Daily Archives: August 6, 2011

‘Apes’ rises to the occasion

Film review

In this image released by Twentieth Century Fox, Caesar the chimp, a CG animal portrayed by Andy Serkis is shown in a scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes ." (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

In this image released by Twentieth Century Fox, Caesar the chimp, a CG animal portrayed by Andy Serkis, and James Franco are shown in a scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes ."  The prequel "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," opening in U.S. theaters Friday, features chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans crafted through performance-capture. It is the same technology used for the giant gorilla in Peter Jackson's 2005 "King Kong," with the same actor who did Kong, Andy Serkis, playing the lead chimp in the prequel.(AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Genetically enhanced chimpanzee Caesar (created by Andy Serkis and computer-generated imagery) shares emotional moments with his human family members (John Lithgow and James Franco) in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a worthwhile movie.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” comes at an interesting time. It comes at a time when it certainly seems that the apes could do a better job of running the planet than we human beings are able to do, and it uncannily comes at about the same time as the release of the documentary “Project Nim,” which is about a chimp named Nim Chimpsky (named after linguist and leftist Noam Chomsky) that (who?) in the 1970s was raised as human being and was taught sign language — just like the protagonist chimp Caesar in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is good summer fare. It stretches believability a bit too often, but it’s great entertainment and it has some interesting ideas and touches on some important subjects, such as the ethical treatment of animals and the ethics of meddling with genetics (which the much lesser film “Splice” also explored). And besides, it’s about apes that take on human traits and eventually supplant human beings, so I suppose that it’s kind of pointless to insist upon strict believability throughout the film anyway.

Salon.com’s review of “Rise” slams star James Franco for not having been a stronger presence in the film, but hey, the movie isn’t titled “Rise of the Planet of James Franco.” We go to see a “Planet of the Apes” movie to see the apes. The human beings that appear in these films are secondary, just as they are portrayed as being in the films themselves.

Franco does a decent job as the scientist who is responsible for the genetic tweaking that inadvertently creates a virus that will wipe out most of mankind and that creates Caesar, the intellectually advanced chimpanzee who goes on to become the founding father, so to speak, of the apes that/who we first saw in the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes,” to which “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” pays homage by making numerous, mostly funny references.

Freida Pinto (of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame) does a fine job as Franco’s girlfriend, and thankfully, the theme of the level-headed girlfriend of the (mad?) scientist admonishing him about the potential dangers of his experiments (like in 1986’s “The Fly” or in 2009’s “Splice,” in which the dynamic is reversed and the mad scientist is the girlfriend and it’s boyfriend who is admonishing her) isn’t beaten into the ground.

John Lithgow plays Franco’s father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which Franco’s character is trying to cure. Lithgow’s character is cared for by Franco at home, and Lithgow’s, Franco’s and Pinto’s characters become a four-member family along with the character of Caesar, who was created by actor Andy Serkis of “Lord of the Rings'” Gollum fame and by computer-generated imagery.

The CGI in “Rise” is masterful, although some of it, such as the portrayal of the infant Caesar, could have used some improvement to look more life-like and less cartoon-like. Still, the CGI that was done well was done stunningly well.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” isn’t only about CGI and action. The emotional difficulty of being separated from a pet or a loved one — Caesar finds himself impounded with other “dangerous” apes that have not been genetically altered as he has been — is portrayed fairly well, as is the question of what the lines are between a pet and a family member and an animal and a human being.

That said, it seems that Franco’s character would be more distraught by Caesar’s long incarceration than he is portrayed to be — for a while in the movie it seems as though Franco’s character has forgotten about the incarcerated Caesar altogether — and it seems that when Franco’s character and Caesar must finally part for good, Franco’s character isn’t all that torn up about it, when I sure the hell would be were I in his shoes.

Two more criticisms: The mishap in the board room in front of investors, in addition to being highly unlikely in the way that it unfolds, seems to have been ripped off from the mishap-in-the-board-room scene that we already saw in “Splice.” And we already saw a climactic showdown on the Golden Gate Bridge in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” so I don’t think that we needed another one this soon. Still, some cheesiness aside, the climactic action sequence on the bridge is done fairly well. 

Overall, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is good entertainment, raises important issues, engages our empathic abilities (hopefully most of us still have those, to at least some extent) and is a fairly worthy prequel to “Planet of the Apes.”

My grade: B+

P.S. It seems kind of freaky to me that the original “Planet of the Apes” movie came out the same year that I was born, and I find it interesting that it came out in such a turbulent year. I’m going to have to watch that movie again, now that I’ve watched its prequel.

I’ve yet to see “Project Nim,” by the way, but I intend to when it comes here to Sacramento, which should be soon.

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Sprinting toward another American revolution

Oh people, look around you;
The signs are everywhere.
You’ve left it for somebody other than you
To be the one to care.
You’re lost inside your houses;
There’s no time to find you now.
Your walls are burning and your towers are turning;
I’m going to leave you here and try to get down to the sea somehow….

Those are the opening lyrics of the oldie “Rock Me on the Water.” Written by Jackson Browne in the early 1970s, those words seem especially appropriate for today.

Today we learned that the highest number of U.S. troops — 31 of them — that have died in one day in Afghanistan in the past decade have died after “insurgents” shot down their helicopter. (If we were defending our own home territory from foreign military occupation, we would be “freedom fighters” or the like, but anyone who resists American military occupation is an “insurgent” or a “terrorist” or the like.)

Of course, we Americans only care about American deaths. We don’t care about the many, many, many more “insurgents” and “terrorists” whom our own stormtroopers — er, troops — have slaughtered in the Middle East over the past decade, since the “other” is not fully human. (Yes, you have to dehumanize a human being first before you can not give a flying fucking shit about his or her slaughter. That’s how evil works.)

President Hopey-Changey Obama — who had promised to get us out of Afghanistan — issued the exact same kind of response to the needless death of 31 American troops in Afghanistan that George W. Bush would have. Reports The Associated Press:

President Barack Obama mourned the deaths of the American troops, saying in a statement that the crash serves as a reminder of the “extraordinary sacrifices” being made by the U.S. military and its families. He said he also mourned “the Afghans who died alongside our troops.”

Really? If he truly cared that much, then why the fuck hasn’t he honored his campaign promise to get us the fuck out of Afghanistan?

His response, though, is yet another example of why I say that our nation is ruled by the Coke Party and the Pepsi Party — that the significant difference between the two is difficult to distinguish.

See, it’s not about the fact that our “leaders” are corrupt and inept, that they still have us mired in Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires, where billions and billions of our tax dollars are being funneled to war profiteers while here at home, our credit rating just got downgraded for the first time in our nation’s history.

We sure the fuck could use our own fucking money here at home right about now, but the traitors who comprise the military-industrial complex would rather to continue to steal our nation’s wealth — our wealth — via their bogus “defense” operations. Their personal financial situations are just fine — as is President Hopey-Changey’s personal financial situation, and the personal financial situations of the members of Congress who absofuckinglutely refuse to do what’s best for the highest number of Americans (which can only be defined as treason) —  so fuck the rest of the millions and millions of the rest of us Americans.

But no, see, it’s all about the “extraordinary sacrifices” made by our troops.

How about our fucking so-called leaders make some extraordinary sacrifices? No, they would rather leave the extraordinary sacrifices to our young men and women who are too naive about the ways of the world to know that the last just war that the U.S. military fought was World War II, for fuck’s sake, and that as members of the U.S. military they are not protecting “freedom” and “liberty” and “democracy” and puppies and kittens or doing anything nearly as noble as all that, but that they are only cannon fodder for the treasonous, uber-greedy war profiteers and the corporateers who want to loot the U.S. treasury via “defense” spending and want to steal other nations’ natural resources and profit obscenely from them, which is made possible only after U.S. military invasions and occupations.

And those young men and women in the U.S. military who do know that war is a racket find themselves at a loss for any other employment than with the U.S. military. They are fairly socioeconomically trapped where they are.

But if you criticize the plutocrats’ wars, then you are accused of attacking our troops — even though it’s the plutocrats who treasonously are sending our troops off to die and to be maimed in wars that benefit only the plutocrats. (If our wars in the Middle East of the past decade were meant to benefit all Americans, then why, oh why, are most Americans in dire economic straits? That’s because the spoils of war never trickle down. Only piss trickles down.)

No, I am not attacking our troops, who are just pawns, who also are victims of the treasonous plutocrats, victims just like the thousands and thousands of innocent civilians whom they slaughter in the Middle East. I am attacking the treasonous plutocrats who are destroying our nation whose heads belong on pikes.

And yes, President Hopey-Changey is among the treasonous plutocrats. He promised us that he would use the power of the office of the president of the United States of America to raise all boats, but all that he is done is to help the plutocrats buy bigger and bigger yachts.

As George W. Bush once put it, you are for us or you are against us. You are for us working-class, middle-class and poor Americans, or you are for the plutocrats — and against us.

Oh, we are long overdue for a violent revolution here at home.

A nonviolent revolution will not cut it. Violence is the only language that the plutocratic traitors who are driving our nation into the ground understand.

A violent American revolution is coming, regardless of what you or I have to say about.

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