All I Want for Christmas… Part 2

Part 2 of my home video picks. These Blu-rays and DVDs are all released in time to be bought for Christmas presents. There are plenty of DVDs angling for stocking space, but these are three of the better ones.

Super 8

One of my favourite films of the year, Super 8 is a must see for fans of Spielberg’s 1980s blockbusters. Directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, the film a group of teenagers shooting a movie who witness a terrifying crash. Super 8 pays homage to Spielberg’s classic sci-fi/adventure films, mixing nostalgia with pure entertainment. Rated 12, the film should be enjoyed by teens as well as adults who remember the films Super 8 pays homage to. The film is out on Triple Play Blu-Ray and DVD today. The DVD features a commentary plus two featurettes, while the Blu-Ray features a host of extras.

___

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

Along with Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes stood out among this summer’s blockbusters. Many were dubious about the film, a prequel to the science-fiction classic Planet of the Apes. However, director Rupert Wyatt delivered an unexpectedly good blockbuster, which offered a sound narrative as well as impressive special effects. Released on DVD and Blu-Ray today, Rise of the Planet of the Apes will surely be a welcome gift for anyone who enjoyed the film this summer. The DVD features deleted scenes, whilst the Blu-ray offers a number of featurettes, as well as audio commentaries.

Horrible Bosses

One for older viewers, the 15-rated Horrible Bosses is out on DVD and Triple Play Blu-Ray now. 2011 has not exactly been a vintage year for Hollywood comedy, but Horrible Bosses stands out as one of the better ones. Featuring a stellar cast, the film is about three disgruntled employees who plot to murder their bosses. There are some great jokes, although the film is worth watching for Jennifer Aniston’s star turn alone. The Blu-Ray offers some great extras including interviews with the cast, featurettes and additional scenes.

Film Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

As prequels go, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is certainly one of the better ones. Rupert Wyatt’s film is thoroughly entertaining and a suitable addition to the franchise.

Trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, scientist Will tests his genetic engineering experiments on apes in his San Francisco laboratory. After a test goes wrong, an ape is killed, and Will is left to care for her baby. Little Caesar shows remarkable cognitive development skills as he grows up with Will and his ailing father. After an incident, Caesar’s outlook and relationship with humans change…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is so entertaining primarily because of its well-constructed story. Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have created a compelling narrative. Moreover, the story resonates with viewers as it is plausible. Set in the current day, the idea of genetic engineering to find cures is very contemporary. Although events in the film may be shocking, they are not totally fantastical.

Wyatt’s film provides a good combination of drama, comedy and action. For a big summer blockbuster, the use of action is restrained in the film. This factor makes the action scenes more powerful, and the violence more pronounced. The human story is unmistakably secondary to that of Caesar in Rise. Nonetheless, the construct works well to give reason for Will’s experiments and for raising the small ape. The film also features a surprising amount of humour, which effectively breaks some of the more tense moments.

Rise should be enjoyed by fans of the original film as it holds it in reverence. There are a number of references to events of the original film, making the transition between the two films smoother despite the decades that separate them. For those who have not seen the original, or read Pierre Boulle’s novel, Rise inevitably reveals the big twist. However, most viewers will be aware of it, and Wyatt’s film pays homage with an excellent use of the 1968 film’s immortal line.

The effects in the film are astounding. The motion-capture technique used by WETA are integrated seamlessly into the live action. The apes are incredibly expressive and natural looking. Wyatt’s direction is also commendable. There are some fantastic images, particularly in the second half of the film, such as the apes in the trees. Rise definitely provides a sense of spectacle.

Performances are good in the film, although the humans play second fiddle to the apes. James Franco and Frieda Pinto offer decent performances, and John Lithgow stands out as Will’s father. David Oyelowo is perfectly cast as the business-minded company head Steve Jacobs.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a very enjoyable film that offers great visuals as well as an absorbing narrative.

Damned Dirty (and Wonderfully Realised) Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the Planet of the Apes series, is out in UK cinemas on 12th August 2011. After Tim Burton’s re-imagining of the original in 2001 received a mixed reception, one wonders whether there really is a desire for another Apes film. Nonetheless, the 2011 film, directed by Rupert Wyatt, offers an intriguing concept. The film will attempt to enlighten viewers about how the apes managed to take over. Set in the present day, the film will no doubt fill in some of the missing detail of what happens on Earth prior to the year 3978 (the setting of the original film).

It remains to be seen if the film can rival the calibre of its predecessor. Perhaps what is more certain is the high quality of effects the film is likely to employ. Whether or not you are an admirer of Planet of the Apes (both versions), it is difficult to deny that the apes in these films are fantastically actualised. John Chambers won an honorary Oscar for make-up achievement in Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 film. Writing in Sight & Sound in 1968, critic David Wilson credited the make-up department with making the apes “totally persuasive” (vol. 37, p. 156).

Tim Burton’s version employed a considerable amount of effects. Nevertheless, the director relied upon the prowess of Rick Baker to produce the make-up for his simian characters. In his Variety review, Todd McCarthy states: “Rick Baker’s ape makeup creations are wonderfully varied — all manner of simians are present and accounted for – and represent a definite leap beyond what was possible 33 years ago”.

For the 2011 film, Wyatt has engaged the services of WETA Digital to produce his apes. The team responsible for Avatar have used motion capture to generate the apes; the simian make-up and costumes of the predecessors are nowhere to be seen. The concept art for the film looks impressive in the clip below. Planet of the Apes was one of the most enduring science-fiction films of the 1960s. The unnerving depiction of an ape on horseback is just one of the film’s memorable images. The 2001 re-imagining offered a distinctive look, as well as highly realistic make-up. If nothing else, Rise of the Planet of the Apes will offer viewers the same distinguished level of effects we have come to expect from the series. This seems to be the overarching legacy of the science-fiction franchise.