Rise of the Planet of the Apes:
I've never seen any of the original movies (nor Tim Burton's roundly derided decade-old remake), but I am familiar with certain iconic images, names, and quotes from the original film starring Charlton Heston - and one day I'll get around to seeing that. Right now though, the franchise is undergoing a rebirth for the modern age, when issues surrounding Civil Rights and the place of the individual and the masses within society, continue to rumble underneath our feet on a daily basis.
In the same summer that has seen the brain dead and overlong Transformers 3 lummox about the place, the intelligence behind Rise's script provides a welcome human (and indeed primate) connection. It's not about apes going ... ape shit ... and smashing up the place, it's about a subjugated community discovering themselves, rallying against their oppressors, and seeking freedom and peace. In the wake of the England riots I wondered if this would prove a touch uncomfortable, but whereas the rioters had no reason for their vicious disregard for their own communities beyond the pursuit of a pair of trainers, the primates in this franchise refresher are gifted (via experimentation, as man seeks to cure it's own mental diseases and ailments) with superior brain functions, and events conspire to bring a collection of them together (chimps, gorillas, orangutans et al) in San Francisco (appropriately enough).
Much like the original films, this 2011 update has rich allegory seas from which to fish - be it the Suffragettes, the Civil Rights Movement, or whatever form of movement to erode barriers that have bred contempt, fear, violence and ignorance - it can be seen as a canvas on which to paint your own personal struggles. Fortunately, the rise of the apes themselves isn't one of unwarranted violence (only the occasional instance of, frankly justified, revenge) - which allows the audience to continue to sympathise with the apes (captured quite convincingly via CGI and performance capture techniques) - and indeed a number of the humans. Mind you, the two main villains of the piece are a bit one-dimensional.
It's an enjoyable sci-fi actioner with a good head on its shoulders with something to say, and what's more it's a touching film at times - anyone who has experienced Alzheimer's (for which the fictional ALZ-112 and ALZ-113 are deemed to be the cure) will understand what has driven James Franco's Will Rodman to create something for good, that ends up causing disaster.
This western (from Ed Harris) is no True Grit, Unforgiven, or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - but it's still an entertaining watch, mostly due to the central duo of travelling law men Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, played by Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen respectively. Their chemistry keeps the pace moving, with a nicely played vein of good humour sewn in, even if the plot does feel a little scattered and doesn't always command your attention.
Tom Cruise's specialist car importer (Charlie Babbitt) starts out as a complete and utter arsehole, and remains so (for the most part) for a considerable portion of the movie. I'm not sure if that would necessarily happen in a movie these days, but it's Dustin Hoffman's involving portrayal of a highly functioning autistic man (who, as Charlie's brother, inherits $3 million) that keeps the film interesting. Certain morals along the way are now somewhat dated, but for the most part it remains a good watch.
Grindhouse Trailer Classics Vol. 1:
A load of old scratchy, grimy, grotty, and sleazy trailers cut together back-to-back for a couple of hours. Simple really. Many of the trailed movies are well worth seeing in their entirety (Shivers, Zombi, The Last House on the Left, Coffy etc), but a number are fine enough as trailers and no more (all the best bits, none of the direlogue and inept production). Ideal for connoisseurs of grindhouse cinema.
A short film that's set in a world constructed from, and populated by, corporate logos. It's a nifty little piece - in which a gun-toting Ronald McDonald attempts to evade the police - with a sarcastic, but generally hands-off tone. The plot is secondary, the whole point is seeing the extent to which our lives are decorated by corporate logos and brands (it's amazing how many you know in an instant), and it does make me wonder how on earth they got the permission to use all these logos ... or perhaps it falls into some sort of grey area that allows it.
Exit Through The Gift Shop:
The so-called "Banksy Documentary" is really more about Thierry Guetta, a French filmmaker (who incessantly documented his entire life, and then his dealings with the emerging street art scene) who then became a street artist himself (Mister Brainwash). It's a fascinating portrait of the birth of a whole new approach to art, from it's back alley beginnings, to it's current status as incredibly valued alternative art adored by celebrities and mere mortals alike. Definitely worth checking out.