of life. We are presented with two sides, self righteous anarchist group The East with good intentions but questionable actions and the corporations who on the surface look like they want to aid the world but ultimately want to help themselves. At first one side seems the obvious bad guy as they are branded as terrorists but once we get to know them as individuals and their reasons we question the word terrorist. They may not do anything drastic as all they want to do is give the corporations a taste of their own medicine (LOL) but eventually the seeming leader of the group (Alexander Skarsgard) gets too deep into the cause. 

It may not be as thrilling as you’d like it to be but it does hold some thought provoking questions backed up with fascinating scenes exposing an idealistic view of human life. For that reason this film is an enticing watch. One scene that got to me was a quite freaky but weirdly beautiful scene of the group eating at dinner, once you see it you’ll understand. The film holds an eerie tone from the ghostly score to the bleak cinematography. It looks and sounds fitting to its premise and message giving these scenes of human nature more than it appears. 

It really is a film of moral high ground, leaving it to us to make our own choice about who takes that place at the top. Although towards the end it may have chosen for us. I felt it had too much of a Hollywood ending; it just didn’t fit the ambiguity of the film. Nevertheless the themes of human nature, relationships and politics make it an enjoyable film.

Despite having to strain my ears to understand some of the actors, the performances were solid. I felt there was too much mumbling and not enough projection in their speech but maybe I’m going deaf from all these loud action films nowadays. Anyways kudos to Brit Marling, previously saw her in Arbitrage playing a minor role. After researching more about her I learnt that this is her third written project, previous projects being Another Earth and Boxers & Ballerinas, which brings me to the assumption that she is massively talented. I’ve not seen all of her films but I look forward to it as she’s done a great job acting but also co-writing this film. She’s more than eye candy but someone with real potential in both the written and acting side of film. Her character has substance, she has a hard exterior but sees arrogance as a weakness; I like how she was branded as perhaps “not soft enough” for The East. In the end that balance gives her a greater moral conclusion to the problems expressed. I’d also like to see Toby Kebbell in more things, loved him in Rock’n’Rolla.

If you liked The International (Clive Owen) but thought it was too out there, then this film will bring you back to earth and maybe even further.