Film review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The most surprising thing about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that Andy Serkis’s incredible motion-captured performance is only the third best thing about the Matt Reeves film.

Surprising because Serkis’s Caesar, an ape born of a chimp who received experimental Alzheimer’s medication, was the centrepiece of the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which successfully rebooted the series to critical and commercial success (a $481 million worldwide box-office haul in its run) and made Dawn inevitable.

The visual effects are king in Dawn. Really, without them, Serkis’s performance – and actors Toby Kebbell, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval and Judy Greer, whose work as apes was also motion-captured – would be inconceivable. The explosions, CG set pieces and the many scenes of destruction (that fire…) were all breathtaking. Then there’s the score by Michael Giacchino, an Oscar winner for Pixar’s Up score, that is so beautiful, exciting, stirring and at times haunting, it is the ultimate mood setter for the dark Dawn. It pulls you in from the opening credits and never lets go.

This eighth film in the Apes franchise (the first, starring Charlton Heston, was released in 1968 and is available on Netflix Canada) takes place 10 years after the events of Rise. The simian flu has wiped out much of the world’s human population. In Dawn, we follow a group of humans who’ve survived around San Francisco. They’ve never ventured outside the city, but they’re running out of fuel and the abandoned dam in the nearby forest may be their saving grace. The humans and apes are both hero and villain, and you sympathize with both groups.

Continue reading


28 TV shows and movies to watch on Netflix Canada this summer

It’s summer, so you’re wondering what to watch on Netflix, right?

We weren’t all made to withstand high heat and humidity, so if your idea of a Not-Bummer-Summer is spending it indoors, here are nine TV shows (six of which are returning soon!) and 19 movies you should add to your Netflix List this summer.

Hannibal – 26 episodes, approx. 44 min. each (full series so far)


Another Hannibal adaptation? Yeah. Another one, and quite possibly the best one ever. The NBC series is two seasons in, and gets more creepy and spooky every week. Bryan Fuller’s reboot is totally enthralling and engaging, with unforgettable performances by Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, who portray the eponymous character and Will Graham, respectively. Laurence Fishburne also does his best work in years. The show’s also shined a light on two incredible Canadian actresses, Montrealer Caroline Dhavernas, as Dr. Alana Bloom, and Brampton’s Lara Jean Chorostecki, as the ruthless and conniving blogger Freddie Lounds. Hannibal returns to NBC/CityTV for Season Three in 2015. (Related: Hannibal, one of the best shows of 2013, is “sinister yet cheeky.”)

The Good Wife – 90 episodes, approx. 44 min. each (four seasons; Season 5 ended on CBS in May 2014)


“That show’s for suburban white ladies.” – Me, before devouring the first season of CBS’s The Good Wife. Julianna Margulies’ performance anchors and elevates the show to much more than courtroom/law-firm drama. Though it goes the Boston Legal route around Seasons Three and Four (outrageous, ripped-from-the-headlines cases), the drama never falters. The rest of the cast is superb too, especially Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi (it also attracts some top-notch guest stars, like Michael J. Fox, Martha Plimpton, Nathan Lane, Carrie Preston, Dylan Baker, Anika Noni Rose, Anna Camp, Denis O’Hare and Scandal‘s Joe Morton, to name a few). I started watching The Good Wife shortly before Twitter erupted in shock over the surprising and shocking death of a main character. I quickly watched four-and-a-half seasons of TGW and finally got to the episode in question and my worst fears were quashed. This was not a show grasping for relevance or desperate to jolt its narrative; The Good Wife is a confident series, and an addictive one.

The Good Wife returns to CBS/Global for Season Six in September 2014.

Continue reading

Summer movie preview

Summer officially starts in just under a month, but the summer movie season started weeks ago. Here’s what’s being released this summer, and what I’ll be looking most forward to. For a full list of the movies coming out and their release dates, scroll down to the bottom of this post.


May’s almost over, but the month’s last two releases will definitely make their mark on the box office.

The Hangover Part II finds the gang in Thailand, and on a night out for Stu’s (The Office‘s Ed Helms) bachelor party, they lose the bride’s younger brother. Hilarity is promised, and Zach Galafianakis can make me laugh reading a phone book, but I can’t help but think this one’s just not going to be all that different from the first one. I’ll be seeing it, but I am in no rush.

I had only heard about Kung Fu Panda 2 around Christmastime. I was a fan of the first KFP, but never would have thought that it would be given the sequel treatment… But then again, it DID make tons of money… What Kung Fu Panda 2 has going for it is a lovable lead character in Po (brilliantly voiced by Jack Black), an impressive cast (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, among others), and a plot that actually moves the story forward. Check out the trailer here. It does look promising!

Other notable May releases include Bridesmaids, Thor (he’s a god!), and the fourth installment of Pirates of The Caribbean (even Penelope Cruz won’t make me watch it.)

And because not ALL summer movies have to make zillions of dollars of have explosions in them, a selection of quieter films for your consideration this season:

Hesher, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson, about a loner who likes blowing shit up, smoking and tattooing himself.

Everything Must Go, starring Will Ferrell and Rebecca Hall. After his wife leaves him, a man has a yard sale to get rid of all his belongings in order to start fresh. Ferrell’s rare (but always-awesome) serious role (see Stranger Than Fiction.)


Superheroes are staples of summer movie season, and June will be the release month of X-Men: First Class (a prequel of sorts that will surely turn into a franchise reboot) and The Green Lantern (which I predict will not see a sequel due to massive suckiness.)

Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg is either going to be amazing or completely suck. Could this be 2011’s Inception? Or will it be more like The Happening? Judging by the trailer below, I say this is closer to Shyamalan than Nolan. Whomp, whomp. What do you think?

I’m actually really looking forward to Bad Teacher, with Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel. Diaz plays the bad teacher, a woman who is not suited to be around children, let alone educate them. She is hell-bent on finding a man who will take care of her, or a way to make money quickly and easily.

This might be the first year since Cars that I am not excited about Pixar’s annual movie release. Incidentally, the movie the animation giant decided to go with for 2011 is Cars 2, a sequel to their worst movie ever. Who will win the Best Animated Feature Oscar if not Pixar?

And now, some quieter June fare:

– Montreal director Jacob Tierney’s first effort since last year’s The Trotsky will be released June 3. Good Neighbours stars Jay Baruchel (who is likely to play an awkward extension of himself, again), Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire and Quebec film phenom Xavier Dolan. The movie is set in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce during the 1995 referendum on the separation of Quebec, but residents of an apartment complex also have to deal with a series of murders that coincidentally start occurring when Baruchel’s character moves into the neighbourhood.

– Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris will see the legendary filmmaker change city-muses yet again. It worked amazingly well for him in 2008 with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Midnight in Paris is already getting great reviews. It stars Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen and Marion Cotillard.

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times. ‘Nuff said.


Useless movies Transformers: Dark Side of The Moon (noise!), Zookeeper (AKA Paul Blart: Zoo Cop… Seriously, Kevin James is in it…) and Friends With Benefits (basically a remake of January’s No Strings Attached) are due out in July.

The movie I am most looking forward to in July is the final chapter in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and The Deathy Hallows Part 2. Now, if you read the books, you know what happens and how it all ends. I started reading the first one when I was on vacation. In 2007. I couldn’t read it without picturing Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe. I love the movies, though, and I’m a more visual person anyway, so I’m fine with a watered-down and less detailed Potter saga.

The Potter films have gotten darker throughout the years. I remember seeing the first one on a class field trip (yes, to the movies) in 7th grade, and I thought they were childish and boring back then. Thankfully I grew up and realized they’re the best things ever!

Horrible Bosses will also be released in July, and I really hope this becomes a hit for Jennifer Aniston. She’s been in too many stinkers, and I’m tired of defending her career post-Friends with “But she’s SO likeable!” Jasons Sudeikis and Bateman and Charlie Day are three friends who realize their bosses (Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Aniston) are ruining their lives, so they conspire to kill them.

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks are back on the big screen in Larry Crowne, in which Hanks (who also directs the film) plays a middle-aged man who goes back to school after losing his job and falls in love with his professor (Roberts). The trailer gives too much away, I think, and it looks a little clichéd, but it also looks inherently sweet. Here’s the trailer:

The Smurfs and Winnie the Pooh make their way to the big screen in July. So does Captain America, in Captain America: The First Avenger. Chris Evans as a superhero gave us TWO awful Fantastic 4 films, but I am thinking he’ll redeem himself as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Oh, and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, V for Vendetta) plays the villain, The Red Skull.

And now, July releases with no explosions (probably):

Crazy, Stupid, Love, about a newly single 40-something (Steve Carrell) who starts hanging out with a younger playboy (Ryan Gosling) after his wife (Julianne Moore) cheats on him to try and get back in the dating game. Oh, Emma Stone is in it, too.

– I’m looking forward to Chloe Moretz’ (of Kick Ass fame) release The Fields, about a series of unsolved murders in the Texas bayous. Also stars Sam Worthington (Avatar) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

The Devil’s Double stars Dominic Cooper as the man hired to be Saddam Hussein’s son  Uday’s double. Based on the book by Latif Yahia. Looks like Cooper will really be able to stretch his acting muscle (and then some…)


I can’t even get excited about seeing how people are going to die in Final Destination 5. I used to find it hilarious, and used to think the filmmakers were inventive and imaginative. Now they are anything but. It’s time to kill this franchise. May I suggest a space ship explosion in another universe?

The apes are coming! The apes are coming! A science experiment gone wrong makes test chimpanzees ultra smart and strong and stuff in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. James Franco’s in it, strangely enough, but the movie will be another chance for Andy Serkis to do amazing motion-capture work (Serkis was Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series and Kong in the most recent King Kong remake.)

30 Minutes or Less reunites Jesse Eisenberg with Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer. Eisenberg is a pizza delivery boy who gets kidnapped and is forced to rob a bank for two criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). Aziz Ansari, one of my favorite comedians and an actor who is criminally underused and underworked in Hollywood, plays Eisenberg’s friend who helps him deal with everything. Check out the trailer:

The Change-Up is Freaky Friday for grown-ups. A married man wishes he can have his single friend’s life (and vice versa) and they swap bodies overnight. Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds star.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark has an incredibly spooky first trailer and Guillermo Del Toro backing it. But it also has Katie Holmes starring…

Remakes to Fright Night and Conan The Barbarian are also slated for August.

And now, your special effects-free August releases:

The Help stars Emma Stone as an aspiring writer who develops unheard-of friendships with African-American maids in her Mississippi hometown in 1962.

One Day starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway (ugh, she dons an accent in this one). The movie follows two friends over a 20-year period and all their ups, downs and in-betweens.

Our Idiot Brother stars Paul Rudd as the title character. A dumb but well-to-do guy who becomes a burden for his sisters (Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks) after he gets arrested for selling drugs to a cop.


May 27

The Hangover Part II

Kung Fu Panda 2

June 3

Beginners (Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent)

Good Neighbours (Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, directed by Jacob Tierney)

Love, Wedding Marriage (Mandy Moore, Kellan Lutz)

Midnight in Paris (Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, directed by Woody Allen)

Submarine (Craig Roberts and Sally Hawkins)

X-Men: First Class (James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence)

June 10

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

Super 8

The Trip (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon)

June 17

The Art of Getting By (Emma Roberts and Freddie Highmore)

The Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds)

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Jim Carrey)

The Tree of Life (Brad Pitt, directed by Terrence Malick)

June 24

Bad Teacher (Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel)

Cars 2 (Owen Wilson, Michael Caine)

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times (documentary)

July 1

Larry Crowne (Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, directed by Hanks)

Monte Carlo (Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Shia Labeouf)

July 8

Horrible Bosses (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell)

One For the Money (Katherine Heigl, John Leguizamo)

The Zookeeper (Kevin James)

July 15

The Fields (Chloe Moretz)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint)

Winnie the Pooh (Craig Ferguson, John Cleese)

July 22

Another Earth

Captain America: First Avenger (Chris Evans)

Friends With Benefits (Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis)

July 29

Cowboys and Aliens (Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde)

Crazy, Stupid, Love (Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore)

The Devil’s Double (Dominic Cooper)

The Smurfs (Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria)

August 5

The Change-Up (Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (James Franco, Freida Pinto)

August 12

30 Minutes or Less (Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari)

Final Destination 5

The Help (Emma Stone, Viola Davis)

August 19

Conan the Barbarian

Fright Night (Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse)

One Day (Jim Sturgess, Anne Hathaway)

Spy Kids 4 (Jeremy Piven, Jessica Alba)

August 26

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Katie Holmes)

Our Idiot Brother (Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel)