Sunday, August 7, 2011

At the Movies: Cowboys & Aliens/Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(I'm doing capsule reviews today because I'm tired -- and because both movies were pretty "meh.")

Cowboys & Aliens

Premise: "The Old West.. where a lone cowboy leads an uprising against a terror from beyond our world. 1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford). It's a town that lives in fear. But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation..." - from the Universal Pictures summary

Steph's Comments: This movie was -- not what I expected. Instead of the self-aware B-movie romp the title promised, what I got was a story that was played completely straight. The laugh lines in the trailer were pretty much the only laugh lines in the entire script -- and to be honest, I found that rather disappointing. If you're going to mash together two different genres, you should at least have a little fun in the process. Bring in some sparkling wits to pep up the dialogue. And don't be afraid to be a little meta! If this movie had taken the opportunity to lovingly mock a trope or two, it would've completely won me over. As it is, it just -- kind of lays there.

Steph's Rating: 5.0

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Premise: "An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy." - from IMDB.

Steph's Comments: Oh no, it's a prequel! Run for the hills!

Actually, as prequels go, this one wasn't too bad. I appreciated the little details the screen-writers included to link this movie to the original story -- like the throw-away news reports regarding the manned mission to Mars. I also believe that Andy Serkis deserves all the plaudits he's getting for his contribution to the animation of Caesar, who does come through as a real character with understandable motivations. And lastly, I'd like to send some praise John Lithgow's way, as his performance (as the father of the lead researcher and an Alzheimer's sufferer) is excellent and very sad.

Even with all of these positives, however, I still found some major flaws in the writing. We have, for example, Steven Jacobs, who starts off hyper-concerned about the unanticipated consequences of Rodman's drug, yet changes his mind halfway through the movie and becomes Mr. Damn-the-Danger because -- well, pretty much because the plot demands it. And the ape shelter run by the Landons? Sorry -- I didn't buy that at all. If this were the real world, Tom Felton's character would've been reported to the local Humane Society faster than you can yell, "Animal abuse!"

Final verdict? This movie is better than a sharp stick in the eye, but there are bits that are way, way over-the-top.

Steph's Rating: 7.0

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