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Category: Movies


Art of the Films Planet of the Apes cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

We all know the apes win and rule the Earth from the original novel and film Planet of the Apes.  But how do they get there?

Not intended as a post-apocalyptic story as much as a chronicle of the birth of an ape civilization, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its July 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are films that manage to have no villains–by design–where the viewer can empathize with both the human and ape characters equally based on the characters’ histories and individual viewpoints.  Writers Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell have created a deluxe volume documenting the art and design of both movies with the newly released Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes.

The Planet of the Apes reboot was an outgrowth of the technologies emerging from Weta New Zealand’s work on The Lord of the Rings franchise, coupled with Andy Serkis’s experience playing Gollum as a motion capture character, and later the giant gorilla King Kong, Serkis was uniquely suited for the role of the sci-fi classic character Caesar from the original novel and film.  The crew credits the acting and chemistry of Serkis and co-star James Franco in part with the success of the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise in 2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Andy-Serkis-Dawn-Planet-Apes

The challenge for the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?  For the first time in film history, digital characters finalized in a post-production process would be realized by total performance motion capture of actors initially, and not on a separate green screen soundstage, but alongside live-action characters on a standard movie set as well as on location.

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Koba socializing with humans

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

When I think about some of my favorite movies, they contain a sense of the dynamics of a family, whether it is by blood or by situation.  The Incredibles is a fantastic example of a family at the center of the story and how, when forced to confront his own mortality, at his core Mr. Incredible finds that family is the most important thing in his life.  Stalag 17 is about a family in a single room wooden cell in a POW camp and even though they argue and kid and get on each other’s nerves, they will risk their lives for each other.  The Philadelphia Story revolves around a family’s plan for a wedding one weekend on their estate.  Up is built on scrapbook glimpses of a life spent together as a family.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes contains what it means to have family and what a family is as one of its themes.  Humans as a family.  Apes as a family.  The family of Caesar and the family of the lead human Malcolm played by Jason Clarke.  Family by blood and new families after loved ones perish.

It is dealing with the idea of ape families that becomes problematic in my mind.  Scientifically, we know that chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have familial bonds.  We can see those attachments as we stare at them through windows in zoos as the elders have learned to turn their backs to our prying eyes.  There are blood families and communities as families.  Yet, we don’t really care much about what happens to them because they can’t tell us how separation from their family feels.  We hope they forget if they ever get sent to a new zoo or study facility.  We hope that any new introductions into a community will forget the families left behind in the wild or their previous place of captivity.  It would be different if our apes, the ones that we see, could scream at us like Caesar and tell us that we won’t threaten or separate their family.

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comic-con-logo-image

It’s less than two weeks until 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International will host more than 150,000 fans of sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes and other pop culture, and SDCC has now released the entire panel schedule for this year’s big show.  If you haven’t been to the modern-day Greatest Show on Earth, it should at least be on your bucket list, but beware:  if you attend the show once you’ll want to keep going back.

Tickets as usual were sold out months ago, but for those attending this year’s show, we have some quick links to the event list so you can start planning your days now.

This year’s panels prove yet again that you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers who claim SDCC doesn’t focus on comic book artists and writers.  Even more events are occurring this year focused on the comic book medium, including benchmarks like Batman’s 75th anniversary.  Yet there are also all of those big panels planned full of this summer’s movie blockbusters and big-name casts and the casts and creators of your favorite television series.

Comic-Con image b

First and most importantly you’ll want to download to your smart phone the SDCC handy My Schedule app here.  We’ve used it before and it’s a great help when you’re in the crowd and can’t get into one panel but you want to try the dash for another one or you just get tired of walking the main hall with Artists’ Alley and the dealer booths and you want to sit down and see something new for an hour.

Having trouble choosing from all the panels?  We think the biggest event and best bang for your buck will be the Warner Bros. panel we previewed a few days ago here with pilots and previews of DC Entertainment series The Flash, Constantine, Gotham, and Arrow.  After the break we pulled some other panels you might like if you follow borg.com regularly.

Here are the quick links to each day’s panel events for SDCC 2014:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Preview Night

Thursday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

Friday, July 25, 2014 Panel Schedule

Saturday, July 26, 2014 Panel Schedule

Sunday, July 24, 2014 Panel Schedule

SDCC 2014 banner

Here are some panels to consider (after the break):

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Django Unchained trade paperback cover

He’s a unique, visionary filmmaker of his generation.  And he really likes Western comic books.

In the foreword to the graphic novel adaptation of his Academy Award winning film Django Unchained, Quentin Tarentino gives credit where credit is due, and why the comic book format is squarely appropriate for a director’s cut of his screenplay–the screenplay that won him a second Oscar for a screenplay after his win for Pulp Fiction.

Vertigo Comics’ Django Unchained was originally released last year as a six-part comic book adaptation of Tarentino’s four-hour long, first draft of the screenplay, later spread out over seven issues.  It’s a long narrative and by the end of part seven you will understand why editors exist.  That said, it’s a good tool for story writers, as his opening scene, measured pacing, and character development provide a window into the creative process of this singular screenwriter.  It features an adaptation of Tarentino’s work for the medium by Reginald Hudlin and most of the interior art was rendered by Serbian artist R.M. Guéra (who also served as artist on Jason Aaron’s Scalped) providing his own Western style.  Plenty of covers are featured, too, including one of Alex Ross’s best, Django walking from the burning house, which served as the cover to the final issue.

Alex Ross Django Unchained

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Sharknado 2 poster

Sharks in New York City?  Sharks in the subway?

The crazy phenomenon from last July that took America by storm, of the shark-filled tornado variety, is back (already?).  Sharknado, the latest of the over-the-top mash-ups that have helped define the lowest common denominator of the Syfy Channel, was so absurd and yet fun for all of us to laugh at, that it “darned near broke the Internet,” jumping to a trending Twitter topic and the stuff of non-stop posts by tweeters and bloggers like Wil Wheaton.

By now almost everyone has seen it who has cable or a streaming service–it’s hard to avoid, and even harder to turn away.  The scene of Ian Ziering of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame, taking his chainsaw into the mouth of a shark diving on him from a tornado is the stuff of legend in the annals of campy TV.  It just brings tears to the eyes.

'Sharknado 2: The Second One' TV on set filming, New York, America - 19 Feb 2014

And in only two weeks we’ll meet Ziering and Tara Reid again in–wait for it–Sharknado 2: The Second One.  How will it fare against the original, or against past Syfy Channel original movies, like Alien Apocalypse, Snowmageddon, Mega Paranha, Sharktopus, Pteradactyl, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, Piranhaconda, Frankenfish, Swamp Shark, Dinocroc, Supergator, Megasnake, or Triassic Attack?

Co-starring Judd Hirsch from Taxi and Independence Day and Mark McGrath from the band Sugar Ray.   Say what?

McGrath and Ziering Sharknado 2

After the break check out a sneak peek of Sharknado 2:

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Mauro Cascioli Ray Palmer The Atom

DC Entertainment released yesterday the news that Brandon Routh will be portraying Ray Palmer, and his alter ego The Atom, in season three of CW Network’s Arrow TV series, adding one more Justice Leaguer into the current live-action DC universe.  Since Routh previously played Superman in Superman Returns, the continuation of Christopher Reeves’ 1970s Superman role, it also seems unlikely The Atom will appear in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice two summers from now.

But it’s not the first time a movie star has played two roles in the same superhero universe.  Chris Evans played Fantastic Four member Johnny Storm AKA The Human Torch in Marvel’s two Fantastic Four films, then came back to headline The Avengers as Steve Rogers AKA Captain America in three big-budget Marvel Universe movies.  He was great in both roles.  Fans accepted it and never even questioned Evans playing both roles.

Chris Evans Human Torch Captain America

DC Entertainment previously released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice casting decisions for the Justice League with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman from Man of Steel, Ben Affleck will dawn the cowl as Batman, Gal Gadot will handle the golden lasso as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa will wield the scepter as Aquaman AKA Arthur Curry, and Ray Fisher will play the next live-action borg as Justice Leaguer Cyborg.

CW Network already features Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen aka the (Green) Arrow, and introduced Grant Gustin as Barry Allen aka The Flash to be spun off in a Fall 2014 TV series.

Brandon Routh in Chuck

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Jaws movie poster

ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE–On the Fourth of July weekend, you have to include a summer blockbuster in your planning, and there’s not much better you could ask for than a Fourth of July screening of Jaws, which features a small coastal town in the days leading up to the holiday back in 1975.  Thirty-nine years later and the entire film still stands strong, dated only by some clothing of the locals, which–let’s face it–could still be the fashion in beach communities up and down both coasts.  This weekend the Alamo Drafthouse offered up the opportunity to see Jaws on the big screen again or for the first time.  Unlike screenings of some other classic films at other theaters, this screening had what looked like an original reel of Jaws with flickers and pops.  In an age of widely available, digitally-re-mastered cuts of classic movies like Jaws, it was surprisingly fun to see the film just as audiences would have seen it in 1975.

I first saw Jaws at the S.E. 14th Street Drive-in theater in its initial summer run.  I was about the age of Scheider’s youngest son in the movie.  Knowing I would fall asleep in the back seat likely before the film started, my folks hadn’t figured I would actually manage to see the entire introduction.  Luckily the film was darkly lit and I didn’t know what I was watching.  I took away no memory of the film beyond dark images of a girl swimming.  My sister didn’t fare as well, and what made the film the blockbuster it was sunk in with her–that great white shark keeping us all out of the water–a summer when beaches across the country must have had lower attendances–and it certainly kept her away for a while.  Not having seen Jaws straight through in several years, but instead viewing it probably hundreds of times in bits and pieces over those intervening years, I couldn’t have been happier that it was as good as I remembered and even more engaging on the big screen.

Jaws crew

Take star Roy Scheider, for instance.  Today you might cast Eddie McClintock or Colin Ferguson for his role as everyman on his first gig as new chief of police in a new town.  Scheider has many funny lines to break the tension, beyond the many quotable lines.  His wife played by Lorraine Gary carries on as the supporter of her husband perfectly.  Richard Dreyfuss is, of course, Richard Dreyfuss, always holding back a laugh even in the most desperate of circumstances.  Jaws is without a doubt Dreyfuss’s best role–a great feat considering his many big roles over the decades (American Graffiti, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl, Always, The American President, R.E.D.).

But what is no surprise is the powerhouse performance by character actor Robert Shaw as Quint.  I think this was the first time I ever intended to order a drink or snack from the dine-in seating theater but was so transfixed, mostly due to Shaw, that I walked out having never ordered anything.  It’s not just the Indianapolis speech he is known so well for.  There’s also his introduction at the city council meeting.  His mouthiness when his boat is being loaded to go after the shark.  His taking the time to teach the chief how to tie knots on the boat.  Shaw, who died young resulting from problems with alcoholism, created the quintessential (pun intended) old salty sea captain in Jaws.  His performance is full of nuance.  Sure, he is part Captain Ahab, but he is so much more.

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Cavill in new Superman Batman

We now have had a first look at director Zack Snyder’s Batman, and as of this weekend, his Superman, above, from the 2016 release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Beginning with its wordy, clunky title, SvBDoJ has the cards stacked against it, if Snyder’s Man of Steel is any indication.  Man of Steel proved a cast of distinguished character actors can’t save a movie from a bad idea and bad direction.  We know Ben Affleck, the new Batman, can be very good, and we all hope Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred can save this film, or at least give us some fun scenes to pass the time.  But fans should demand more from DC Entertainment.

It starts with Snyder.  It’s difficult to list all the reasons Man of Steel was such a horrible superhero movie.  But we can sure try.  Maybe Snyder will review what he did with Man of Steel and realize that superhero movies can do so much better.  We can hope.  The elements of a good superhero flick?  Heart and gravity.  Heroism and compassion.  Passion and perseverance.  Man of Steel had none of this.  Even the poorly miscast Ryan Reynolds’ vehicle Green Lantern ran circles around Man of Steel.  It can’t be that hard to make a good movie for the DC Comics universe.  If Snyder is going to do better with the first big budget Justice League movie, he must learn from his mistakes with Man of Steel.

Affleck as Batman and new Batmobile

So let’s get it all out in the open, why Man of Steel is on my worst movies list, and should be on yours, too.

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Bill Murray St Vincent

It’s been a long time since a Bill Murray movie really clicked, an undisputed, resounding hit.  Something that highlights why we first loved this actor who got his big break on Saturday Night Live, then was propelled to movie star with Caddyshack, Stripes, and Ghostbusters.  Meanwhile he started a dramatic career, with hints of a serious guy even in Meatballs, as an actor in Tootsie, with the lead in a Dickens adaptation in Scrooged, and that all seemed to peak with his role again as another actor in Lost in Translation, which earned an Academy Award nomination.

Another not-ready-for-prime-time player, Steve Martin, took a similar path.  Following SNL he was easily recognizable for one of the bigger cameos in The Muppet Movie, but had his break-out role for movie stardom with The Jerk.  He had some snoozers, followed by funnier fare with All of Me, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  But his dramatic turn came with Roxanne, an adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, and seemed to leave comedy behind with L.A. Story, Grand Canyon--which earned him an Academy Award nomination, A Simple Twist of Fate, The Spanish Prisoner, and Shopgirl.

Murray and cat

Both Murray and Martin had mid-range successes and returns to all-out comedies, Murray with What About Bob?, The Man Who Knew Too Little, Rushmore, Get Smart and City of Ember.  Martin with HouseSitter and Bringing Down the House.  Will either of these guys return to all-out comedies?

Unless you’re a fan of his Wes Anderson films, you may be someone who thinks the last great comedy Bill Murray has done was Groundhog Day, 21 years ago back in 1993.  But every time another comedy features Murray, loyal fans come back again to see what he has for us.

Might the next funny Murray flick be St. Vincent?

St Vincent Bill Murray

Look at the great slate of co-stars: an almost unrecognizable Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy, and Iron Man’s Terrence Howard.

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Crush it like Quint

JAWS–It’s the reigning king of summer blockbusters–the movie that even prompted the term blockbuster throughout most of the U.S.A. in 1975 because of its crazy long theater lines.  It’s still a favorite of those lucky enough to see it in the theater that summer (drive-in, in my case), and absolutely re-watchable like no other film.  And that awesome cardboard shark standee display that stalked the halls of mall theaters everywhere.  The one that made you hide behind your mom.  Yeah, that one.  Steven Spielberg directing the toughest shoot of his career, special effects that had to be ditched, a stunning score by John Williams, Richard Dreyfuss at his dramatic funniest, Robert Shaw at his coolest.

The original blockbuster

Robert Shaw.  The actor from The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Force 10 from Navarone, and From Russia With Love.  Then his most unforgettable role as the salty sailor Quint.  And that speech about the Indianapolis.  Moviemaking at it’s finest.  And Quint’s cool attitude as he crushes that beer can.  And Dreyfuss’s response.  Don’t remember the scene?  Check it out here:

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