andy serkis

Brew & View: The Buzz Awakens

The Movie (No Spoilers)

img_8405To celebrate the long awaited release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seemed long overdue to bring back a favorite feature of mine, Brew & View. It’s been a long long time–and in a galaxy far away if you will–since we last saw the likes of a Brew & View. Even still, this will not be your typical Brew & View–let’s call it, View & Brew to be a bit more accurate. The following will be a spoiler free review of The Force Awakens, followed by the beer pairing for the film. The beer in question, Toppling Goliath’s Light Speed Pale Ale.

First things first though. It was only a few years ago that J.J. Abrams rejuvenated a series that this reviewer previously had no allegiance to. Abrams successfully injected a sense of enthusiasm and fandom into me that was previously void, so the monumental wait for the filmmaker to tackle a franchise where enthusiasm and fandom already existed was almost unbearable. J.J. tackled the unenviable task of reviving a series that was nearly destroyed by its creator with an uncommon poise and emerged on the other end having given the franchise a much needed infusion of modern tastes that brings Star Wars into a new generation with extreme spectacle.

The Force Awakens picks up some time after the events of Return of the Jedi, wherein Luke has disappeared following a failed attempt to train a group of Jedis. In that time a new threat, the First Order, has risen from the ashes of the Empire, but the Resistance is seeking to ensure that they do not succeed. Both are searching for Luke knowing that he could be the key to stopping the First Order. (more…)

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Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

dawnoftheapes_posterOne of the things I regret of the last few years is not going to see RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES while it was in theaters. I did not catch up with the film until it hit DVD and that was after the end of the year. Had I been able to see it before, it would have easily been in my top five films of 2011 if not my number one of that year. So far this year I’ve been blown away by the quality of certain Hollywood sequels and I was worried that a bump in the road had to be coming eventually. It’s with great enthusiasm that I report that with another sequel in the books, we are still traveling smoothly. In fact, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES stands tall above the other sequels that I’ve already fell in love with this year.

DAWN OF THE APES picks up about a decade after RISE OF THE APES where the world has been ravaged by the man made virus that began to spread at the end of the first film. As the world continued to be exposed the virus was labeled Simeon Flu, as apes were the primary test subject and remained immune to its effects. The apes however, spent their time isolating themselves from the population and instead created a sanctuary for themselves away from the humans. Rightfully so as the panic drove the human race to fight each other to the point of nearly wiping out every last living person. The apes assume that the humans did in fact die out as they say it’s been two winters without a trace of a human, until some come knocking on their back door. A small group of survivors went up into the woods looking to use a dam close to where the apes have been calling home in hopes to provide much needed power for their “community.” The apes and humans forge an uneasy peace before things take a turn for the worse pushing the two sides toward a war to decide who will be the dominant species. (more…)

Movie Review: Arthur Christmas (2011)

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Christmas comes but once a year and the season is never short of the movies that take advantage of the setting. There is any number of fresh takes on the legend of Santa and the responsibilities bestowed upon him and none have been quite as fun as in ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. All Christmas movies are fun in their own right, but right off the bat ARTHUR CHRISTMAS introduced a take on the character and how the world works in a way that I found charming and interesting, before tapering off in the middle and reeling me back in with good old fashioned heart for the finale.

Every kid’s worst nightmare around Christmas is being the kid Santa forgot around Christmas and that is the idea the film explores. Santa has evolved into more of a celebrity that doesn’t do any of the work and instead his eldest son, Steve, has created a well oiled present delivering machine in the form of a ship that travels at incredible speeds and hordes of elves operating with great precision to carry out all the normal Santa functions. Santa himself shows up to deliver one specific present to each child with the signature “From Santa” tag and moves on. However, Santa’s youngest son, Arthur, has a heart of gold and deals with all the letters from the children. After a simple accident within the ship ends with a present getting lost and a glitch in Steve’s system allows it to go un-noticed Arthur and his grandfather set out to make it right so that no child wakes up Christmas morning feeling like Santa does not care about them.

The beauty of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is the imagination behind it. Beyond that, the icing on the cake is the care done to explore the wonder of exploring how things used to be and the overall tone and warm fuzzies that the Christmas season is capable of giving us all. The film starts off with a more modern look at how the folks at the North Pole have advanced with technology and how the advancements have made the process that much more mechanical and impersonal thus taking out the magic on some level. Once the adventure half of the film begins the wonderment of the season takes over, before getting lost somewhere in the middle just as characters do before wrapping itself up in a neat and tidy way- and as the elf character that tags along for the ride always says, “There’s always time for a bow.”

The animation is dazzling at times, showing off the imagination of the folks involved with the film especially during the opening gift delivering scene. There are plenty of moments though for the animation to get into different settings that don’t resemble the winter fantasy of the early scenes that are just as impressive as the more fantastic elements. There’s humor within the animation as well, which at times doesn’t feel as kid friendly as most holiday films tend to be.

As Christmas movies go, they tend to lean heavily on what makes kids tick and focus on jokes that are easy for them to understand. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS has jokes tailor fit for the kids in the audience, but there are plenty of one liners and visual references that are likely to fly right over their heads. So basically, what we end up with here is a holiday film with the goods to satisfy the old and the young, but not always both at the same time.

The scope of the film is large and the ambition might have been much narrower, yet the results nonetheless come out on the side of crowd pleasing entertainment that’s brisk and inoffensive. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS tends to feel a bit off-track at times, but when its on-track the film is immensely charming and a whole lot of fun to watch. The beautiful animation only sweetens the pot that much more for a film with its heart placed firmly in the right spot and a wonderful choice for family holiday viewing.

Rating: B+

Movie Review: The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

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A collaborative effort from Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg featuring performance capture animation and an awesome cast providing the voices sounded and looked more like a blissfully brilliant project than it actually ended up being for me. The skill of two prolific directors- although Spielberg took the reins on this version with Jackson helming the next- is evident in every frame as far as the look and composition of each scene of THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN. However, as technically amazing as the animation and action is here, the scenes in-between the blazing guns and chase sequences are a little less impressive and the overall adventure only occasionally entertaining.

The film is based on a character, Tintin, from a classic comic. Tintin is a reporter that stumbles across a hidden treasure and attempts to track it down with his trusty dog, Snowy and a drunken Captain Haddock. While in pursuit of the treasure Tintin, Snowy and Haddock run into trouble, Sakharine, who is also tracking down the treasure.

I have never read the Tintin comics, but have always been familiar with the name Tintin and his relationship with his dog Snowy and that the property dealt with adventures not unlike what’s featured here in this film. My familiarity or lack thereof does not hinder my ability to at least objectively sit and judge the film on its own merit as a piece of entertainment. For fans or those very familiar with the character I can picture getting a kick out of seeing the characters rendered so beautifully, but everything outside of the action sequences left me in a state of boredom.
Here’s something I can say with the utmost confidence- the animation is stunning, or should I say performance capture with animation pasted over the top of it. Every frame the movie looks beautiful but none more than the action sequences. There are so many gorgeous details that are on display that those sequences become instantly memorable which makes some of the non-action scenes that more frustrating. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN is worth watching based on the one long continuous action scene through a village where characters are chasing down a piece of paper through various means and it is absolutely spectacular to watch.

The voice actors are all top notch and fit in well with the adventurous nature of the film but also the cartoon aspect of it all. Andy Serkis is great as the stumbling alcoholic Captain Haddock, Daniel Craig as the sniveling villain and Jaime Bell as the wide eyes adventure seeker Tintin. The voices have a talented group of writers penning their dialogue as well in Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish who all have some well received projects in their filmography. The writing excels in the detail behind the scenes though and not as much in the actual development of the adventure itself.

Spielberg handles THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN as expected- with the skill of a veteran director but one with more of an eye on delivering beautiful looking action than interesting story outside of the action. On the spectacular action set pieces alone the film is well worth the ticket price or rental fee. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least that if most people, like me, checked out in between action scenes before planting themselves firmly in their seats when bullets are flying and characters are risking life and limb in pursuit of a sunken treasure. Peter Jackson will be stepping up for the next film and I have little doubt the film will be equally as beautiful- I just hope it improves where this version fell a bit short.

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

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After the Tim Burton vision of the PLANET OF THE APES universe I was fairly convinced that would be it for anything else in this franchise. Admittedly, I was not all that excited when this film was announced but the trailers reeled me in. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (from here on out RISE OF THE APES) for me was a terrific example of filmmaking that encapsulates patient storytelling while being very kinetic and chaotic at the same time. The emotional connection I felt through the film can be attributed to the phenomenal performance capture from Andy Serkis and the methodical direction from Rupert Quart.

RISE OF THE APES follows the work of Will Rodman (James Franco), a brilliant scientist that is right on the heels of a cure for Alzheimer’s. When their star chimp test subject, Bright Eyes, goes bananas and destroys any chance Will has of greenlighting human trials the board demands all chimps to he put down. Will finds that Bright Eyes was protecting her newborn baby and he takes him home before he is put down as well. It becomes evident that the baby, Caesar, took on the advanced intelligence of his mother through the treatments of Will’s untested cure. After Caesar is sent to a new facility after a violent encounter in public he is subject to abuse from one of the employees and enlists his fellow primates to break out and earn their freedom.

When I say the film displays patient storytelling what I mean is for a new filmmaker tackling a prequel and essentially a reboot of a classic franchise there is a potential for disaster by just getting right in to the good stuff- it’s kind of like getting way too touchy feely on a first date with an extremely religious virgin. Wyatt puts us right on the forefront of what’s going down but then scales back a bit to let a few years of events pass before kicking things up again. There is always something interesting going on even if the only real action packed moments are in the finale. When it’s not full of action it’s very emotionally captivating friendship dynamics.

I am a huge animal lover so maybe I’m a bit biased in saying how effective the connection between Franco’s character and Caesar is. Enough cannot be said about Serkis performing as Caesar since for the most part Franco isn’t terrible, but he’s also not really doing the film any favors. As far as human characters that is one of the flaws- as none of them are spectacular and I would go so far as to say some of the acting is lazy. If the performance from Serkis wasn’t as profound as it was and the climactic action scene wasn’t as exciting this could have been pretty disappointing.

Human performances aside, the film works in spite of them and because it’s so immensely entertaining the time just flies by. Wyatt and the screenwriters set up, build and execute a story with great skill even if at times might seem inherently silly. There are aspects in the writing and logic of characters I found to be a stretch but the film is so well done, fun to watch and emotionally resonate that it would feel pointless to mention here since I love the film so much.

RISE OF THE APES presents an epic scope for the world and story on display in such a way that it never crosses cheesy or over-the-top territory. The film is a great achievement for Wyatt and company because it had the possibility to be far less satisfying than it is. RISE OF THE APES won me over with the emotional journey of Caesar as well as a thrilling tale of revolution through an impending global pandemic. As a standalone film outside of its name recognition the movie is a success, but even as an entry into the “OF THE APES” franchise it has potential to conquer.