Monday, July 06, 2015

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ~ I have talked about my love for the Planet of the Apes movies before, actually more than once. And while Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the second attempt to reboot the series was a pleasant and superior surprise, I still had some reservations. I shouldn't have worried at all. Dawn is even better than Rise.

If you know the saga of the Planet of the Apes, you know that Rise and Dawn are covering old territory. We already know the history, we know what happens, and that's the danger of any prequels. And even though the movies in the original series, Conquest and Battle, are by far the most inferior, and provide the basis for Rise and Dawn, I have much praise for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Once again, Andy Serkis and the CGI portraying Caesar, the first leader of the Apes, are the stars over and above anyone or anything else in this flick. Gary Oldman is wasted for the five to ten minutes he appears, Keri Russell continues to age badly, and Kirk Acevedo is a master of playing the same character in every project he's in. Harsh, yes, but those are the only bad things about this movie. The rest is near perfect.

The opening, outside the establishing narration of a world a decade after the last film, is without traditional dialogue. The Apes live in peace in their own home, speaking in a combination of simple pantomime and crude American Sign Language. Caesar himself only speaks aloud once man intrudes on their idyllic life, but don't be fooled, the other apes speak as well. And these apes, CGI and otherwise, out-act the human players.

There is no black and white, or good and evil here. It's man vs. ape, it's true, but factions within each group are at war as well. This tale of trust and war and family is set against another amazing score by my favorite composer Michael Giacchino. He hits all the right notes for the appropriate emotional impact. I've already gotten the soundtrack from iTunes I was so impressed.

Whether you're a fan of either Planet of the Apes franchise, or not, this entry is highly recommended. I can't wait for 2017's War of the Planet of the Apes.

Monday, June 29, 2015

True Detective Reborn

Let's face it, we all loved the first season of "True Detective." We loved the murky quirky mystery, the bizarre danger, the insane villains, and the wild chemistry of the two unconventional leads. Nic Pizzolatto created some of the greatest television ever made in just eight hours. It was genius.

And then when we heard "True Detective" was to be an 'anthology' series, that a second season would not feature Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (an actor that TD finally made me respect), but a new cast, story, and setting - we were suddenly tentative and lukewarm. When we saw previews, we were even more shaken. This second season didn't feel like the "True Detective" we knew and loved at all. Hardcore fans were worried.

Then we watched the season premiere last week. I'll be the first to admit this, it was not holding my attention. Political corruption, in my opinion, is boring fodder for a police drama, let alone the amazing story that preceded this one. Vince Vaughn badly channeling Vincent D'Onofrio's baby-man Kingpin from Netflix's "Daredevil" did not help one bit. He is almost a joke at some points.

The rest of the cast appears to be not only too many but not quirky enough for my "True Detective" tastes. Colin Farrell's Ray Velcoro comes closest to what we expect from the show, but he does far too much reacting than acting for my tastes. Rachel McAdams barely registered on my radar, and Taylor Kitsch, who was brilliant as both John Carter and Gambit, yet criminally rousted by Hollywood, barely has anything to do either. Along with Vaughn, it felt like far too many, and far too uninteresting, characters.

Many of us fans may have decided to give up on the show after that first episode. If you did, don't. The show definitely got its vibe back last night with the second episode. And I have a feeling it's going to get even better.

Vince Vaughn got a bit more desperate and dangerous. Both McAdams and Kitsch became far more twisted and interesting. Nic Pizzolatto revealed his more familiar dark side, and they took care of that too many characters thing. If you checked out, check back in. This is going to be a wild ride.

And if you'd like a different view on the second season of "True Detective," check out my buddy Jim Knipp's recaps and reviews at Biff Bam Pop! right here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sprite: LeBron's Mix

LeBron is a basketball player, right? Let me hit the Google and double-check. Yes, LeBron James is an American treasure when it comes to basketball, and one of the best players in the world. Sorry, folks, but basketball is just not one of those things in my wheelhouse. Soda, on the other hand, is.

Recently when I saw Entourage in the theater I saw an ad for a new limited edition flavor of Sprite. Now I'm a Coca-Cola man, so yeah, Sprite is right along side there. This flavor of Sprite not only has cherry in it but also orange. I was enticed, my two favorite flavors in a Sprite, sounds like a plan.

Of course there's the very real possibility this could just be a drunken stint at the Coke Freestyle machine, a Frankenstein mix of what might taste good, but can't possibly... because, let's face it, we're not soda scientists - and neither is LeBron James, or at least I don't think he is.

The LeBron Mix, which apparently had been out before under another name, proved quite elusive to find. It was one of those things you see everywhere when it's under your radar yet nowhere when you want it. Fortunately The Bride was able to pick up a bottle in Philadelphia. Yes, at 7-Eleven, despite what Ray had to say about it on a recent episode of The GAR! Podcast.

The first thing I noticed was how much bubble and fizz was in the bottle before I even opened it. I was a bit tentative to twist off the top, half expecting a champagne-like explosion. It didn't explode when I twisted it open, but I did dig the contrast of the dark red label and cap against the lime green bottle. They should think about marketing this stuff during the Christmas season.

Once the cap was off, a wine bottle wave past my nose brought an aroma just like I had hoped, but. But when I tasted the stuff, it was exactly what I feared it was. It was terrible, like some blend of Mountain Dew (not my favorite) and urine (let's not even go there), wow, this stuff was awful. Not recommended. And LeBron, step away from the Coke Freestyle machine. Right now.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

RIP Patrick Macnee

We've lost another one of the legends of genre, one of the masterful actors of our time. Today, at the age of 93, we have lost Patrick Macnee.

Most of the time when folks read or hear me talking about the Avengers, it's the Marvel superhero comic, but Patrick Macnee was part of another Avengers team, the cool Avengers. In the 1960s spy series "The Avengers," Patrick Macnee played the quite dangerous gentleman in the bowler hat and the quick dry wit, and the always sexy female companion. Whether it was Honor Blackman, Julie Stevens, Linda Thorson, Joanna Lumley, or the dazzling mod minx Diana Rigg who accompanied him, John Steed was the epitome of quirky cool. "The Avengers" was smart fun television, the likes of which has rarely been seen since.

The series was by far his only claim to fame however. Macnee was an actor for decades, one of his first roles was in the Alistair Sim (the best) version of A Christmas Carol as young Marley. He's been in James Bond projects, played Sherlock Holmes, been in dozens of TV shows, and most memorably he was the demonic savior Count Iblis in the original "Battlestar Galactica." Macnee was also in This Is Spinal Tap, and he was even an invisible agent in the much-maligned theatrical version of The Avengers.

Macnee was a star of stage and screen, both silver and small, even appearing in music videos by the Pretenders and Oasis. We've lost a legend, and he will be missed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Inside Out

Inside Out ~ Disney/Pixar is back with their entry in the 2015 summer blockbuster season - Inside Out. The premise this time is one pleasantly similar to a much-missed EPCOT ride called Cranium Command, those who remember it know what I mean. We see the inside of a young girl's head, the five emotions who run her personality, and turmoil caused when her family is uprooted from Minnesota and moved to San Francisco.

The star power of the flick is provided by the cast inside young Riley's head - Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Sadness (Phyllis Smith who steals the movie), and Bing Bong (Richard Kind) the imaginary friend kept secret from the previews. As Riley deals with the move, Joy and Sadness, along with Bing Bong journey through her personality to get things back in order. Much like the personified characters, the viewers are run through a gauntlet of emotions as well, but then again, that's what Pixar does so well.

Get to the theater in time for the wonderful short "Lava," which may start the emotional rollercoaster early for some folks. I also liked that the director Pete Docter personally introduces the film, a throwback to old Hollywood, and specifically thanks the audience. Nice touch. Two thumbs up for Inside Out.

If you'd like to hear more about Inside Out, it's the featured topic of this week's episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast, and you might want to check out today's blog entry at French Fry Diary as well. Enjoy.