Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

(95% spoiler free)

What is the nature of ape politics? What historical material would a simian Shakespeare cull to craft his best tragic drama? Director Matt Reeves and his writers have crafted a narrative sustained by the answers to such intrigues.

A decade after a man-made virus has almost wiped out the human species, a small city of survivors, led by beleaguered former police chief Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), struggle to make contact with whatever might remain of humanity. In their search they encounter a different group of survivors, a tribe of super intelligent apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis in typically photorealistic garb), and a new struggle for survival begins.

Apart from being one of the most intelligent and emotionally compelling films this year, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is, I submit in the same heady breath it takes to say the portentous title, one of the best films designed as pop culture entertainment ever. The plot is the best bits of Shakespeare’s Plantagenet tetralogy, chief among them Henry IV and his son and successor Henry V (with even an Orangutan named Maurice fulfilling a more benign and mentoring Falstaff to Caesar’s son–Henry V–role), delivered with the cinematic vivacity that big-budget films revel in. Continue reading

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#SavetheAlamo

Film preservation remains as interesting to me as it does dear; film restoration equally so. As such, the storied history of John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) intrigues me more than the actual content of the film itself could ever manage: a tale of loss and folly, savage studio interference and incompetent indifference. Saving me the effort of recounting the precarious state of The Alamo‘s existence, Bud Elder has summed the matter succinctly over at the Digital Bits:

http://www.digitalbits.com/columns/view-from-the-cheap-seats/the-alamo-under-siege

There may be perhaps more worthwhile causes, but none perhaps quite so easily remedied as this. Perhaps ironically, this problem requires only that a formerly meddling studio stop interfering in the affairs of this film and leave the professionals to their work. Readers who wish to keep the fight going for this film can do so by supporting the call for a restoration through various media using the hashtag #SavetheAlamo.

A Note on Criterion’s edition of “Scanners”

David Cronenberg’s Scanners, more accessible than Videodrome, less refined than The Fly, remains along with The Brood one of the Canadian director’s most accessible of his bodily mortification films. What a pity that it had long languished in a subpar DVD edition in North America, what joy when Criterion announced it as one of its July titles, and what disappointment when early reviews from otherwise reputable review sites such as DVDBeaver and Bluray.com noted and provided screen captures of a director approved video transfer that appeared something on the cooler side. The transfer reported by these sites was a wash of blue, distinctly different than any previous incarnation of the film’s transfer, without any presence of accurate white balance. And yet it was director approved. Hesitant to purchase what I assumed would be an aberrant transfer from what remains an otherwise impeccable roster from Criterion, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the transfer lacking any of the aberrant blue. The colour palette of the film was instead accurately balanced. I must surmise, in the absence of corroborative evidence, that the screener copies sent to these reviewers were defective, and that Criterion has since addressed the issue. In short, ignore any concerns of a blue wash to this picture and feel confident that this film is indeed presented in a lush and brilliant transfer.

I don’t have access to my BD-ROM drive presently, but when I do I’ll be sure to post screen captures for comparison and evidence.

Fincher’s Necrophilia

When it comes to the work of David Fincher, many seem content to just tow the party line that he is a great artist because his films look great. I don’t intend to dispute that; I do intend to add, however, that Fincher’s work remains fixed in our cultural consciousness for more than just his unique visual sensibility. While there are any number of points from which one could map out a worthwhile case for Fincher’s artistic merit, I want to focus on what I consider a theme that runs throughout Fincher’s work. Continue reading