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‘Everest’ Review

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Director: Baltasar Kormakur

Writer(s): William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy

Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, Elizabeth Debicki, Naoko Mori, Martin Henderson, Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson, Thomas M. Wright, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, and Jake Gyllenhaal

Synopsis: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review (despite it being based on a true story)*

 

 

Based on a real life event in the late 90s and several books, including one by someone that has climbed Mt. Everest and was at the event that the film is depicting, Everest is not your typical disaster movie. In fact, this is more a freak of nature film. I don’t remember the event happening when it did – I was young at the time and didn’t pay too much attention to the news anyway – but I found out about it later on. It really is one of those stories that is primed for a big screen treatment.

 

Everest follows famed Mt. Everest climber and now guide, Rob Hall (Clarke) as he and his company Adventure Consultants is ready to take another group of climbers up to the peak of Everest. The group consists of John Krakauer (Kelly), a journalist writing a feature about the expedition, Beck Weathers (Brolin), a Texan pathologist who is eager to climb Everest, Yasuko Namba (Mori), an experience climber who has already reached six of the seven highest peaks in the world, and Doug Hansen (Hawkes) a mail man who has failed to make the summit a year before and is eager to finally reach his goal and make the peak. The thing is, at the same time, there are other groups including Mountain Madness, which is lead by a free-spirited Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal).

 

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Hall and Fischer eventually agree to have their groups climb the mountain together despite their clash of cultures. Once they climb the mountain Hall’s base camp leader Helen Wilton (Watson), a doctor, Caroline Mackenzie (Debicki), and another expert climber and Hall’s friend Guy Cotter (Worthington) notice a storm brewing that is moving in quickly and will hit them hard.

 

I’m not going to lie, Everest is hard to watch. Not in the sense that it’s a bad film, but in the sense that it’s a heavy film to take in and experience. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a freak of nature kind of film in where anything that could go wrong, seemed to go wrong or at least be in the way of going wrong. And then the storm hits. The storm looks terrifying and the way that director Baltasar Kormakur films the storm and the mountain, it does look a bit like you’re with the climbers as they go higher and higher and as they try to make their way down the mountain.

 

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While it feels like Kormakur is trying to make the mountain feel like its own character, since the mountain is so massive and everything is pretty much covered in the storm, the geography is hard to figure out. Characters will name off parts of the mountain and while we may have seen those parts previously, everything almost feels like the same location.

 

As for the real cast, they fare better for the most part. Jason Clarke’s Rob Hall is equal parts control freak and motivator, which is the exact man you want leading and putting your trust in him to the highest and most dangerous peak on the planet. Josh Brolin handles himself as Beck as he appears to be the least experienced climber of the group, while John Hawkes’ Doug, or Dougie, is there to prove himself to everyone including himself as his drive is what makes his character one of the most sympathetic characters of the film. Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but it looks like he’s having fun playing the role.

 

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Emily Watson and Keira Knightley are the only real actress, of the four in the film, that get to do anything substantial. Although most of their moments come from talking on the phone or walkie-talkies, but the scenes are powerful enough to overlook that issue. This goes into another problem in that when everyone has their masks on, you can’t really tell who anyone really is, until they start to talk, and even then it is still pretty hard to tell with the high wind and snow blowing around everywhere.

 

All in all, Everest has its problems, but at the end of the day the cast, performances and gut-wrenching scenes make the film worthwhile.

 

Everest

4 out of 5

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‘Terminator Genisys’ Review

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Dir: Alan Taylor

Writer(s): Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyl, Byung-hun Lee and Matt Smith

Synopsis: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a brief mid-credits scene*

 

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of my favorite movies of all time, and dare I say one of the best actions movies ever. Of course I’m not the only person to share that feeling and it’s because of that reason that the Terminator series holds a special place in many people’s hearts. However, after Terminator 2 the series took a bit of stumble with the lackluster Rise of the Machines, and the not reaching its full potential with Salvation, so when it was announced that another installment was coming fans were right to be weary. However, when news that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be returning, some of those fans become a little less weary and curious to what they were going to do.

 

Fast forward – or time travel? – to earlier this year and one of the biggest twist that could have probably happened in the series was ruined in all the marketing. So what happens when you know the big twist to a highly popular series and once-was anticipated movie? You go in and try your best to enjoy it. So, was Terminator Genisys good? Terrible like the majority of film reviewers are putting it? Or something else? Well, bit of everything actually.

 

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Terminator Genisys isn’t just another installment to the series; it acts as a prequel, sequel and reboot. So in case you’re brand new to the series, don’t worry you’ll be thrown into the world that many have enjoyed for years. The movie starts with letting us know the events that led to our downfall: The day Skynet became aware and the day Judgment Day happened. We hear the story of one man that lead a resistance against the machines, and that man was John Connor (Jason Clarke). We see him leading the resistance with his right hand man, Kyle Reese (Courtney) to take down a harvesting farm, which is a cover for a weapon that John knows is there: The time machine.

 

Fans know the story: John sends Kyle back in time to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), who is targeted by Skynet as they send back a Terminator model T-800 to kill her before she can give birth to John. However, something happens when Kyle is sent back and it changes the timeline in a dramatic way. When Kyle ends up in 1984, Sarah isn’t a fragile and scared woman instead she is a strong fighter that knows about Terminators and the future. She also has someone that has protected her, a model T-800 Terminator that she happily calls Pops (or named Guardian in the credits). Kyle is of course confused about this and Sarah tells him that everything has changed and that they have been preparing for him. Another problem they have is a new T-1000 (Lee) is there and is hunting them down.

 

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However – again ruined in the marketing – Kyle and Sarah eventually come face-to-face with John himself. The reunion is cut short when Pops shoot John to reveal that John is in fact some sort of new Terminator. Kyle and Sarah make it their mission to not only save the future, but also try figure out what happened to John.

 

Like I mentioned before, the twist of John being a Terminator is a pretty big and nice twist to the series, and it would have been awesome to see it play out on screen for the time first. Instead marketing – and not director Alan Taylor – made the decision to give away the big twist to the movie killing any sort of tension to not only the scene, but for the rest of the movie. Yes, it is commonplace for studios to show off or reveal a few of their key sequences to make sure you go buy a ticket, and some studios have even tricked the audience into going to watch the movie by showing a really cool moment, that just so happens to be the end of the movie. But giving away the “John is some sort of new awesome Terminator” twist really hurt the movie going in.

 

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Also, we’re dealing with time travel. Just know going in that you’re going to deal with three different timelines that thankfully don’t get too murky. At one point, it’s explained by Pops that the timelines have changed and thankfully it doesn’t stop the movie dead. The alternate timeline does change a few things up and it should be interesting to see where they go with things from this point forward. Although at this point I’m not sure how many fans want to stick around after the new “twist.” Yes, there is another twist to the movie that only starts off in the third act and is obviously set up for future sequels. I’m not going to get too into it because it does go into spoiler territory.

 

So let’s go in the cast. Arnold steps right back into the role without fault. Yes, he is older and the movie goes into why that is, but there is a lot more to his character this time around. Like I’ve mentioned, Sarah calls him Pops and his official character name in the credits is Guardian, by that you know a lot of things have changed. On the other side of the coin, Jason Clarke as John Connor/new Terminator – no official name, just his quote that he’s “something more” – has to pull double duty as the John Connor legend, who gives a pretty impressive speech at the start of the movie and has a great relationship with Kyle before he sends him back, and the Terminator, who is like he says “can’t be bargained with.”

 

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Again, the twist would have been really cool to see for the first time while watching the movie, not only because it’s a massive spoiler, but also because it changes the dynamic of the character that we’ve known is the face of resistance against the machines and the mythos of the series. John Connor is no longer the good guy, the man that we root for. Instead he is our primary villain out to kill our heroes and has fallen into become a machine!

 

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As for John’s parents, Jai Courtney – who I’m not a real fan of to be honest – does okay as Kyle Reese. He doesn’t really go beyond anything we’d suspect from his character. Sure he has a standout moment when talking to Sarah early in the movie, but other than that nothing stands out. As for Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor, I’ve seen some reviewers say she’s been miscast or doesn’t do anything special for the role, and I don’t think that’s the case to be honest. Clarke is stepping into big shoes yes, but at the same time, this is a different Sarah Connor from the original The Terminator. Instead we get the Terminator 2 Sarah Connor, the one that is ready to fight anything that stands in her way and Clarke holds her own for the most part. She does work better off Arnold than Courtney for the most part and but overall she’s does fine playing the part of badass warrior.

 

J.K. Simmons as a small supporting role that doesn’t really add much to the overall movie, but you can clearly tell his character will have some sort of role in the potential sequels. Sadly, Byung-hun Lee’s T-1000 character doesn’t get a ton of screen time and is underused. Luckily, his part is rather enjoyable but you feel his missing presence throughout the movie.

 

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The action in the movie is actually pretty enjoyable, and there is quite lot more than I suspected. The other thing the movie had that surprised me was humor. It’s not like the movie is cracking jokes every minute, but humor is sprinkled throughout the movie and it makes sense. Of course, the movie has many more references and subtle additions from the previous movies – and yes, even the TV show – that fans can appreciate.

 

One thing that will bother people – even me to some extent – is the movie has a lot of questions that it asks, but never really answers. If they do, they don’t give you the full answer. The movie suffers a bit from setting things up for sequels instead of making the movie stand on its own. Some things make sense, but for the most part, the studio makes sure that they want the audience back for another go-around.

 

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All in all, Terminator Genisys isn’t as terrible as many people out there want you to believe. There are some enjoyable moments scattered throughout and the action is pretty great to watch. The cast work well together for the most part, with Jason Clarke and Arnold being the standout. The movie may act as a prequel, sequel, and reboot, but make no mistake that it is another addition to the series. Let’s hope that fans will want to keep coming back.

 

Terminator Genisys

3 out of 5

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Review

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Dir: Matt Reeves

Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nick Thurston, Judy Greer, and Gary Oldman

Synopsis: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

The Planet of the Apes franchise has gone through a lot from; ahead of its time, shocking, good, bad, weird and terrible. It has touched on political issues and questions that no one dared touched, but has also shown us how far people will go to do what they think is right. The original series came out before I was born (but I have watched and appreciated them) and then saw the horrible Tim Burton Planet of the Apes. Luckily, the series rebooted and gave us the excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes giving us not just a brand new series but giving us fresh new opportunities. Does Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continue that? Quick answer, yes. And gives us a hell of a lot more.

 

The movie starts off giving us a quick and eerie rundown of how mankind has been ravaged by the “Simian Flu” followed by a war that left only small modest groups of human colonies.  Ten years later, Caesar (Serkis) and his apes have grown and thrived in the woods.  They’ve become smarter, self-sufficient, built a home, and have a tight-knit community built on laws such as “Ape Shall Not Kill Ape” and “Apes Together Strong.”  Caesar leads his community with wisdom and has also become a family ape with his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer), newborn child, and son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston).

 

However, Caesar’s life is disrupted when Malcolm (Clarke), his wife Ellie (Russell), his son Alexandra (Smit-McPhee) and others accidentally stumble into the apes’ territory while trying to repair a dam that will supply power to their colony.  Caesar must then decide if he can protect his apes through isolationism, a tenuous truce, or agreeing with his chief lieutenant Koba (Kebbell), who wants to start a war against the humans.

 

One of the great things about the movie is director Matt Reeves does not make us wait to see Caesar and the apes. After eerie opening, we see the apes right off the part. Matter of fact, the movie spends time more with the apes than the humans. Caesar’s people communicate through a mix of limited speech, signing, and body language. The ape children attend school, where Maurice, the orangutan from Rise and Caesar’s trusted adviser, teaches lessons like how to write and one that I stated earlier “Ape Shall Not Kill Ape.”

 

Although the movie has many standouts (which I will get to them later) the main standout is Andy Serkis as Caesar. This time around Caesar is older and wiser. He bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. With every body movement you can feel the responsibilities that he is wrestling with, regarding not just leading his fellow apes but also taking care of his family and guiding his elder son into adulthood. Serkis is one of the masters, if not the master, of motion capture and his turn as Caesar this time around with the help of WETA is truly one of his best works.

 

The dynamic between Caesar and Clarke’s Malcolm is a strong arc in the movie. The two have much in common, as Malcolm is also trying to protect his family and his people. It’s an uneasy truce that’s made between the two, but it comes from a shared understanding that they’re both working for the same thing — for family, for community, and for the future.

 

Of course some of the apes don’t agree with helping the humans and those are lead by Koba. While played by stunt performer Christopher Gordon in the first film, Reeves recast the role with actor Toby Kebbell. The probable reason is that Koba is a key player in the events of Dawn, and Kebbell gives Serkis a run for his money in the performance-capture acting and is much more than one-dimensional. Koba has pledged himself to Caesar ever since he freed him from the experimental laboratories of the first film, where the ape was operated on hundreds of times by human scientists. His hate for man is strong, and you can’t really blame him. He shows Caesar the scars from the human mistreatment.

 

The relationship between Caesar and Koba is just one of the many remarkable, textured character back and forwards of the film. Koba is given to outbursts as he questions Caesar’s approach to the humans, but when Caesar rebukes his old ally, Koba begs for forgiveness with an extended hand and a posture of supplication. Caesar embraces his friend’s hand with sympathy, accepting his apology as he understands the complexity of the situation and Koba’s misgivings. It’s a strong moment, but it becomes so much more as it’s repeated a couple of more times throughout the film, with each slight variation on the same interaction informing us greatly about how the relationship between the two is changing.

 

While the ape actors are great, including a string of lesser known performers including Konoval and Nick Thurston (who plays Caesar’s son Blue Eyes), we can’t overlook what WETA has done here. This movie is full of apes, and they’re very often in exterior locations or engaged in battles or riding freaking horses! All technically complex and next-level stuff. Oh, and the apes on horses? There are certain unforgettable shots on this front that make that very concept as cool and thrilling as it must’ve seemed when the original franchise came out. Reeves also utilizes the WETA magic to create some truly beautiful images. Much of this stuff gets into spoiler territory, but it truly is beautiful to see.

 

As for the human cast, it is hit and miss. Jason Clarke is great as always as he sees Caesar trying to basically do the same thing but under different circumstances. Clarke’s Malcolm sees the apes as more than just “animals” as Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus does. Keri Russell has her moments here and there but overall doesn’t do much and the same can more said for Smit-McPhee. Gary Oldman however is unfortunately underused in this. While he does have some strong moments he disappears for a chuck of the film and even when he returns he isn’t nearly as strong as he could have been.

 

Matt Reeves, who takes over for Rupert Wyatt, really expands the world that Wyatt had only developed. Rise was also filled with more obvious homage’s to the original series, Reeves holds back and makes the occasional and subtle references like using bits of the original score and an ending that is very Planet of the Apes. Although, there are some similarities of other huge moments of the original series that might be lost on the causal Planet of the Apes fans but to the hardcore fans – or ones that binged watched the series before watching Dawn – those will stick out.

 

Ultimately, the great Planet of the Apes movies all share one very important element: a willingness to examine and contemplate the issues facing the real world. And Dawn certainly falls into this category. While the always-relevant notions of family, friendship, and the responsibility to protect both run deep in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, there is much more here as well for those who are willing to look. I won’t say what they are here just in case you want to see them unfold in the film yourself but all of these concepts are left to ponder.

 

All in all, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does what the best of Hollywood genre movies can do — it’s exciting, thrilling, and visually amazing to look at. But it’s so much more than that as well. Reeves is a great addition and arguably has made a better movie than Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But this movie belongs to Serkis and Kebbell who give amazing performances, and all through motion capture.

 

Hail Caesar!

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

5 out of 5

‘White House Down’ Review

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Dir: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012)

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Nicolas Wright and James Woods

Synopsis: While on a tour of the White House with his young daughter, a Capitol policeman springs into action to save his child and protect the president from a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

Well here we go again. The White House is under taken and gets taken over from the inside and it’s up to one man to save the President and the world. Only a few months after Olympus Has Fallen we get the “master of disasters” White House Down. Although it sounds like I’m bashing the movie I am truly not. I did think I wouldn’t enjoy it because of Channing Tatum (sorry Tatum fans, I just don’t completely see it) and because I’ve already seen the story. But, Emmerich’s version isn’t too bad.

Capitol policeman to Speaker of the House Ralpheson (Jenkins) John Cale (Tatum) is determined to impress his estranged and government-trivia-obsessed daughter (King) by becoming a part of the Secret Service. Following an ill-fated interview for the position, the White House is taken over by a paramilitary force whose aim is to kidnap President Sawyer (Foxx). Cale must rise to the occasion and against all odds rescue the president, his daughter and the world.

There are a lot more players in the game, like Secret Service deputy Finnerty (Gyllenhaal), leader of the bad guys Stenz (Jason Clarke) and Secret Service chief, Walker (Woods). The script, thankfully, never gets bogged down in its loaded cast and instead uses them to create a long narrative that is constantly flipping between the various players rather than resting solely on Cale and Sawyer.

Emmerich is known for balancing his movies with drama, humor and action when need be, this is no different. The drama-centric scenes do make some of the stakes much higher and bit emotional but never to the point where it overpowers the humor between Tatum and Foxx’s characters. The action should please some fans. It varies from multiple shootouts to some good ol fashion fist fights. However, most of the action is better when it sticks in the House than outside, excluding the decently fun limo chase on the front lawn.

All in all, White House Down is a dumb-fun summer action movie. Some of the CGI is a bit off which is weird to say when reviewing a Roland Emmerich movie.
White House Down

4 out of 5