“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (Short Review)

Dawn Apes In 2011, Director Rupert Wyatt rebooted the Planet of the Apes franchise with the excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes, featuring wonderful performances by James Franco, Andy Serkis, and John Lithgow. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Franco and Lithgow are gone, and the movie suffers a bit from their absence. But the new film, directed by Matt Reeves, is full of action and Serkis again is outstanding as the leader of the apes, Caesar.

Most critics and fans like the action-packed Dawn, and I did too, although I do not think it matched the first in the new series. The film picks up ten years after Rise, when most humans have died from a virus. Some of the remaining humans struggle to survive, while the apes, still led by Caesar, work to build their own civilization. Not surprisingly, the two groups come in contact. Both the humans and the apes have individuals who want war and individuals who want peace. The film builds to a dramatic and action-filled conclusion that I will not ruin here. In light of current debates about violence among countries, the film also is a gentle reminder about how difficult it is to protect a fragile peace.

Serkis gives an excellent emotional performance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Judy Greer does a great job as Caesar’s wife, Cornelia, whose name is likely a reference to the original series (making me wonder if their son “Blue Eyes” — played by Nick Thurston — has the real name of Cornelius?). This time around, the human characters are less interesting, although Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell do a good job with the roles they have.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
is a dark movie in more than one way. Besides the storyline, the action takes place on cloudy days and at night. While the CGI effects were fantastic, because 3D glasses make movies even darker and I was not blown away by the 3D effects, I would have preferred to see the film in regular 2D so I would not have had to squint to make out the action in the dark. But I will leave it to you to determine how important 3D is to you.

Finally, the original movie franchise began by landing Charlton Heston in the middle of the established ape world (as the Tim Burton reboot similarly did with Mark Wahlberg) and then later films took us back to the origin stories. But this new franchise opts for more of a chronological version in the way the films are being produced, starting at the beginning of the timeline. Thus, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was comparable to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) of the original series, while the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is comparable to Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), which was the last one made in the original series and is generally seen as the weakest. Thus, considering the new very good movie is a reinterpretation of the weakest of the original franchise, I am especially looking forward to seeing how this new franchise develops with future movies. For a look at how the movies fit into a timeline, check out the io9 website.

Conclusion? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an action-packed sequel and a worthy continuation of the story that began in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you liked the first film, you will want to see this sequel. If you have not yet seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you can still start with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes without being lost, but you might want to watch the superior first film first.

What did you think of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • Trailer for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
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    Springsteen and Hansard “Drive All Night”

    Hansard Springsteen

    In the various E Street Band live versions of Bruce Springsteen singing “Drive All Night,” I have always felt that Springsteen cannot capture the loneliness and angst of the original recording on The River (1980). As the next-to-last song on side four of the two-album set, “Drive All Night” brings together all of the sadness of the album, reminding the listener (along with the underrated final song “Wreck on the Highway“) that the only hope of surviving the despair is with love, even if there is no guarantee that it will do anything more than make a moment better.

    The best place to listen to “Drive All Night” is to put the song on the stereo in a dark room while you think about everything you have ever lost. By contrast, a live full-band version cannot capture that feeling because a Springsteen concert is a celebration of community with a large crowd and the E Street Band backing up the singer. But when Glen Hansard sings his version of “Drive All Night” live, he comes close to the feeling of the original recording.

    Singer-songwriter (and sometimes movie actor) Glen Hansard has a voice made for evoking sadness and pain. There are great versions of Hansard covering “Drive All Night” by himself. As the title track for a 2013 EP, Hansard recorded his own version of “Drive All Night” with Eddie Vedder helping on vocals and E Street Band member Jake Clemons playing saxophone. Check it out.

    Springsteen must have recognized Hansard’s skill with the song, as he invited him to sing the song with him in July 2013 when Springsteen played in Kilkenny, Ireland. When Hansard begins singing, Springsteen has a look on his face like, “This guy gets this song.” Check it out.

    But my favorite Hansard version is where he sings alone with a guitar with a little help from Once co-star and former Swell Season bandmate, Marketa Irglova. The two have voices that blend perfectly, and the fact that the two are former lovers adds another layer of poignency to the performance. Check it out.

    What is your favorite version of “Drive All Night”? Leave your two cents in the comments.


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    When Asked How You Are, Do You Say “Busy”?

    This short video, “Enough Time,” raises a question about how we let unimportant things take up our life. Even if you are “busy,” take a few minutes to watch the short video that stars Liam Ireson.

    The video for “Enough Time” comes from a short story in the book, More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger. In the book, Shinabarger challenges readers to evaluate their worldview while asking questions about whether we need as much “stuff” as we have in our lives. What is enough?

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Laugh of the Day: Real Audio for Beach Boys “I Get Around”

    With the recent stories about the release of an audio recording of Britney Spears singing without auto-tune, one might imagine getting similar secret recordings for other famous singers. Some folks have put together some funny “shreds,” imagining bad vocals by famous singers. For example, check out how one might image how the Beach Boys sound singing without any audio enhancements (posted on YouTube by coozco).

    For the shred of a more recent song, check out SamRick‘s take on One Direction singing “Story of My Life.”

    You can find other shredding videos on YouTube for more laughs.

    Who would you like to hear without any special effects? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Blues Legend Johnny Winter Live in Copenhagen

    Blues guitarist and singer Johnny Winter has passed away in Switzerland at the age of 70. During his lifetime, he made some great music, including this wonderful full show from Copenhagen in 1970. Check it out.

    For more on Winter, check out this story on NPR. RIP.

    What is your favorite Johnny Winter performance? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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