I liked both “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Friends With Benefits.” They’re good, solid summer fare, popcorn movies, but Oscar won’t be awarding any grand prizes for films that are just, well, fun. Entertaining for sure, in that good ole fashioned way that movies USED to be. But which Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to do in recent years.
Yes, yes, I broke my pre-festival rule, and went to see two movies that AREN’T going to be in any of upcoming three festivals that I’m attending(Toronto, Montreal and then New York). I can’t believe it did it, but I did. I had accomplished enough pre-festival prepping-wise, so I went.
The critical hullabaloo that “Apes” was causing made me go, quite frankly. I skipped all the earlier Ape re-incarnations years back. Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans and Roddy MacDowell in monkey masks was an insulting, belittling of great, talented actors to my then teenaged mind. So no. I didn’t go. I’m not a fan of acting with masks in any case.
But the reviews for “Rise of the Planet…” were so ecstatic I just HAD to go. And I had to see if James Franco, whom I did once interview, and whom I’ve always liked, a lot, would recover from his Oscar debacle and his dissing of my BFF Anne Hathaway. And the answer to both questions is yes, and yes
Yes, ROTPOTA works and yes, James is just FINE, in this, his comeback movie, as it were, the first big one post-Oscar hosting…He, and his girlfriend in the film, the lovely Frida Pinto both throw themselves whole-heartedly into acting opposite the performance-capture performance of Andy Serkis as the ape instigator Caesar. And his Oscar fuck-up becomes a mere hiccup in what is obviously going to be a very long and very popular career.
And Andy Serkis’ unseen performance is extraordinary. It’s on a par with his Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tower” and “Return of the King.” He once again was mesmerizing, and particularly so in the early parts of the movie as the young chimpanzee who is adopted by humans.His Caesar is smart and gifted and so much like Nim, the subject of “Project Nim”(which I reviewed for www.awardsdaily.com when I was at the Provincetown Film Festival earlier this year.)
Nim was also a very smart chimp who was being raised by humans as an experiment…which goes awry as the wild animal within him begins to assert himself and he is eventually shipped off to a chimp “sanctuary” just like Caesar is in “Rise…” with tragic results in Nim’s case, but triumphant ones for Caesar as he begins his vengeful quest for world domination, which of course is the “third act” as they now call it of this movie.
It works. Serkis’ Caesar and Franco and Pinto all work and are involving. And John Lithgow is compelling as Franco’s Alzheimer’s riddled father and Brian Cox does great hefty work as the proprietor of the Chimp Hotel that Caesar gets sent to.
It’s good for what it is. Which is an old-fashioned SciFi Horror Movie spruced up and made new with all these CGI effects. AND Andy Serkis scoring yet again, sight unseen, as the wordless chimp.
But one of the Best Pictures of the Year? I don’t think so. But then accept for “Harry Potter”s finale and the magnificent “Midnight in Paris” it’s been a pretty dismal year so far.
And Oscar isn’t going to reward this. But who cares? It’s just good popcorn fun.
The exact same thing can be said about “Friends with Benefits” which I liked A LOT. And more than I liked “Rise…” actually. Why? Well, for starts, it has PEOPLE in it. And Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis give great star-making turns, revealing flairs for light comedy that is going to propel them into many, many rom-coms in the future, which is fine with me.
They are both VERY watchable on screen and are both revelations and fun, fun, fun.
Again, Oscar doesn’t take comedy seriously.
BUT I DO.
And I know how difficult it is to pull off this light-as-air genre. And Timberlake and Kunis, both new to starring roles in this genre, do it just fine, thank you very much.
They are two young execs in New York(which never looked hipper or more fun in a LONNNNNNG time) who after a lot of preliminary blah-blah-blah decide to have sex, but not any kind of “relationship, just sex” and as they say, hilarity ensues. AND lots of sex scenes. LOTS of them. And he’s more nude more often than she is. Which is refreshing.
And yes, he does sing a few notes and busts a few moves, both in and out of his clothes. And his sense of comic timing is just masterful. They were both delights to watch.
And no one was more surprised than I that I liked them both so much. And I liked “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, too.
Two enjoyable movies. I guess I’m on a roll.