Rise of Planet of the Apes (US, 2011)

WTF?

I had low hopes for this despite the unusually good trailer; however I think it’s the best ‘summer’ movie I’ve seen this year. Usually I find CGI-based films poor as the special effects don’t work as effectively as they think and the emphasis is on them rather than the narrative. However, with the exception of some of the movement, the apes are absolutely terrific; the picture above gives as indication. In addition, it has an excellent narrative despite being an obvious set-up for a hoped-for franchise.

It’s rare in a Hollywood movie to be so divided between the ‘bad’ and ‘good’. Indeed, such a Manichean opposition is eschewed in this film, which makes for a wonderfully ambiguous experience in terms of ‘identification’ with characters. The Indian actress, Freida Pinto, is the ‘love interest’ and it’s good to see that, if in terms of sexual politics Hollywood still relegates women, her ethnicity is not an issue with the WASP James Franco. She also had the added bonus of helping sell the film internationally.

Don’t dash out of the end credits as it’s got a superb ‘set-up’ for the sequel.

The Tree of Life (US, 2011)

Looking for meaning

The Thin Red Line (US, 1998) is one of my favourite film so I was looking forward to director Terrence Malick’s latest. However I was pleased when it finished despite the film including some of the most beautifully imagery I’ve seen in cinema. It’s good to see a Hollywood film grappling with big questions (‘the meaning of life’) but this didn’t offer anything convincing to me. One of the difficulties I had was reconciling the young Jack as played by Sean Penn in the present: I think he should have been much older. A minor point. A major issue, however, was the religiosity of the ending; the big turn off for me.

Most extraordinary in the film was the long sequence depicting the beginning of the world. I loved this, including the CGI dinosaurs, though the sheer beauty of the imagery did recall the banality of music videos.

Full marks for ambition.