Posts Tagged ‘matt reeves’

So, this is it — the end of the quietest, most underappreciated trilogy to come out of the Hollywood blockbuster machine in who-knows-how-long has arrived, and to make a long story short : it doesn’t disappoint. Not in the least. In fact, it exceeds even the loftiest of expectations.

So that’s me giving away the plot a bit early, I guess, but hey, if you’re still reading this, chances are you were every bit as fond of this series as I was, and for long-time fans of the franchise, not only did it rinse the taste of Tim Burton’s doomed-from-jump relaunch from our collective palette once and for all, it went considerably further by re-imagining the premise in a bold and entirely believable new way, delivering compelling performances, and making better use of CGI than — shit, anything ever, I don’t hesitate to say. It really has been “all that,” hasn’t it?

What makes the 21-st century iteration of one of sci-fi’s most beloved properties stand out hairy-head-and-shoulders above its competitors in the mega-budget popcorn movie game, though, is its entirely magnificent characters, specifically Andy Serkis’ Caesar. He’s really been the heart and soul of these films all the way through, and in War For The Planet Of The Apes, it’s his show all the way. No offensive intended to the likes of Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, and Toby Kebbell, who all knock it out of the metaphorical park as Bad Ape, Maurice, and Koba, respectively, but as much as this series has been about a world in transition (to say the least), it’s also been about Caesar’s own highly personal journey, and while I’m a little bit choked up at seeing said journey come to an end, director Matt Reeves does his star simian justice and gives him a highly emotional send-off rife with moral, emotional, and physical conflict that caps off by — well, shit, that would be telling, but to say Caesar’s final fate is equal parts heroic, intimate, and entirely in keeping with his arc sums things up pretty nicely, in my view.

New human characters make their mark, as well — Amiah Miller’s Nova transcends the typical “little girl lost” stereotype in her heart-rendingly sympathetic role and Woody Harrelson radiates the menace that can only come from a man already shattered beyond repair and with literally nothing left to lose as The Colonel, but again, for all this greatness — and make no mistake, these actors are indeed great, as are the fully-fleshed-out characters they’re portraying — it still, at the end of the day, all comes back to Caesar.

And maybe Maurice, too. Come on — who doesn’t love Maurice? Who isn’t going to miss Maurice? Who doesn’t wish they could grab Maurice right off the screen and take him home to watch over their kids?

Okay, none of us can have Maurice. But intelligent drama, thick-as-L.A.-smog tension, hair-raising action, amazing scenery and shot composition, and complex philosophical questions are surely not too much to ask for, and War For The Planet Of The Apes offers all that in such generous supply that fans could almost be forgiven for thinking the studio was giving them a gift here — until you remember that you’re the one paying them twelve bucks or whatever to see it.

Not that I’m complaining mind you — this flick, as with its two predecessors, is worth every dime and then some to see on the big screen, as it’s epic stuff all the way. Reeves and his co-screenwriter, Mark Bomback, manage to hit precisely the right notes at precisely the right times with such skill that one could almost be forgiven for thinking they make it look easy, even though the logistics of a production on this scale are anything but. There’s a mind-boggling amount of genuine artistry at work here, and no director since Spielberg’s heyday has managed to make the multi-million-dollar spectacle feel as personal as Reeves does. Everything about this climactic final battle for the future of planet Earth is dripping with the sort of import that screams “this is it!!!!!!!!!,” but it never falls prey to the emotionally distant, bombastic trappings that ensnare most “epic event” cinema. This is everything you wanted — maybe even needed — the final chapter of the Apes saga to be, and I’m honestly hard-pressed to remember the last time a franchise has taken the time to say “thank you” to its audience in so heartfelt and earnest a manner.

So, yeah — see War For The Planet Of The Apes. Or see it again, as the case may be. Then tell me there’s no such thing as “movie magic” anymore.

"Let Me In" Movie Poster

It’s a tough thing to determine, isn’t it? Knowing exactly when you fell in love. But I swear I fell in love with writer-director Matt Reeves’ Let Me In at some point during its hour-and-45-minutes-or-so run time. And I sure wasn’t expecting to, which makes it all the more enjoyable an experience.

Like most folks, you see, I was already enamored with the 2008 Swedish film that this was based on, Let the Right One In. I saw no point in remaking it , especially this soon, and when I heard that Reeves, who directed the abominably-overrated Cloverfield, was helming the project, I was even more, shall we say, underwhelmed.

Going in expecting nothing (but admittedly excited that this movie marked the much-anticipated return of the legendary Hammer Films label), I left the theater positively ready to do a fist-pump into thin air, elated with the knowledge — not just opinion, oh no — that a great new horror auteur had arrived on the scene and that Matt Reeves in, in short, “Da Man.”

And the thing is, I don’t know how the hell he did it. Let Me In is something unique, I feel, in the annals of horror cinema — a movie that stays true — hell, even reverential —to its source material, while never feeling anything less than completely and utterly fresh and original throughout.

A lot of that is down to the story. Reeves adapted this not so much from the original screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, but from the same author’s original novel. So rather than remake the original film, his idea was to offer a different cinematic interpretation of the book upon which it was based. The difference may seem academic, but I assure you it makes all the difference in the world. And the story is remarkably simple, and remarkably effective — a young “outsider”-type kid who’s always bullied at school and has no friends meets a new girl who moves in next door and slowly both falls in love with her and, simultaneously, learns she’s a vampire. It’s long been said that many horror stories are just allegories for the onset of puberty and the supposed “loss of innocence” that occurs with sexual awakening, particularly in relation to the beginning of the menstrual cycle in young women, but this scaled-back take on the theme doesn’t even bother to really lay much allegorical cover on said premise — that’s exactly what it’s about, and it makes no bones about it. Three cheers and then some for that kind of innate honesty in an industry that so often buries any honest impulses it’s even capable of recognizing.

Next up we’ve got the young actors themselves. Much as I’m predisposed to hate anyone with a name like Kodi Smit-McPhee, the fact is that as the young boy at the heart of this tale, Owen, he’s just plain sensational. He looks awkward, acts awkward, and is so naturalistic and unforced that all you can think is “wow, this kid’s got a hell of a future in front of him.”  As for the vampire girl, Abby, herself, Chloe Moretz proved in Kick-Ass that she’s a youthful force to be reckoned with (she literally stole the show in that movie), and she cements that impression here. It’s certainly rare for a film aimed at a decidedly adult audience to count on two very young actors to carry the story, and these two certainly do. Their performances are gripping, believable, and just plain downright extraordinary.

One area where I was sure this would pale in comparison to the original was in cinematography. Let the Right One In was so goddamn beautiful to look at that each frame could be hung up as a framed museum piece. Well, guess what? Same thing here. Greig Fraser has forged an entirely new and more claustrophobic look, but it’s no less effective and no less gorgeous to look at. It’s less wide-open and much more confined, more just-plain-dark and less muted, but damn if it isn’t every bit as gorgeous in its own bleak way.

Apart from transposing the action from the frozen northern reaches of Sweden to the US (Los Alamos, New Mexico to be precise — depicted here as a frozen hinterland, a decision I don’t at all understand but that adds an ethereal and otherworldly quality to the proceedings, I must admit), the screenplay holds pretty true to what we’ve seen before — but the artistic interpretation Reeves offers is so fundamentally different, yet every bit as authentic and, as I mentioned before, faithful — that you feel like what you’re seeing is just another artist’s interpretation of the same material rather than a remake per se.

I went into Let Me In expecting to be comparing each and every scene to its predecessor and, naturally, to find this new version coming up short on every score. Somewhere along the way I gave that expectation up and just began enjoying the ride, and sometime after that I went a step further and  started appreciating this for not being a great remake, but a truly remarkable film in its own right.

The fact that I can’t pinpoint exactly when those shifts in perspective occured is testament to what a fine job Reeves and company have done here. Even though we’ve seen this story done in the very recent past, we haven’t seen it done like this —  although I should stress once again that this isn’t in any way unfaithful, or even a radical re-working of any sort. Like its predecessor, Let Me In is an instant horror classic, one that stands just as well either alone or in comparison to its Swedish progenitor. I’m truly hard-pressed to say which is better, and frankly I don’t even care. One gets extra points for doing it first, the other gets extra points for, frankly, on the whole doing it better. Both are every-bit-as-essential works of vampire cinema as Dracula, Nosferatu, or Vampyr, and neither is to be missed under any circumstances. Rather than being in competition with each other, they actually complement each other beautifully. Let the Right One In hasn’t been remade as Let Me In, it’s been reimagined. And while that sounds both corny and pretentious, the fact remains that it’s absolutely true.