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Sunday, August 7, 2011

SPECIAL SUMMER MOVIE REVIEW!

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
 While this summer has already been overly saturated with comic book/superhero movies there is one that has been highly anticipated particularly since the new Marvel Studios started their latest run of movies since Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 along with various sequels (Iron Man 2)and reboots (X-Men: First Class) )and not to mention, the release of Thor back in May has finally paved the way for Marvel to introduce the last and certainly not least member in it's superhero movie pantheon: none other than Captain America: The First Avenger!
When Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) goes to enlist in the army during World War II he finds that he is unacceptable (not-surprisingly) due to his frail and scrawny physique, but as he displays an immense tenacity and ambition to fight for his country he attracts the attention of a secret government program to create super-soldiers and volunteers for a procedure that turns his weak form into Captain America! As he now possesses incredible strength and stamina he unfortunately starts out as merely a USO sideshow but when action calls he steps in and soon becomes a powerful force against the Nazi's Hydra division led by The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who has harnessed the power of an ancient artifact to develop a terrible weapon that will change the outcome of the war unless Captain America can stop him!
I have been a big fan of the latest Marvel movies and was looking forward to this movie with much excitement, however there was always one aspect of this movie that bugged me from the moment it's star was announced: the fact that Captain America was going to be played by Chris Evans who already earned Marvel movie fame with his role as Johnny Storm, a.k.a. "The Human Torch" in two of Marvel's "Fantastic Four" films including The Fantastic Four (2005) and The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). Evans had already well established himself as the sarcastic Human Torch and I thought it would be hard to accept him as both Torch and Cap...however, I was wrong! Evans successfully pulls off the All-American/Boy Scout Steve Rogers/Captain America with a flair and not without a little CGI help to make his pre-Captain America-self appear small and scrawny! As always with any great hero there is a great villain and Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull is perfectly suited to the sinister super-villain and his appearance is as close to the comic book as ever.
Director Joe Johnston (Hidalgo (2004), The Wolfman (2010)) seemed like an unlikely choice to direct the greatest American superhero movie but with his pre-directing experience alongside greats like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg he was a prime candidate. Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the best Marvel superhero movies this summer next to X-Men: First Class and completely buries the competition with the very disappointing Green Lantern movie. Now that Cap has finally been revealed, Marvel Studios can now make way with The Avengers (2012), directed by Joss Whedon, which will include Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and of course Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), in what is sure to be the ultimate Marvel movie! (We shall see...)

COWBOYS & ALIENS
What do you get when you have James Bond and Indiana Jones fighting aliens in The Old West...? You get Cowboys & Aliens! Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man 2 (2010) Iron Man (2008), Zathura (2005) put two action movie greats, namely Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones, Han Solo) and Daniel Craig (James Bond) together for a truly unique take on the Western movie, combining a Sci-Fi alien invasion with cowboys and Indians! When Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of a desert with no memory and a strange device attached to his wrist it leads to one bad situation after another when aliens invades a small Arizona frontier town. Based on the 2006 Independent graphic novel from Platinum Studios. While the movie is based on the comic, surprisingly the film actually has very little to do with the comic retaining similar theme and story but including very different characters. Despite the story's source material, Cowboys & Aliens is a surprising mixture of the cowboys and Indians Western with the "War of the Worlds"-like alien invasion. Harrison Ford stars alongside Craig as Woodrow Dolarhyde a ruthless cattle baron and former Civil War Colonel. Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) stars as the mysterious and seductive Ella Swenson. Craig and Ford make a great combination in this exciting movie. Cowboys & Aliens has all the alien intensity of Independence Day (1996) with the Old West drama of Unforgiven (1992). It is hard to take the outrageous scenario seriously, but the intense story and incredible characters make for an amazing experience!

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
 "The Planet of the Apes" series is one of the oldest and longest running Sci-Fi franchises, through many sequels, TV shows and remakes, it was long thought that the franchise was long gone. However, with the trend of franchise reboots and prequels it was the right time for "The Planet of the Apes" to beat it's chest in theaters again with Rise of the Planet of the Apes! At a genetic research laboratory in San Francisco, Will Rodman (James Franco) is using chimpanzees to search for a cure for his father's (John Lithgow) Alzheimer's Disease. After an incident involving an ape test-subject, Will takes a newborn chimp home to raise and experiment on named Cesar. After years of experimentation, Cesar grows incredibly intelligent but restless in wanting to escape from captivity and Will is forced to put Cesar in a primate sanctuary. Soon, Cesar releases his fellow apes and leads a rebellion against the humans!
Directed by independent director Rupert Wyatt, who is co-founder of Picture Farm, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is essentially a prequel to the "Planet of the Apes" series which started in 1968 with the first movie: Planet of the Apes (originally based on the novel Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring Charlton Heston, now a Sci-Fi classic! Since then the series has included: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) also including the TV series Planet of the Apes (1973) and Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975) AND not to mention, the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg!
 Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an amazing movie, with an intensely cerebral storyline, sympathetic characters (both ape and human) and amazing CGI effects. Although Cesar isn't a real chimpanzee, the motion-capture effects provided by none other than Andy Serkis, who was made famous for providing motion-capture performances for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and the upcoming The Hobbit) as well as another famous ape in King Kong (2005), are phenomenal! Although Cesar is completely CG, he is an incredibly convincing character. Even though we humans should feel appalled at the plight of humans as apes rise to take over the planet, Cesar and his ape-kind are incredibly sympathetic and touching creatures. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprisingly incredible movie and I only hope they can successfully jump start a new "Planet of the Apes" series or trilogy!