Rise of the Planet of the Apes

   Director: Rupert Wyatt, 20th Century Fox, Rated M, 105 mins

The original Planet of the Apes made in 1968 was a stunning sci-fi movie that spawned four sequels and became a cinematic classic.
   Unlike Tim Burton’s remake in 2001, director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) has taken a completely different approach by making an enthralling prequel to a new franchise designed to appeal to general audiences and sci-fi fans alike.
   In some respects Rise of the Planet of the Apes is similar to the fourth original movie titled Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in focusing on the rise of Caesar (Lord of the Rings Andy Serkis), gaining leadership of the apes and leading the revolt against the humans.
   Wyatt’s story begins with scientist Will Rodman (James Franco – 127 Hours) experimenting with an Alzheimer’s drug on chimpanzees so that he can ultimately cure his ailing father Charles (John Lithgow) of his debilitating disease.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
   As a result of a tragic incident involving the chimps, Will is forced to take home the surviving baby chimp named Caesar, who inherited superior intelligence from his mother who was injected with the drug.
   One day Charles unknowingly crashes the car of his neighbour who in turn attacks Charles, provoking Caesar to assault the neighbour. This results in Caesar being taken to a secured ape facility where he is badly treated by Dodge Landon (Tom Felton).
   It is only a matter of time before Caesar becomes the leader of the imprisoned apes and overpowers his human masters.
   Wyatt’s screenplay is thoroughly engrossing as it effectively works on both levels of the storyline – animal and human – with Serkis’ performance as the CGI ape stealing the show as Caesar through his human like expressions and clever actions.
   With the CGI apes playing more of a predominant role, the humans appear at times to take on a subordinate position despite the lead actors being Franco, Freida Pinto (as Will’s newly acquired girlfriend and primate expert) and Lithgow.
   Wyatt has done justice to the original Planet of the Apes franchise through his clever storyline and use of some spectacular special effects, especially the climactic confrontation between the apes and humans taking place on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – a major highlight of the movie.
   There is no doubt that the concluding scene in the credits indicates that there will be a sequel and that this exciting sci-fi thriller is an impressive beginning to a fantastic new franchise.
VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamp


Hanna

   Director: Joe Wright, Focus Features, Rated MA, 111 mins

Director, Joe Wright, reunites with his lead star in Atonement, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, in his latest production, casting her as the main character (Hanna) in an intriguing action thriller about a revenge seeking teenage assassin.
   There is also a fascinating parallel between the beginning of the movie whereby Hanna has tracked down a deer with an arrow saying at the time that she deliberately missed its heart so that she can shoot it in the head – and, the dramatic ending.
Hanna
   The opening scenes take place amidst the beauty of the snow-laden forest in Finland, where in a log cabin Hanna (Ronan) is being trained by her father Erik Heller (Aussie actor Eric Bana – The Time Traveler’s Wife) to become a professional assassin – in preparation for the day that she goes after her target, the callous CIA agent, Marissa Wiegler (Aussie actress Cate Blanchett- Robin Hood).
   When finally let loose by her father, Hanna travels to Morocco where she meets up with a touring English family and is befriended by their daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden) not realising that Marissa has called in Isaacs (Tom Hollander), a gay German assassin to hunt her down.
   While being chased by Isaacs, and still in pursuit of Marissa, Hanna learns some startling revelations about her own background-with the concluding scene reflecting that at the commencement of the movie and showing that the story has now come full circle.
   Despite a few flaws, Wright has directed a well-paced thriller that is not action packed but has action sequences that are crafted with a lot of passion including some beautiful cinematography and a memorable musical score.
   Besides the enjoyable performances of the Aussie actors (Bana and Blanchett) it is Ronan who impresses again with her near perfect characterisation of an assassin in what is a blown-away portrayal of ‘Hanna’.

VIC'S VERDICT:       3½ Rubber Stamp

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