Florida’s C-Reezy continues to put out some of the freshest, finest alt-hip hop around. Building on last year’s half a dozen or so mixtapes, Creature features wonderfully varied sampling (from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs to Bill Nighy in Love, Actually), features from McKinley Dixon, Gold Midas, and Grimoire, top production and Reezy visibly growing in confidence with each release. Dude deserves more than being at the of the Tumblr rap mountain, and right now you’d be be foolish to bet against him breaking that glass ceiling.
Song Of The Day
Today’s song of the day is Jive Bunny & The Mixmasters “Swing The Mood”, which was Number One when Hitsville’s David Scott was born. Happy birthday David!
Introducing first, hailing from the pen of Arash Amel, weighing in at 103 minutes, accompanied to the ring by its director Olivier Dahan, it is the number one contender for the title of Worst Film of 2014 and sure to be nominated for a bucketful of Razzies come awards season, it’s Grace Of Monaco!
Yes, it’s true. The biopic (although Dahan insists this is not a biopic -“ I hate biopics!” - instead “fiction based on real events”) of Hollywood legend-turned-principality royal Grace Kelly lives up to the hype of being truly putrid. Despite an interesting subject matter, a truly top tier cast, and a director of a previous Oscar winner, Grace Of Monaco is a vapid, horribly camp, utterly tedious attempt at making a serious and “important film”. It comes off more as a schmaltzy perfume advert stretched over an hour and three quarters.
There are some decent elements in there; the beautiful Mediterranean vistas, lush miss en scene, glamourous costuming (Dior dresses and all) and lavish production design are all candy for the eyes, but they really can’t polish this turd. Every member of the cast, from Kidman as Kelly to Tim Roth as Prince Rainier, even untouchable veterans such as Frank Langella and Derek Jacobi, feels dead behind the eyes and more dead. Although you can hardly blame them with such a risible script to work with; Amel reduces potentially fascinating material in Kelly’s personal conflicts to the star being a pawn between her husband and a hammy moustache-twirling Charles De Gaulle, as well as asking us to side with the tax evaders and gamblers and millionaires of Monaco (a bewilderingly tone deaf move in the current economic climate).
It should come as no surprise that the children of Kelly and Rainier relentlessly criticised the film, describing it as “needlessly glamorised and historically inaccurate”, with their requests for changes completely ignored. So not only is Grace Of Monaco distasteful to anyone with a modicum of taste in cinema, but it’s offended the family it’s based on. Worst of all, it’s not even in the category of “so bad it’s good”, so we’re left with a near-two hours of one-dimensional, humour-free bilge.
Jedi of the day: All it took was a simple beard to make Luke Skywalker look like the biggest badass in the galaxy, instead of, y’know, regular Mark Hamill. Hamill seems to have slimmed down a whole bunch recently in preparation for the reprisal of his most famous role in Episode VII, and the facial hair really ties the whole Jedi Master look together. Obi-Wan would definitely be proud.
The jobber-level pun in the title is about as clever as Life After Beth gets. The central premise is a young woman (Plaza) who dies from a poisonous snakebite returns to life a few days later as if everything is normal and nothing ever happened. Shock horror, she’s slowly turning into a zombie, to the confusion and despair of her boyfriend (Dane DeHaan). There’s very little else to the film apart from this.
First time director Jeff Baena makes the strange and dissatisfying choice of kicking off Life After Beth with his title character already dead and buried (save for a very brief, wordless prologue of Beth in the woods). The problem with this is we don’t have anything to judge how different Beth is, no gauge on whether her personality has in anyway changed. It doesn’t help that Plaza is too strangely charismatic for a part which initially requires some level of unremarkable to pull off (the same goes for DeHaan - perfectly cast as awkward loners and intense weirdos in Chronicle, Place Beyond The Pines and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - who is far from convincing as an everyman). I have no doubts that switching the roles of Plaza and Anna Kendrick (who barely gets five minutes screentime here) would’ve been a far more successful move. Plaza is oddly unconvincing at the physical elements of being undead and - despite being naturally funny in pretty much everything else, even in real life - doesn’t seem able to elevate the thin, flat, functional script. Not even the sight of DeHaan fucking a scarf can really lift Life After Beth above average.
Points are gained for introducing some nice new elements to the undead mythos - they have a taste for smooth jazz, and like attics a lot - but apart from that there’s no sense of direction and the tone is highly inconsistent. It kind of feels a little like an expanded, allegorical “crazy ex” story at points, which is highly unsavoury; your dead/ex girlfriend turns up and ruins every aspect your life. Very enlightened.
Perhaps the idea of a movie starring Plaza, DeHaan, Kendrick, John C Reilly, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Molly Shannon - even if it is a zombie movie, a genre which decidedly had its brain chewed out a while ago - had my hopes vaulting above reasonable levels, but it’s not really incompetent enough to be bad, and not innovative or interesting enough to be good.
When Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes swung into cinemas, it did so with little fanfare or expectation, other than the expectation of it being terrible. The last Apes movie audiences were subjected to was Tim Burton’s abominable 2001 remake of the original classic, which essentially put down any interest the cinema-going public might have had in the super advanced monkey genre. Yet, with a solid cast, top-line CGI, a relatively logical plot and Andy Serkis, Rise was a cut above. Not just a churned out, popcorn blockbuster, but a surprisingly touching tale of humanity, as well as one man and his chimpanzee.
Like so many films that produced with little expectation but triumph upon release - Batman Begins, The Godfather - Rise left audiences eager for more, but the birthing period of Dawn was not the smoothest or fear-allaying. The departure of star James Franco and director Rupert Wyatt, its future and potential to match its predecessor was far from assured. Thankfully, the arrival of Cloverfield director Matt Reeves was something of a masterstroke. as was pushing Serkis’ Caesar to front and centre.
Taking us a decade forward from the end of Rise, Dawn sees humanity all but extinguished across the globe whilst Caesar and the other artificially advanced apes exist peacefully as a community in the dense forests of San Francisco. No ape has come across a human for two winters now… but, inevitably, that all changes. You’re watching a Planet Of The Apes movie, you know there’ll be a human vs ape fight at some point, and you should really know what themes will be present; coexistence, conflict, what it means to be human, family, man vs nature, man vs man, etc. But Dawn is no less engrossing or thrilling for being a tad predictable in its story or outcome.
It’s most definitely a film that adheres the modern franchise sequel formula, in broadening and darkening the world in which it is set (as is almost inevitable when switching locations from pre- to post-apocalypse). Credit where credit is due to Reeves in pulling the story back to just a decade after the virus outbreak, instead of setting it a lot further down the line as was planned by the producers. Reeves also showcases his eye for visuals, with some amazing imagery during the centrepiece battle between the species, including a fantastic 360° long take from the turret of a tank which might just be one of my favourite shots of the year.
WETA’s work on the appearance of the apes is so far beyond anything else in film right now. Their motion-capture work has swung to the top of the tree since the first film, and is quite possibly the pinnacle of motion capture to date. The biggest compliment you can possibly give Dawn’s animation is that you swiftly forget that these walking, talking apes are pixels painted over people in white-dot suits; their characters and performances are that damn good. In Koba, Toby Kebbell has created one of the most fearsome villains in some time, and this is quite possibly Andy Serkis’ best shot at Academy Award recognition. The one stumble in the effects is the climactic fight scene, which really fails to convince, looking more video game-y than anything cinematic
But despite the film excelling in many areas, it has some glaring flaws which keeps from achieving its full potential. The aforementioned predictability doesn’t exactly hinder Dawn too much, but there is an overlying lack of surprise which isn’t exactly preferable. It also suffers from some pacing problems, especially during the latter end which is a lot longer and a lot more static than it needs to be. The characterisation of the humans is probably the biggest hurdle that the film fails to clear. Whilst their ape counterparts are these fully realised, lush, detailed painting, the human survivors are barely sketched out or at most, given one coat of paint. Human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) turns out to be slightly more than the raving apeist of the trailers, but Malcolm (Jason Clarke) could well have been replaced with a stick figure wearing a t-shirt stating “protective and idealist father”; he has no true arc, his views and motivations are the same from his first frame to the last, which is really rather dull in terms of narrative. When compared to the narrative strand of Will Rodman (James Franco) and his Alzheimer’s-suffering father (John Lithgow), which essentially drove the plot of the first film, the humans of Dawn pale in comparison.
But these Apes reboots continue to be far far better than they have any right to be. Dawn is definitely not a perfect film, nor an all-time great blockbuster, but it is assuredly engaging emotionally whilst also blowing any competition in the technical arena out of the water. What we have here is a very ambitious film in an already ambitious franchise, and an example of rebooting done right, and for that at the very least, it most definitely has to be applauded.