Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A planet where apes evolved from men? Well, not exactly, if you follow the film versions of the Planet of the Apes series. Based somewhat on the fourth film in the series Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), Rise of the Planet of the Apes tells the story of how tinkering with genetic make-up of a species might just lead to humanity’s demise. Rise of the Planet of the Apes re-rebooted the more-than 40-year-old franchise and sets the stage for the much buzzed about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (we liked it a lot). It also gave an opportunity to show the nuance and artistry involved in performance capture, courtesy of Weta Digital and Andy Serkis For its initial Blu-ray and DVD release, director Rupert Wyatt sat down with his film and talked about the production in his stand-alone commentary. Along with some gushing over James Franco and an answer to the greatest meme of 2011 (“Why cookie rocket?”), Wyatt examines the technical side of the film as well as the performances for both human and non-human characters.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

“Apes on Horses! Apes on Horses!” exclaims a giddy title from Badass Digest‘s Devin Faraci in an article about new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes photos being released into the wild. As he continues in his assessment of these new stills from the Fox marketing team, he calls out the fact that early footage never quite sold this new apes film, but these stills do. Their greatest achievement: a sense of realism not yet seen in any of the numerous attempts to bring the Planet of the Apes world to life. Even as impressive as Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was in 2011, there was still a bit of an uncanny valley gap with Caesar (played in motion capture by Andy Serkis). The most impressive CGI ape in that movie was the most exotic, an orangutan that didn’t quite get a lot of screentime. Most of the effort went into creating Caesar (and the film’s climactic battle on the Golden Gate bridge), and even he still had a bit of shine. This time though, the wizards of WETA  have absolutely created a photoreal group of apes that have increasingly human characteristics. Such as intricate facial expressions, emotional response and yes, the ability to ride horses and fire guns. It’s even more impressive a feat when you consider how far the craft of visual effects has come since the first Planet of the Apes film was released in 1968. It’s a history I’d like to explore for a moment in photos.

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backtothefuture_movieswelove

Time travel stories are one of the most polarizing things for film fans. They either love them, or they turn their noses up at them. Still, that doesn’t stop writers from coming up with them, and it’s not even for the science fiction fields. Time travel stories have an unexpectedly strong placement in romance fiction as well, such as The Time Traveler’s Wife or the upcoming Starz series Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling historical romance series. While many of these romance-driven stories – like Somewhere in Time and more recently Richard Curtis’s About Time – are not concerned with the greater implications of meddling with the space-time continuum, the science fiction movies are. Traveling through time has been a central figure in stories for years, often presenting the viewer with a crash course in theoretical physics and opening themselves up to plot holes almost impossible to close. As a personal fan of the time traveling story, I love to see what the writers will come up with next. But these movies always get me wondering… is it possible to travel through time the way people do in the movies?

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apes-commentary1

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2014, but the high-budget prequel/sequel would never have been possible without the original film series from the 1960s and 1970s. The Planet of the Apes Blu-ray features multiple commentary options, including a recorded track with actors Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Natalie Trundy, as well as make-up artist John Chambers. Spliced together by existing interviews, this is more of a voice-over through the movie. To augment the commentary, there’s a text commentary provided by Eric Greene, author of the book Planet of the Apes as American Myth. That’s enough to shake a fist at.

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1-Linda-Hamilton_1416367i-

Earlier this week, Variety chief film critic Justin Chang wrote about time travel romance films in response to the new Richard Curtis movie, About Time. It’s a fair reading of the genre, focusing narrowly on Somewhere In Time, The Lake House and The Time Traveler’s Wife (which like About Time stars Rachel McAdams). These are all cinematic equivalents of the time travel romance novel (two are actually adaptations), of which there are hundreds of examples, and they’re all pretty sappy, whether they have sad or happy endings. Of course, they’re concentrated on not only love stories, but ones putting the ideas of destiny and its obstacles to the extreme of temporal distance. So either concluding in a final parting (death) or union (finally getting together forever), there’s going to be a great sentimental power breaking through the tension at the end, a power that probably leaves its audience in need of a tissue. But those four movies, including the latest, hardly represent the full extent of time travel romance in the movies. It’s just that most of the others are concentrated on the time travel narratives over the romantic. Still, they feel the need for those love interests, and the love story elements are always very interesting given the plots. See some notable examples below.

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IntroSequelHooks

A sequel hook is that very ambitious moment at the end of a movie where it boldly hint at a second film. While some can give the audience chills (think the ending of Batman Begins) there are a whole lot of them that end up becoming an embarrassment – usually when the film ends up bombing and ensuring that a second helping won’t be needed. Then again, when has a movie being bad stopped sequels from happening? I propose the following eight – ridiculous hooks to sequels that they really ought to have done, if only for the morbid curiosity.

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Tim Burton is not a fan of the horizontally-challenged. That’s the conclusion I reached from watching Frankenweenie, an otherwise very pleasant return to form for for the director. What isn’t so pleasant is how every paunchy character — the mayor, the gym coach, and the chubby kid whose name doesn’t matter — is cackled at by Burton and turned into a visual punch-line. Burton portrays these characters in a way that seems antithetical to how most people perceive him and his films… with a casual dash of mean-spiritedness. The one constant in Burton’s films, aside from Johnny Depp obviously, is that he’s always championed the outcasts and made them the eventual heroes of their worlds. Think of the Goth cutter Edward Scissorhands defeating the jock bully, the goofy Amish kid saving the day in Mars Attacks, the friendless Charlie Bucket outlasting the truly bad kids to win the chocolate factory, etc. Looking back at his work, though, it seems clear that Burton himself has been acting the bully when it comes to even the mildly obese. They’re made to be clumsy, goofy, obnoxious and irritating, and if they don’t exist strictly as a visual gag they’re almost sure to be a villain. Can you think of one overweight hero or true good guy in his films? I can’t. Why would a man so feverishly in favor of defending and uplifting outsiders himself single out a specific group of people to consistently bully throughout his career? Hell if I know, but […]

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“Movie House of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, I’m celebrating a new local favorite of mine, which could probably be substituted with many other lasting drive-ins around the U.S. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.   Name: Starlight Six Drive-In Location: 2000 Moreland Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA Opened: 1947, as a single screen; became the Starlight Twin with the addition of a second screen in 1956; final four screens were added in 1983. No. of screens: 6 Current first run titles: Each screen has two titles, and these can be watched as a two-for-one double feature. This week’s most perfect pairings are Frankenweenie and Paranorman, Argo and The Bourne Legacy, and Hotel Transylvania and Here Comes the Boom. The other three are Looper and Resident Evil: Retribution, Sinister and Dredd, and Taken 2 and End of Watch.

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Wish you could watch the Frank Darabont-scripted Indiana Jones 4? Dying to see Terry Gilliam’s Watchmen? Curious as to how a ton of great scripts got passed over before Tim Burton made his remake of Planet of the Apes? “Tales From Development Hell” author David Hughes joins us to dissect why we’re fascinated with stories of flicks that were never made, explains why At The Mountains of Madness got canned and explains how the big damned system of tentpole studio production works. Download Episode #125

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Culture Warrior

Editor’s Note: With Landon still celebrating Marcel Pagnol’s birthday, Cole was left to write this week’s entry. Please don’t riot. Every so often, The History Channel will play The Planet of the Apes, and it freaks me out. In recent years, the station has lost the meaning of its name completely, but a few years ago, I genuinely worried that someone would stumble upon the movie in progress, see the logo at the bottom, and be convinced that there was a time in Earth’s history that we were ruled by simians. There’s no proof, but considering that people have tried to rob banks with permanent marker all over their faces as a “disguise,” it seems possible that at least one person would be confused by a non-fiction station about our past playing a fictional movie where Moses pounded his fist into the sand in horror. Maybe there’s no real danger of that, but it still displays a certain power that movies have. They, like all stories, are how we share with each other. From person to person, from culture to culture, movies provide a certain shared sentience. A great story, told well, can transport and give insight into What It’s Like, especially in a world where photography and audio recording are relatively new technologies. The hitch is that there are still limitations to the art. The camera always lies, so even as we grasp toward understanding, it’s easy to be misled when it comes to experiences we have no personal […]

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Mondo

In May 2011, the Alamo Drafthouse hosted “Day of the Apes,” an epic 8-hour marathon of all five Planet of the Apes films on 35mm. Above all other things, this should be celebrated as one fine event. Every single Apes film in glorious 35mm? What could possibly improve such a situation? How about a brilliant set of posters from some of Mondo’s sinister cabal of artists, the likes of Ken Taylor, Martin Ansin, Phantom City Creative and Jason Edmiston. In an unprecedented exclusive that spans across four of the web’s most popular film blogs (and also Film School Rejects), the poster set, created to commemorate the event, is finally unveiled to the public with each film tackled by a different artist.

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The best thing to do if you find yourself traveling through time is to go back in time and tell yourself to never travel through time, because you’re almost certainly going to fuck something up. For more advice on time travel, hop in your time machine and re-read this paragraph. Done? Okay. Now, assuming time travel really did work, there are multiple theories on the hows and whys. I could get really detailed on each, but I have a word limit and, like most Americans, I’m terrible at science (and please keep that in mind if I mess up any of the science in the rest of this article). I count myself lucky that my school even taught me evolution at this point. But one of the most compelling models of time travel is that of the closed time loop. In a closed time loop, time is immutable and there are no alternate timelines. You can’t change time because you already traveled back in time before. You always hopped in that time machine to go have one last bottle of Crystal Pepsi. It’s already a part of history (just like Crystal Pepsi, sadly). Yes, that does mean that in the normal flow of time, you popped in from the not-yet-defined “future”, drank your Crystal Pepsi, and disappeared again, creating a paradox that would only be solved when you built the time machine and… yeah, let’s not get into all that. The point is, closed time loops can lead to some […]

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I walked out of Rupert Wyatt‘s now wildly successful Planet of the Apes prequel thinking that it was a focused, satisfying film that concentrated on a very small, very personal story; but also that it worked well as an introduction to a sci-fi world that is ripe for further exploration. Sure, since this is a prequel we all know where it’s going to eventually end up: with apes wearing clothes, speaking English, and being in control of the whole planet; but there’s a whole big history between the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and when that space shuttle to Mars crashes back down in Planet of the Apes that can still be explored. I walked out of Rise of the Planet of the Apes wondering how long it would be before film geeks started salivating over the idea of getting an Ape War movie, just like they salivated over the idea of getting a Machine War movie for years after The Terminator. It turns out as I was wondering, it had already been happening, and that geek doing all of the salivating was Rupert Wyatt himself.

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Culture Warrior

Warning: this editorial contains spoilers for Rise of the Planet of the Apes (and, for that matter, the original Planet of the Apes). Consider yourself warned, you maniacs! The original Planet of the Apes lends itself quite readily to allegory. 1968, the year of the film’s release, was the peak of one of the most tumultuous eras in American social history. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down in April of that year, and Robert F. Kennedy’s death followed a mere two months later. Student resistance and campus demonstrations grew increasingly violent in their opposition to the Vietnam War, the Chicago DNC broke into an all-out war, and racial discord mounted. Of course, none of this had happened yet when Planet of the Apes went into production, but the intersections of intent and circumstance that permit the film to be read so heavily, so variously, and so often in allegorical terms enrich the original film and its sequels with resonance that outlives whatever else may date it. Beyond entertainment value, the Planet of the Apes series has lingered in the popular imagination not because of any strong connection to a specific associative meaning, but because of the many possible allegorical readings it is capable of containing. One of several reasons that Rise of the Planet of the Apes succeeds where previous reincarnations of the series did not is its reclaimed capacity for allegory.

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Tim Burton‘s failed reboot/remake/whatever it is lacked everything that made the Apes series fun and interesting. His cheesy actioner was all about Mark Wahlberg running through empty set-pieces. The Apes franchise isn’t just the Statue of Liberty and Charleton Heston doing his awesome Charleton Heston shtick; they were morality tales loaded with social commentary. They were cynical films that declared human beings to be monsters, with exceptions being far and few between. For awhile, it seemed the franchise was dead in the water, and had nothing left to say. Fortunately, Rupert Wyatt has come along and made a real Planet of the Apes film. There’s a real darkness and cynicism to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I spoke to Wyatt a few ago months about Rise, and he labeled the film as being “hopeful.” That’s a questionable idea for a film that doesn’t close on the brightest of notes and is, basically, a symbolic horror film at times. There’s certainly some hope, but it’s still inherently bleak. But in a world of forced happy endings, you have to admire a summer tentpole that willingly sets out to wipe away and/or enslave humanity.

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For those of you who are new to the column, I’m revisiting formative events that have contributed to what I am now: A Special Make Up Effects Artist seeking relevance in the 21st Century. So, I’ve learned about liquid latex, got my camera, am hyped up on Star Wars, and ready to move up to the next level. I am sixteen – When the box appeared at my house, I was surprised at how heavy it was for its relative size. The shipping label was yellow and red, and in the upper left hand corner it confirmed that my order had arrived. “R&D Latex Corporation, Commerce, CA” it read. Finally, after a decade I held in my hands a box that contained the mystical material, the magical substance that turned actors into apes, had aged Dustin Hoffman to over 100 years old, and was the stuff of Ray Harryhausen Stop Motion Models! As you may remember, I read about R&D Latex Corporation in an article about building Stop Motion Models in “Super 8 Filmmaker” magazine, and I had sent in my fifty dollars (forty-five dollars for the one gallon kit plus five dollars shipping). By today’s standards that seems fairly reasonable, but in those days, when you worked at a grocery store and took home about $100 or less, $50 was quite the investment.

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Shannon Shea has done special effects work on over sixty films. From Evil Dead II to Predator. From Dances With Wolves to Jurassic Park. From In the Mouth of Madness to Sin City. Every week he delves into his personal and professional history to tell the story of how he became a monster that makes monsters. So there I was, in a small conference room in Woodland Hills, California on a warm February afternoon in 2009. I knew that the meeting would go long, and I would have to spend at least an hour driving home to Los Angeles. Sitting next to me was Mark Dippe, Industrial Light and Magic alumnus and director of the movie Spawn, and across from me sat Dean Cundey, the guy that not only shot all of John Carpenter’s early movies, but also shot Jurassic Park and Back to the Future just to name a few. At the end of the table was producer Tom Kiniston; I had worked with Tom on the Tremors TV series, and next to him was Brian Gilbert, formerly of Stan Winston Productions. The director was Brian Levant, whom I had never worked with personally. However I was familiar with him because I was representing KNB EFX Group, and KNB had made the Turbo-Man Suits for Jingle All The Way, a Mr. Levant effort. We, along with other department heads had gathered to discuss Scooby Doo and the Curse of the Lake Monster. As we began to go through the […]

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Even with a single teaser trailer, director Rupert Wyatt has already laid further waste to Tim Burton’s abomination. While that’s not exactly a tough thing to do, Wyatt looks to have made a genuine Planet of the Apes film. Burton and co. missed out on what made the Apes series interesting: social commentary. Rise of the Planet of the Apes seems to be another man abusing science fable, and it fits perfectly into the Apes mold. With further hating on Burton’s Apes “film” out of my system, Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks to be what the fans want. Judging by the trailer, it isn’t about explosions, it has a doom-ridden atmosphere, and looks to be one of those films that builds up to a real bang of a climax like the other (good) installments. I recently had the chance to discuss all this with director Rupert Wyatt, along with the trailer reaction, getting to make an inherently dark studio film, returning to social commentary, the hopefulness in the film, and how Justin Bieber is lending a helping hand to the end of cinema:

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. If you don’t mind a little bit of male objectification, check out this pitch-perfect trailer for a sci-fi movie where Charlton Heston wears a loin cloth and runs around screaming like a mad man. Which should narrow it down. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Every so often, a film emerges from the fray to prove its popularity and warrant a sequel. More and more, franchises are planned out in advance, but when one film turns into a franchise, a cash register sound goes off in the ears of the studio. Even though the kid stays in the picture, sometimes the director does not. Maybe the director is done working with the material. Maybe the producers want a more seasoned hand. Maybe a simple schedule conflict keeps him or her out of the chair for the next round up. But the show must go on, so the producers find another director to fill the slot – a director who ostensibly inherits all the strengths and weaknesses of a franchise birthed by someone else. Cinematic sloppy seconds that could have easily turned into sloppy sequels if it weren’t for a steady, talented director guiding the ship. Here’s a list of the ten best.

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