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(Source: secretotaku)

Film Review: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is One of The Best Films of 2014.

Prior to the release of Rise of The Planet of The Apes in 2011, expectations were low for the reboot. The Tim Burton film had killed the franchise back in 2001 and while the reboot looked interesting, it seemed more like a showcase for great special effects over anything else. Anchored by a brilliant direction and an outstanding performance by Andy Serkins as Caesar, Rise of The Planet of The Apes was one if not the biggest surprise of 2011. It reignited the franchise by presenting us with one of the most affecting, exhilarating and memorable origin stories. Three years later and Dawn of The Planet of the Apes arrives with high expectations across the board. Fortunately, this sequel manages to surpass the first one in every possible way.

Following Caesar’s (Andy Serkins) uprising, the human race was hit with deadly virus called the Simian Flu. It effectively killed the majority of the human population. Years have passed since then and Caesar has build a home in the forest with all the other apes. Now a father of two, Caesar is living a peaceful life and humans have not been sighted in a long time. However, after a few humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) stumble upon the apes and are told to never return, tensions grow high between the small human colony in San Francisco and the apes. War is at their doorstep.

First and foremost, let’s discuss the absolutely incredible direction by Matt Reeves. Here’s a director whose last two films (Cloverfield and Let Me In) have been polarizing, but with each new film you can clearly see how Reeves is evolving as a director and gradually shaping his own distinctive style. What’s really beautiful to see in this film is the balance achieved between intimate moments and action beats. We spend a lot of time with the apes and see the politics at work within their community. It is fascinating and a brilliant choice to make, and one that is handled in a grounded way. The majority of the apes are fully-realized characters with actual thoughts, goals and flaws. We believe in this ape community and by focusing on their interactions and relationships with each other, we as an audience rapidly grow to care for them. We see their peaceful way of life and are upset by how the humans aim to jeopardize that. The apes are the good guys, while the humans are the baddies. That is the initial thought, but as the film progresses that notion is proven to be wrong.

The human community and the ape community are both flawed. Just like there are humans that want a peaceful solution, there are others who see violence as their only means of survival. This is mirrored in the ape community where not all apes share Caesar’s desire to coexist with humans without violence. There is dissonance in both camps, dissonance driven by a sea of past negative experiences that inevitably lead to war. I think people will be surprised by the various story twists that occur throughout the film. These twists, which are all handled in a carefully astute way, demonstrate that things aren’t black and white but instead these characters inhabit this massive grey area. It is too easy to say these are the good guys and these are the villains, it is braver and much more affecting to show that both camps are complicated, both camps are capable of peace and destruction. It’s really refreshing to see a blockbuster film take this stand and employ it in such an effective manner.

Enhancing the complicated nature of both humans and apes is the performances. To be honest, I think this is the first blockbuster film were all the principal performances are magnificent. In the human camp: Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee (holy shit, puberty!) all give effective performances. Clarke is the standout in that camp and what impresses me most about his performances is how beautifully expressive it is. Seeing his character go into the apes camp and visibly show how utterly frightened he was in that situation, goes a long way into establishing a degree of realism into the proceedings. Clarke successfully puts the audience within his situation and mind set. Even though he is perhaps the most honourable character in the film, Clarke’s Malcolm never feels preachy or like a goody two shoes. Instead, this is a man who has learned from past mistakes and is choosing to utilize understanding and companionship over violence. In the ape camp, the notable supporting characters are Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Koba (Toby Kebbell). Similar to Clarke, the level of expression in these apes’ faces is astounding. Thurston and Kebbell communicate so much about the internal thought process of these apes through their body language that you understand their choices. There is a high degree of empathy at play here and it is really refreshing seeing characters act in true accordance to who they are, instead of being driven to do things because the plot requires it.

As most of us know, Andy Serkins is without a doubt the pioneer of motion-capture performances. His performance in the first Rise of the Planet of the Apes impressed so much that many people were adamant about him receiving an Oscar nomination. That didn’t happen but every time Serkins delivers a great motion-capture performance, which is most of the times really, the subject about what is considered “true” acting comes up. Detractors will say the special effects make the performance and not the actor. With motion-capture, I see the special effects as make-up, decoration that works for the performance. Just like he does in the first film, Serkins is able to embody Caesar beautifully and deliver a charismatic, intimate and memorable performance. Serkins’ Caesar is such a commanding presence throughout the film and seeing how the character changes, and learns from his circumstances further fleshes him out. He is even more interesting and heartbreaking this time around. I would love for him to receive an Oscar nomination, especially since it would cement the level of influence and acting range necessary to pull off a motion-capture performance. It is Serkins who drives the emotion in the film, it is Serkins who majestically makes us actually care about a group of CGI apes. How can we look at such powerful performance and say it isn’t real acting?

Apart from all the great performances, drama and themes explored in the film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes also has awesome action sequences. Director Matt Reeves stages the action in a comprehensive way, especially when you consider that almost every action scenes involves a sea of people. They’re pretty intricate scenes yet at no point are we confused as to what is happening. One of the way Reeves achieves this is by utilizing long takes. Action, for me, works better when it is presented with as few cuts as possible. Reeves lets the action breathe and develop within a single shot, like in the tank sequence, and the results are pretty spectacular. One thing I always talk about in regards to action in film is that action works better when the film is able to instil a sense of danger and high stakes. When you feel that the action has actual consequences, that’s when it is most effective. Director Matt Reeves knows this well and to be honest, this was one of the rare times were I actually felt bad about seeing a crowd of innocent people getting attacked. Reeves does such a good job in putting us within the thick of the events and establishing the significance of the action, that at times the violence feels like it does in real life: it feels wrong. Half of you is entertained by the spectacle and the other half feels bad that all these people are dying. This is a sentiment that I had never felt before in a blockbuster film and I applaud Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for making conscious about the violence depicted in film.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best film I’ve seen this year. Much like the first one, this sequel totally blew me way. This is the type of blockbuster film that only comes once in a while. Directed beautifully by Matt Reeves, who by the way was replacement director, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes delivers a story filled with interesting, grounded and poignant characters. It examines the grey within humanity and relishes in demonstrating time and time again that people are complicated. They are driven by past experiences and while some choose to learn from years of mistakes, others see those mistakes as necessary paths in achieving what they want. This film is much more thoughtful and analytical than I thought it would be, and the best part of it is that at no point does it feel preachy or condescending. All of its ideas and elements are presented in a brilliant balance that results in an outstandingly memorable experience. The performances are great, the score by Michael Giacchino is excellent and evocative, and the action delivers the thrills and more. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the must-see films of 2014.

Rating: A+

Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield give such beautifully subtle and emotionally devastating performances that I’m always surprised by how little if at all they’re discussed. Even with these stars and based on a best-selling novel, Never Let Me Go didn’t seem to attract much attention when it came or since for that matter. But it’s one of those films were almost every element comes together perfectly. It’s the type of quiet powerful drama that deserves to stand amongst the best. I say go watch it if you haven’t, it’s a great film that will the depress the hell out of you, but you won’t regret it for a second.

(Source: jimmytfallon)

Studio Ghibli Reportedly To Quit Making Feature Films


Why You Shouldn’t Buy Those Nasty Fake 20 in 1 Ghibli Film Box Sets On EBay…

This summer, there’s a new Studio Ghibli movie. According to one reported insider, it could be Ghibli’s last.

Studio Ghibli is best known for iconic anime like My Neighbor Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Last year, the creator of many of Ghibli’s best known works, Hayao Miyazaki, retired from making feature animated films.

The purported insider told Japanese site News Cafe that Ghibli’s latest release, When Marnie Was There, “seems like it will be the last [from Studio Ghibli].” The article appeared on Rakuten, one of Japan’s largest web portals. That being said, this is an unconfirmed rumor.

As the insider explained, there was scuttlebutt of the studio’s dissolution last year after Miyazaki retired once completing The Wind Rises. Then, this past spring, longtime Ghibli producer and studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki also stepped down from producing films. He is now Ghibli’s general manager.

“From here on, it appears as though this won’t be a studio that makes new works, but instead, manages its copyrights.”

So, Studio Ghibli won’t be creating new animated works, but rather, making money off the anime its created so far.

The insider added animated films required tremendous amounts of money, so there is pressure for the films to be successful so Ghibli can cover its costly production expenses as well as, I’d imagine, remain healthy and profitable. By the insider’s count, each film apparently needs to make at least ten billion yen (US$100 million) to cover all its production costs as well as, I’d imagine, turn a healthy profit. Even with a relatively small staff, the insider puts Ghibli’s annual labor expenses at supposedly two billion yen ($19.7 million). Note: These numbers are unconfirmed.

Last fall, the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest papers, reported that while other animation studios have shipped jobs overseas to save money, Studio Ghibli had hired more permanent full-time employees in Japan, making the films incredibly expensive to make. Asahi reports that even though The Wind Rises had made 9.23 billion yen ($91 million), the film had apparently yet to turn a profit. The Tale of Princess Kaguya, apparently, cost even more to create.

"The Tale of Princess Kaguya from director Isao Takahata made 5.1 billion yen ($50 million), and for the studio, it was a flop," the source told News Cafe. "There’s no choice but to dissolve the studio, because it’s unable cross the high hurdle of announcing a new film on an annual basis."

A bright point is that Goro Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki’s son, is directing Ghibli’s first animated TV series, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. The computer animated series is a co-production, however, with Polygon Pictures and will debut this fall. The dark cloud is that back in 2010, Hayao Miyazaki did mention breaking up the studio.

"Suzuki-san is making a dissolution program for Ghibli," Miyazaki told Cut Magazine (via Bleeding Cool and "No joke, we talked about it the other day. For example, Ghibli should be able to continue with about five staff members as a copyright management company even if we smash the studio. So, Ghibli can say ‘We stop film production. Goodbye’. I do not have to be there."

The latest Studio Ghibli film When Marnie Was There was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and recently released in Japan. Let’s hope it’s not the last Studio Ghibli film.

Kotaku has reached out to Studio Ghibli regarding this latest rumor and will update this story should the studio comment.

マーニーがラスト? ジブリが解散?! [Infoseek].