Posts Tagged ‘Steve Zahn’

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.

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I’m sure that if you’ve been following my —ahem! — “byline” both here on my own site and over at Through The Shattered Lens in recent days, it’s become painfully obvious that I’ve been on some sort of massive “Generation X” nostalgia trip lately, but rest assured, I think I’m pretty well cured of it and am more than ready to get back to yammering on about the kind of flicks we normally talk about around here.

How can I be so sure of this, you may wonder? Well, last night I watched 1994’s Reality Bites on our local cable on-demand menu (oh, and in case you were wondering why I didn’t provide any DVD/Blu-Ray specs for either of the Before films, or why I won’t be doing so for this one, either — now you know), and if there’s one thing — and I stress it’s only one thing — this movie’s good for, it’s for readily disabusing ex-slackers of any romanticized notions of our past.

Not that nostalgia is, in and of itself, all that bad a thing —- at least in limited doses. After all, reminiscing about one’s wasted youth makes for a nice change of pace from contemplating the state of one’s wasted adulthood. But honestly — if either myself, or any of my friends, were even half as self-absorbed, shallow, preposterous, and downright annoying as anybody in this flick is, it’s amazing that no one older and wiser decided to shoot any of us dead when we were 22, because we certainly would have deserved it.

Notice I used the carefully-chosen words “anybody in this movie,” rather than calling any of them proper characters, because they aren’t — the roles written by screenwriter Helen Childress are merely disjointed stereotypical collections of bog-standard “Gen X” tropes that are about as interesting and “authentic” as a Goo-Goo Dolls or Matchbox 20 album. Consider :

Winona Ryder plays Lelaina Pierce, a recent college grad trying to get her TV pilot project off the ground, who’s torn between two “romantic” interests — guitar-strumming “soul of a poet” dreamer Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke ), and not-as-cheesy-as-he-seems-at-first cable network producer Michael Grates (Ben Stiller , who also directed this mess — and of all this film’s sins, launching this almost pathologically unfunny, untalented cretin on the road to Hollywood superstardom is perhaps its greatest). She’s joined in going nowhere fast by her kinda-sluttier-than-you’d-at-first-expect best friend/roommate Vickie Miner (Janeane Garofalo), who’s only here to sweat the results of an AIDS test, and amateur cameraman pal Sammy Gray (Steve Zahn), who’s here to check the box marked “gay character included,” and together they try to navigate their way through the early-90s social landscape of noted slacker capital Houston, Texas. Renee Zellweger turns up in an early and largely pointless part, and the genuine talents of the likes of John Mahoney, Swoosie Kurtz, and the great Joe Don Baker are completely wasted in dull-as-unbuttered-toast “parents (and other older people) just don’t understand” roles.

If it all sounds vaguely insulting and aggressively uninspired, that’s because it is. I mean, my friends and I were capable of devising some pretty insipid ways to waste time when we were that age, but having rooftop sing-a-longs of “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?” and playing Good Times-themed drinking games didn’t even cross our dying-for-something-to-keep-us-preoccupied minds.

Still, I think it’s fair to say that the most perplexing thing about Reality Bites is how completely out of touch with its own subject matter it seems. Stiller was still in his late 20s or early 30s at the time, and Childress was an “X’er” herself, yet the whole thing plays out like a movie that was made by 50(at least!)-year-olds who were trying to cobble together a story based on what they’d heard the younger (at the time, mind you) generation was like. The only thing missing is a “who would you rather fuck, Ginger or Mary Ann?” conversation.

Anyway — sure, I’m still looking forward to Before Midnight. Who in their right mind isn’t? But I think I’ve had my fill of memory lane for awhile. Frankly, even imagining that I may once have been anywhere near as unbearable as any of these spoiled troglodytes is just too depressing a prospect to spend very much time considering.