Movies (In Brief)

: Less science fiction than an exploration of the “do over” in life. The film’s premise is that on the night when another earth appears in sky, Rhoda (Played by the film’s co-writer and producer, Brit Marling) driving home from a party to celebrate her senior year of high school and her admittance to MIT, crashes into another car killing a woman, a small child, the woman’s unborn child, and severely wounding a John (Played by William Mapother who is best known as “Ethan” from the TV show LOST). Rhoda, you see, was transfixed by the sight of the other Earth, and didn’t bother to pull over to check out the new planet in the sky. Instead, she drove at full speed while looking up at sky, and well, crash, boom, bam. Flash forward to “four years later” and Rhoda (now a young woman) is getting out of jail for drunk driving and presumably involuntary manslaughter. She lives with her parents and tries to reintegrate into society by taking a job as a janitor at her old high school. While tooling around the Internet, she sees a website offering a free ticket to the other Earth — and all she has to do is write a 500 word essay explaining why she would like to go, which she does. Still suffering from guilt over the accident, she tracks down John, to apologize for what she did. When she finally meets him, she starts to tell him who she is, but then chickens out and claims she’s from a cleaning service that’s offering a “free trial.” John’s life is a mess. He was in a coma after the accident, and now he spends his days drinking and generally holed up in his house. Everything he loved is gone: his family, and his career as a respected musician and college professor is pretty much over. Rhoda tries to clean up the mess she made by helping John get his surroundings organized, and in the process the two of them fall in love.

The twin Earth is still there, and it’s is revealed that the other Earth is an exact duplicate of our own. And I mean exact. Right down to discovering that there is a “another you” on the other planet who had the exact history as you. Rhoda wants to meet her other self to see what her life is like since the two Earth’s discovered each other. I won’t ruin the story by giving away the ending, but let me just say that the film is a powerful meditation on second chances, and “the road not traveled.” I would highly recommend this movie, and see it in a theatre. Because of the way the film is shot, it has a very interior feel to it. And by that I mean, the characters are really trying to plumb the depths of their inner selves to understand who they are.

 

Steve Carell excels in playing funny, but wounded characters, and he’s at it again in Crazy Stupid Love. The film starts with a break up. Carell’s character (Cal) is having a positively dispassionate dinner with his wife, Emily (played wonderfully by Julianne Moore). He thinks they are having a tough time ordering off the menu, but she is just having a tough time with their marriage, and she blurts out that she wants a divorce. Cal is a classic Carell nice guy, who doesn’t have much in the way of pizzaz (and knows it). He moves out, and attempts to “move on” after getting advice from Jacob (Ryan Gosling) — a rich barfly who’s quite handy with the ladies — about how to pick up women. Cal gets a make over, and does get laid quite a bit, but he loves his wife, and wants nothing more than a chance to get back with her. Because this is a romantic comedy, there are things the characters do and say that come back to bite them later on in the film.

I had low expectations about this film when I saw the trailer, but the story and the characters surprised me in a good way. There were plenty of funny moments, but nothing that was knee-slapping funny to me. The plot was a little too contrived at the end, but because the characters were likable and not stock characters from standard romcoms, it was easy to give in to the improbabilities that came together in the end. This is one film that’ll be a good date film, but if you want to wait five weeks for the DVD release, you won’t be missing anything by skipping it in the cineplex.

Sometimes, movie trailers give too much of the plot away. I feared that was the case with Rise of the Planet of the Apes — a reboot from the original film franchise. This film is in no way related to the storyline plotted out in the popular film franchise of the late ’60s to early ’70s, except that there is a character named Caesar, and he leads an ape revolt. The way it happens, and the circumstances leading up to it are all new. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the film, but the filmmakers create a very sympathetic and complex character in Caesar — an chimpanzee who comes to live with a scientist (Will– played by James Franco). Will is trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s that his father suffers from, and tests out the drug on various chimpanzee subject. One of the test subjects is “Bright Eyes” who shows tremendous cognitive abilities after being given the drug. Alas, Bright Eyes is killed after she goes on a rampage, and only later is it revealed that she was trying to protect her baby (Caesar) from those in the lab. The drug that Bright Eyes was given transferred to her offspring, so Caesar inherited a high intellectual capacity through the mutation of chemicals and DNA. Will raises Caesar in his home with his ailing father (played by John Lithgow), and because of Will’s desire to cure his father, he gives him the test drug — which does repair his brain and restores him to perfect health, but only for a short period of time. Will father relapses and through a series of events, gets into an altercation with a neighbor, Caesar tries to protect him by basically beating the crap out the neighbor. That lands him in monkey jail (AKA Animal Control for apes). It is there that Caesar gets schooled in ape culture, learns to resent the hell out his human captors, and eventually trains his new ape army for rebellion. It’s also during this time, that the seeds to humanity’s destruction are also sown through greed, clumsy drug trials, and a general lack of knowing nothing about CDC protocols.

Would I recommend this film? Absolutely. It’s not so geeky that it alienates non-science fiction fans, but it also has enough to chew on for SF fans to mull over after the credits roll. The movie has a number of nods to the original Planet of the Apes that’ll give many folks a good chuckle, and even though there’s a sequel built into the storyline, the film is self-contained enough that closes out in a satisfying way.

Oh and lastly, I saw this film in XD at our local Cinemark theatre. XD is supposed to be a better film experience with better seats (they were faux leather and very comfy), better sound (which, at this theatre, seemed to mean louder) and a bigger screen. Overall, is it worth $13.50? Not really. I would have been just as happy to experience the film in a regular theatre. But that’s the challenge theaters face in this day and age, right? You have to make the movie experience better so people will 1.) Keep showing up week after week, And 2.) People will spend more money for tickets and snacks.

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