Monday, August 15, 2011

Helpful Cowboys and Apes

Cowboys & Aliens movie poster, image property of Universal Pictures.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie poster, image property of 20th Century Fox.
The Help movie poster, image property of Walt Disney Studios.

Vacation is over which means it’s time to get back to work.  And by “work” I’m referring to my imaginary job as a film critic.  My three most recent movies are Cowboys & Aliens, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Help, all of which were on my MostAnticipated Movies page.  If you haven’t checked that page out yet, you should.  I list the movies coming out within the next month or two that I’m really excited to see!  And based on how much I loved these three, it appears that I have a pretty good eye for what’s going to be good.

Cowboys & Aliens AWESOME!

Sometimes the fusion of two seemingly opposite things just works out.  Think “sweet and salty.”  And with director Jon Favreau’s cheekily titled Cowboys and Aliens, you get just that:  a perfect balance of two very distinct flavors.  It’s half old western drama and half sci-fi alien action flick and together they’ve never been better.  The opening sequence is quiet and mysterious where we find our hero Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) as confused about things as we are.  He can’t seem to remember his past, but as the movie goes on we figure things out along with him.  Eventually he finds it within himself to save the world from an ugly breed of alien-life intent on lassoing up the townsfolk.  Sounds silly—I know—but you’ve got to try it to believe it!  Of course he doesn’t do it all by himself.  Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell all add great character and depth to this not-so-traditional tale.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes AWESOME!

It’s always risky whenever the main character of a film is computer-animated.  The look has to be realistic, the movements need to seem natural, and the performance needs to be emotional and relatable.  Director Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes did just that with the chimp named Caesar!  Sure James Franco and John Lithgow both gave terrific performances as the genetic engineer and his father with Alzheimer’s, but I was constantly amazed by Caesar.  Kudos to the animation team and Andy Serkis who acted out all the scenes for them!  The first half of the movie was so full of childlike wonder as we saw the world through Caesar’s innocent—albeit highly intelligent—eyes, before building to a plausible and riveting explanation of how those “damn dirty apes” took over our planet.


It was hard not to notice the dangerous levels of estrogen in the theater when I saw Tate Taylor’s The Help (based on the Kathryn Stockett best-selling novel), but as far as “women’s films” go—as Brian would put it—The Help had a lot of important things to say, and it did it with humor and heart.  Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is a college grad who wants to be a writer someday.  Living in 1960s Mississippi, she’s concerned with the racism seen all around her and decides to write about it, instead of the cleaning column she gets paid to do.  Soon she’s interviewing the help, starting with Aibileen (Viola Davis) who’s got a lot to say about the social injustices present at the time.  Skeeter’s book becomes a big success while ruffling some feathers—especially those of close-minded socialite Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is loathsome!

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