WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: The final installment in the “Caesar saga” trilogy contains the most basic and familiar of plots. After his primate settlement in a forest is attacked with some of his family killed, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his associates seek vengeance against a renegade human army led by a sociopathic colonel (Woody Harrelson). Since long stretches of the movie have an economy of dialogue, attention is drawn to the excellent camerawork, visually striking production design plus Michael Giacchino’s mood setting musical score. Serkis (THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS) delivers another highly watchable performance along with Harrelson (THE PEOPLE vs. LARRY FLYNT) who feels like he’s channeling crazy Colonel Kurtz from APOCALYPSE NOW (1979). The battle scenes along with the climactic escape sequence are fairly spectacular with deft direction and pacing from co-writer/director Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD). Occasional continuity lapses had me wondering how the simians and soldiers went so quickly from a beach to snow capped mountain ranges and then to a desert. I got the impression, too, that the capture and round-up of the ape colony was edited in the interest of brevity. But those defects are comparatively few in a movie that connects so subtly with the original 1968 film yet never feels as though it’s creatively indebted to it. It’s been written that civilizations are created more by violent means than peaceful ones which is a pervasive theme throughout the narrative of this film. Movie trilogies are like a baseball season in that finishing well and on top is the desired outcome of both. In that respect, WAR is something of a champion with this strong push for the top and is by far the best of the three “reinvented” movies which turned up in 2011. Think of the two original Charlton Heston films, like the first three STAR WARS movies, as a sort of dystopian epic that began in the middle. This trio of new APES flicks, culminating with this one, effectively relates how that unlikely result comes to fruition.
CRITIC’S GRADE: B+
DOUBLE FEATURE: Art imitates real life in THE BIG SICK which tells the true story of transplanted Pakistani comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his romance with a graduate student (Zoe Kazan). But his girlfriend’s sudden illness forces Kumail to deal with her parents (Holly Hunter, Ray Romano) who he’s never met as well as his own family who expects him to marry a Muslim. Co-written by off-screen spouses Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the movie is that rare romantic comedy that’s funny, heartfelt, intelligent and full of perception about the tricky nature of relationships and why we need them. CRITIC’S GRADE: A-