Monkey Business: My Review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

I have long been a fan of The Planet of the Apes franchise. There have been a couple of bad ones, chief among them the 2nd of the new movies, which was wholly unwatchable. That movie was so bad, I had all but made up my mind to skip this last installment entirely. But I figured when it came to Redbox, it was worth $1.62, if for no other reason so I could still say, “I’ve seen them all.”

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a complete surprise. Apart from the basic premise that at some point in Earth’s evolution, apes become the dominant species, and the leader of the apes at the “dawn” of that dominance is named Caesar, this movie bears no resemblance to any of the other films, old or new. That’s because it is so much better, in every respect. This movie breaks the mold, and reinvents the story from the ground up.

The CGI is stunning. The acting is superb. The script and storyline are excellent. The score is great.

This is a movie that you must actively watch. You can’t cook dinner in the kitchen while this movie plays in the living room. I can get away with that with a Star Trek movie, but not this one. Much of the movie’s important dialogue is ape sign language, some even with subtitles. Not so much that it’s annoying. But enough that if you aren’t actively paying attention, you’ll miss important parts of the story.

Although there is plenty of action in this movie, it is a drama at heart. It is the story, not so much of how apes came to dominate man, but of how the actions of a single individual can change the world, whether for good or bad, whether ape or human.

If you are a fan of the series, this is a must-see. If you’ve never seen a Planet of the Apes movie before, you can easily bypass all of its forerunners and enjoy this movie a la carte.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes gets 5 bananas!


Milk – a difficult movie to watch + commentary

Milk (2008)
128 min  –  Biography | Drama | History
The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.

I watched Milk on TV last night. It was shown on the USA network, so it was not edited, at least that I could tell. If it was edited, it was only to remove an occasional F Bomb.

It is a damned difficult film to watch. There are times when a casual viewer might want to avert their eyes. This movie, much like the man it is about, is up in your face.

The history lesson is good; the portrait of the 2nd half of the 70’s enjoyable. There is a lot of archival footage of familiar faces and voices, such as Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News, Tom Brokaw on The Today Show, and perhaps a few clips too many of Anita Bryant.

This movie tells the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk. It does a good job of saying that Milk is to gay rights what MLK, Jr. was to black rights. Unfortunately, racists still don’t like King, and gay haters still won’t like Milk after watching this movie.

Milk, although a compelling figure, is not a sympathetic one. I think you’ll come out of this movie feeling and thinking the same way you went in. You’ll either still be for equal rights for gays or still against them, but probably even more so. I don’t think this movie changes hearts and minds, though clearly that seems to be its purpose.

I think its an important film. I think its a good movie. I would even call it an enjoyable flick, with the aforementioned caveat that it is a hard movie to watch. I won’t define that statement any further. I challenge you to watch for yourself.

Kudos to Sean Penn for a well-acted part. I AM ALL FOR EQUAL RIGHTS. But in my humble opinion, the film may have been more effective if it were less “in your face.” But that wasn’t who Milk was, as the movie makes clear.

In any event, we’ve come a long way since the 70’s and gay rights are far more respected and wide spread than before. And that is to a very great measure the result of the work started by Harvey Milk.


The Magic of Belle Isle

This movie was a true joy to watch. It’s on Netflix, so it streams for free if you are a subscriber. Starring Morgan Freeman, it is a “feel good drama.” Charming, funny, witty, warm, and just plain fun. I could listen to Morgan Freeman read the phone book, and this movie has a LOT of Morgan Freeman rambling on and on.

“After alcoholism depletes his enthusiasm for writing, celebrated author Monte Wildhorn finds his creative passion renewed when he moves to quaint Belle Isle and gets to know his next door neighbors — a single mother and her three daughters.”