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Ape-pocalypse Now – New Planet’s Really Good

Hope Madden Hope Madden Ape-pocalypse Now – New Planet’s Really GoodPhoto from IMDb.
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Not a ton opening in town this weekend. Next weekend, loads of new releases, but this week you have your pick of warring bipeds, cursed puzzle boxes and Polish painters. So, you know, all the main elements of any good movie weekend.

War for the Planet of the Apes

Two years after the events in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis, again making an Oscar nod for a motion-capture performance seem inevitable) is leading an ape army that has suffered heavy casualties.

Despite some cunning maneuvers, Caesar is on the run from The Colonel (Woody Harrelson, also award-worthy), an unforgiving military dictator who shaves his head and preaches dominance of a master race.

Director/co-writer Matt Reeves says “Ape-pocalypse Now” before you can, but such an obvious ode to Brando’s Colonel Kurtz ultimately becomes a clever misdirection for the layered themes that resonate on a much more current level.

Reeves, returning from 2014’s Dawn, expands his vision of this franchise and its possibilities, crafting a majestic slice of summer entertainment that also reminds us of what fertile soil fear can easily become.

Ultimately, we’re left with a bridge to the original 1968 film in sight, and a completely satisfying conclusion to a stellar group of prequels.

Grade: A-

 

Wish Upon

Wish Upon is, basically, a Twilight Zone episode – or a Simpson’s episode. Just toss in a bit of The Craft, add a dash of Final Destination, just a touch of Hellraiser, all topped off with the slightest hint of A Nightmare on Elm St.

Wait, how can you get away with such derivative pap? Get it a PG-13 rating – no one under 20 has ever seen any of those things.

Clare (Joey King) is unpopular in that Hollywood sense – meaning she’s artistic, adorable and quirky, but the Barbie doll lookalikes inexplicably hate her. Plus, her dad (Ryan Phillippe) is a total embarrassment – even if he did find her this cool Chinese wishing pot. (This, PS, is the whitest movie about Chinese demons ever made.)

Luckily, director John R. Leonetti (Annabelle) has King to rely on. She’s likable, generally believable, and she offers a compelling deterioration, post-wishing. (Because wishing + puzzle boxes + horror movies = bad idea.)

Wish Upon is a bland if competently made screamer for the not-ready-for-R set. It’s a John Hughes movie with more carnage. It’s a Taylor Swift song with a body count.

It’s fine. Unless you like good movies.

Grade: C-

 

Afterimage

Afterimage plays this Friday and Saturday only at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Painting in his room, the artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski (Boguslaw Linda) suddenly loses his light as an enormous red banner of Stalin is dropped in front of his building. He opens the window, reaches out with his crutch and tears a hole big enough to let in natural light.

It’s a scene heavy with symbolism as well as dread, and one of many that filmmaker Andrzej Wajda uses to evoke a sense of time, place and struggle.

Wajda’s lean, focused film limits its scope to the days leading up to Strzeninski’s conflict with Poland’s Ministry of Culture and the deterioration of the artist after. His abstract work and outspoken views on “Socialist Realism” – propaganda disguised as art – are deemed counter to public interest.

What to do with an artist?

Sharply written, lean and efficient, Afterimage engages with an unadorned vision. What emerges is the picture of systematic bullying aimed at breaking a man’s will.

Grade: A-

 

Reviews with help from George Wolf.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF, and listen to her podcasts FRIGHT CLUB and THE SCREENING ROOM.

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