Before we get to the very serious business of discussing the merits of a film about a talking monkey, we have some more giveaways to offer readers. This time, instead of DVDs or Blu-rays, we have tickets to what is sure to be one of the most talked about films of the season -- Shame. The film stars Michael Fassbender as a thirty-something New Yorker with an overwhelming sexual addiction; it drives his every action and every thought. When his needy sister (played by Carey Mulligan) moves in with him and thus disrupts his continuous diet of anonymous sex, it throws his world into chaos. Check out the film's trailer here.
Starting Friday, Shame is playing in an exclusive engagement at the Regal Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24. We have ten pairs of tickets to give away (you can use them for any Monday through Thursday screening). If you'd like a pair of tickets, shoot us an e-mail at olivia[dot]alvarez[at]houstonpress.com before noon on Friday. Include "Shame tickets" in the subject line. Come Friday, we'll draw randomly from all the entries to find our winners.
Now on to our talking monkeys ...
stars James Franco, John Lithgow and Andy Serkis; Rupert Wyatt directs.
The Setup: Yes, yes, we know Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't about monkeys exactly, it's about apes...but come on, one of these apes learns to talk and leads a revolt against humans for their mistreatment of animals, so we're guessing nobody's too concerned with scientific accuracy here.
James Franco stars as Will, a rather stiff but exceedingly handsome scientist who's looking for a cure to Alzheimer's Disease. Will's father, played by John Lithgow, has an advancing case of Alzheimer's so the pressure's on. As part of his work, Will is working with apes, including a chimpanzee that becomes super-intelligent after being given a dose of Will's wonder drug. Will might have wanted to try a little bit himself -- he failed to notice the chimp was pregnant. When he tries to trot her out in front of the suits that are financing his project, she goes all ape shit and is killed. (Insert big "awww!") Will, still clueless, gets back to his lab and finds the newborn chimp. "Oh, that's why she was acting aggressive, she thought we were after her baby..." (This is just one of many instances in which Will shows that he's not quite as smart as his chimps.) Will takes the orphaned baby home and names it Caesar.
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The Execution: Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a new chapter in the POTA series. There aren't any lost astronauts and the Statute of Liberty isn't half-sunk into the ocean, but the storyline should satisfy even the most ferocious Apes fan. And there are plenty of nods to the preceding films.
Franco mostly stands around as eye-candy while Lithgow, who has two of the most touching scenes in the film, plays the ailing father to perfection. Human characters aside, this is Andy Serkis's show. Playing Caesar via motion capture, Serkis's performance clearly shows Caesar's intellectual, if not anthropological, evolution. Sitting in his cage after having been apparently abandoned by Will, Caesar slowly puts together a plan to make a break for freedom. There's a shot of Caesar, back against the wall of his dirty cage. He's very still, only his eyes move side to side. That's when you realize he's thinking, he's planning. It's an "Oh, shit!" moment (one of many Serkis provides).
When Caesar stands up and says, "No!" to an abusive keeper (played by Harry Potter alum Tom Felton), Serkis has put all the pieces in place to make the moment believable.
The Extras: There are lots of extras on the two-disc Blu-ray edition (which comes with a DVD and digital copy), not the least of which is the featurette The Genius of Andy Serkis. There's also a featurette on the revolutionary motion capture techniques used in Rise, commentary by director Rupert Wyatt and writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, deleted scenes and lots more making-of backgrounders.